Let's enjoy English!


Are You Too Shy to Speak English?

Did the cat get your tongue? Is your tongue-tied? If so, you're probably just a little shy.

The above idioms refer to what happens when you want to speak but just can't get your tongue around the words. Will you ever be able to speak confidently? Of course! Here are some techniques that make it easier to overcome that shyness...

Practice out loud

Yes, you've heard me say it a million times before ~ the only way to improve is to practice!
Use English frequently and speak it out loud. Some people practice silently – having conversations only in their heads. But you need to use your mouth and speak the words –> this also helps your ear to get used to hearing them, too. You can do this anytime - in private, with friends or through an online conversation class.

Plan ahead and warm up

If you know you have to have a conversation or make a speech in English, think about what you need to say. Practice a few phrases. Get used to the sounds. Then, you'll be prepared when you need to communicate with someone else.

Build confidence by going back to basics

Shy speakers' biggest fear is that when they DO speak they'll sound silly or won't be understood. So I advise you to use simple sentence structures ~ you don’t need to try to be like a Cambridge University Professor when you speak! Use phrases that are very basic and familiar to you. When you see that people can understand you, you'll be ready to move on to more complex sentences.
Maybe on paper you are at an advanced level but all that knowledge doesn't help if you can't speak it, so go back to simple basics and progress from there...

‘Umm’ and ‘aah’

Do what we natives speakers do ~> if you are not sure what to say or you forget a word, then pause and insert a verbal pause like "um", "er", or "ah". It gives you a moment to think and indicates to the listener that you are going to say something, so they will wait and listen.

Sometimes all you need is a few "umms" to get a sound out of your mouth. But be careful not to rely on this too often or it may become a nervous habit you can't get rid of (I don’t want you saying 5 “umms” in one sentence)!

Use an online conversation class

Online English conversation classes might be the most effective way for shy speakers to improve quickly. It is convenient and best of all, if you blush, no-one is there to make you feel embarrassed.

We all have to start from somewhere, so ‘simple’ is the easiest way to begin. You will start to build confidence in yourself and then continue to improve ~

See you tomorrow ...

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Listen to improve your English ...

Do you sometimes feel left-behind when people start talking -> uhhh, what did you say? ? ? Don’t worry, these tips will help you get past that stage and understand a whole lot more ...

Know your limits
Listen to as much English as possible, but only for short periods at a time. Stressing yourself (and your brain) out with toooooooo much information at one time will turn anyone’s ‘fun study time’ into a lesson of horror! So take “breaks”, and then try again a little later.
Developing good listening skills takes a lot of time, practice and patience, but it does happen.

Be selective
Translating every new word you hear will cause your brain to tune out the rest of the conversation, leaving you behind. Be selective. The next time you are listening to an English speaker, pick out key words or phrases. Write them down and translate them later. You will find that your listening skills will sharpen and your vocabulary will increase.

Pick up sound patterns
Did you ever notice how native English speakers only stress certain words? It's true! If you listen carefully, you will notice a pattern ~ content words (nouns, most verbs, and adjectives) are usually stressed, while function words (prepositions, pronouns, etc.) are not. Pick out the stressed words and you will be able to understand the main idea of a dialogue or conversation. TRY IT OUT ~

Watch a DVD
Everyone loves watching films (movies). So, why not use that to practice your listening skills? It's easy!
Watch a segment of your favourite English DVD. First, watch it with subtitles, so you can understand what is going on. Then watch it again ~ this time, use English subtitles, and focus on how much you can understand in English.
By this time, you should have a good understanding of the dialogue and storyline.
Now, watch it once more without any subtitles, and focus on just listening.

This is a great way to make studying enjoyable and it is very worthwhile, as you do get excellent results doing this...!

So, what are you waiting for? Start improving your listening skills today!

See you tomorrow ...

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Many people think you need to live in a foreign country, have numerous foreign friends, or spend long nights with your head buried in a boring grammar book in order to master English. Yes, they do help a tremendous amount but you can also become a very successful learner of English if you follow some basic rules...

1. Relax and enjoy speaking
When you use English, don’t worry about making mistakes. The chances are you will always make small mistakes here and there when speaking a foreign language ~ I do ~ and if someone doesn't understand what you said, they will ask you to say it again. The important thing is to learn from the errors! Babies don’t learn to walk without falling over a lot in the process.

