Sunday, November 30, 2014

How to Make the s Sound and the ʃ Sound

Hi everybody!  This is your friendly neighborhood ESL and accent reduction tutor, with a new short instructional video on how to make the /s/ sound as in sigh and the /ʃ/ sound as in shy.

I hope everybody had a really excellent Thanksgiving.   Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that makes people feel truly American.  (That and the Super Bowl!)  Many of my students have told me that they really did not feel that they had "made it" in America until they were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with a turkey and stuffing and all the fixins. 

Thanksgiving is a holiday when everybody has a celebratory meal to thank Providence or G-d, or good fortune or Fate for what they have, and their good fortunes in the previous year.   Nearly everyone can find *something* to be thankful for.   Myself, I am thankful for my family, friends, and loved ones, for the gift of music that G-d has given me to give to other people, and for all the blessings in the previous year.

Thanksgiving is traditionally the start of the Holiday Season in the US--Christmas and New Years.  Typically, most people who put holiday lights on their houses do so the weekend after Thanksgiving.  Its also the weekend many people go to Christmas tree sellers (often found at roadside stands on major highways or in the parking lots of supermarkets) and select their perfect Christmas tree, which they bring inside and string with lights and popcorn and ornaments.   Traditionally a Christmas tree is topped with a star, representing the Star of Bethlehem, or an angel.

The Jewish festival around this time is the eight-day festival of Hannukah--the Miracle of Lights and the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd Century BCE after the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire.

A more modern holiday typically celebrated by African American intellectuals is called Kwanzaa--Kwanzaa is of modern origin, modeled after African harvest festivals (Kwanzaa is Swahili for "first" meaning the first fruits of the harvest).

Pretty much the entirety of the United States gets into the Christmas spirit, although some religious sects do not celebrate it.  Muslims likewise do not celebrate it, although many of my Muslim clients enjoy it quite a bit.  Its a festive season; people are happy and in the spirit of brotherhood.   It would be a great thing if we could dedicate ourselves to the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood with our fellow mankind on all days of the year.  At Christmas, we try to consider that idea.

If anyone has any cultural questions about Christmas, Hannukah, Santa, Dreydls, proper greetings, office Christmas parties, appropriate gifts, or anything else regarding Christmas in America, or you want to discuss ESL or accent reduction lessons for yourself or as a gift to a loved one, give me a call at (732) 807-5424 or hit me up on Skype at  Or for more information, check out my website at David Berlin's ESL and Accent Reduction Training or check out my American Idiom of the Day Twitter feed or my ESL and Accent Reduction YouTube Channel.  The Twitter feed and YouTube Channel contain more great tips on how to reduce your accent.  

All right?  All right.   Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hannukah, and a warm and loving holiday season.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Difference Between The ɔ and o Sounds As In Paul vs pole (au vs o)

Hi everybody!  This is your friendly neighborhood ESL and accent reduction tutor, and today I'm going to talk about the difference between au and o as in Paul vs pole.

This video I made explains it fairly well.

Remember that you don't drop your jaw for the /o/ sound.   Also remember to roll your lips in and drop your jaw for the  ɔ sound.

Here are some minimal pairs that might help you practice.  These are DIFFERENT from the ones in the video.

ought    oat
saw       so
haw      hoe
ball       bowl
claw     Chloe

Okay?  Okay!

I just made some meatballs, an American Italian treat.  Now I have to make some red sauce to cook them in.  Americans, especially in the Northeast, tend to call this "red gravy" or "red gravy food".   I love red gravy food.  But I know its not what you would eat in Italy.  Its strictly American.   But did you know that Italians often have difficulty with the difference between /i/  and /e/--the difference between bit and beat?  So do Indians, Chinese, and often Russians/Eastern European and Polish people.  I'll cover that in a future blog post.

Remember if you want to talk to me about taking ESL or accent reduction lessons, you can give me a call at (732) 807-5424 or you can reach me on Skype at (my Skype ID).  Or you can check out my website at David Berlin's ESL and Accent Reduction Training or my American Idiom Of The Day Twitter Feed or my YouTube Channel .  All right?  All right.  Look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why Do Americans Smile So Much?

I have often had questions from students from Byelorussia, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and other Eastern European countries asking why Americans smile so much.  Americans smile because we want people to be comfortable around us.   We want to welcome people.  People often assume that we don't "mean" it when we smile.   Its not that.   Its just that a smile means something different to us that it does to other people.  In a sense, we define a smile differently.  To some cultures, you only smile among close friends.   We're different.  We smile among everybody, and we try to be friendly with everybody.

Also, for those of you who wonder what I do when I'm not tutoring, here's a little treat for you--its a shot of me in a bar playing guitar.   The song I'm playing is a song by a British band called the Rolling Stones, and the song is called "Dead Flowers".  The song is an example of irony.   See if  you can tell from the lyrics whether the singer really loves the person he's singing to.


I'm putting this up because students often ask me what I do when I'm not teaching, or what my hobbies are. 

The reality is though that teaching is what I do for a living, it is how I make  the entirety of my living--except for the occasional magazine article that I write and publish to keep my hand in the journalism trade and the occasional show in a bar that I get paid for.

 Check out  my website for details on ESL or accent reduction lessons or call me at (732) 807-5424 to schedule your FREE phone consult  and your FREE trial lesson.   Or take a look at my American Idiom of the Day Twitter feed or my Accent Reduction and ESL YouTube Channel for more free accent reduction tips and tips on American Style small talk.   Or you can check out the podcasts to the right, which are free for download.  All right?  All right.  'Til next time...