2. Learn about how you learn
I mentioned this before ~ but it is a good reminder. Research has shown that many of us have a preferred way of learning. If you are a visual learner, you can link language to pictures and images -> watch films with subtitles, try to visualise yourself in imaginary situations speaking English, fix words with pictures in your mind. If you have an auditory style, you have a ‘good ear’ for language and should listen to as much music as possible and watch movies in English. If you have an analytic style, then spend time studying grammar and comparing Japanese with English. A learner with an interactive style needs to spend as much time as possible speaking with others, discussing language and generally working in a team. A really good learner spends time on all these styles.

Yet, it is a sad fact that all over the world, many people are still taught in a traditional style that favours analytic and auditory learners but you can decide your preferred style and enhance your abilities in that way ...

3. Learn memory techniques
There are plenty of books on how to improve your memory. It is a skill that the successful learners I know take very seriously -> try it ~

4. Immerse yourself
I once visited the home of a Doctor student of mine. His house was littered with “post-it” notes everywhere! Every time he went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, to the bathroom to shave or used the remote control to change the TV channel, he looked at those words ~ again and again and again.

Once the word was fixed in his mind, he put the paper into a file that he looked through at the end of the week. This way, he learnt 10 words a day, seven days a week.

Read, listen and speak English at every opportunity you can! The best musicians and football players practise their skill over and over and over again. The skill of communicating in a foreign language is the same.

5. Learn Vocabulary systematically
Remember that learning English is not just about learning grammar. When we speak, we express most of our ideas through our choice of vocabulary, through collocations and fixed expressions. Think carefully about how you organise your notebook, don’t just write a long list of new words! Try to divide your notebook into sections.

Here are some ideas…

subject pages; shopping, holidays, study, money
verbs and nouns that go together; do your homework, make a cake
expressions which use common words; overweight, to get over something, over the moon
phrasal verbs; to grow up, to tell off, to look after
fixed expressions; on the other hand, in my opinion, by the way
idioms; once in a blue moon, to be over the moon, out of the blue
expressions with prepositions; at night, at the weekend, in March, in 2010


6. Get motivated: don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today.
Do it now ~ well, you are reading this, so you ARE doing it. Speak and read and sing and practice something EVERYDAY...!

See you tomorrow ...

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Does the task of learning English seem overwhelming at times? Don’t worry -> just like a baby learning to walk, you need to take it step by step. A little everyday will soon help you be on the road to fluent English!

Start with a Smile
No matter what your level of English, a pinch of confidence can go a long way. To become fluent in English, you must be willing to take a few risks, and that requires courage. A confident speaker with a smile can create a great first impression, even if a few mistakes are made along the way.

Memorise More than Words
Do you know tons of vocabulary but have no idea how to use the words? Try learning phrases or whole sentences to give you a fuller understanding of their meaning. This will give you many more tools for communication.

Listen to Learn
When listening to English radio, news or films (movies), try to analyse what you hear. As English is filled with idioms, keep a notebook to write down new phrases and words. If you are speaking to a native speaker, make note of the way they use certain words. Learning from natural speech will let you move out of textbook English and into the real world of speaking.

Exercise your Vocal Cords
This means to start a workout routine for your voice ~ check Blog entry Great Study Ideas That Really Help #5 -> “Warm-up
This particular exercise help a LOT to strengthen your voice and make it sound clear. Remember the only way to feel comfortable speaking is to practice, so use that voice!

I don’t mean being a fashion on the ‘runway’, but “model the speech patterns” of native speakers. Stress and intonation are key aspects of English, and affect the meaning of what you say. So grab a DVD and have the remote handy. Practice listening to and repeating the words of the actors at their natural pace (which in English means pretty fast!). This will not only speed up your speech, but also raise your progress-level on the path to fluency.

More tomorrow . . .

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map of UK
Here is the last of this week’s theme of “Interesting Facts About England”. I am sure you will have a few “Oh, really?” moments reading these, as well ...

* Everyone knows about the Euro Tunnel but how long is it? The tunnel length is 31.4 ml (50.53 km).

* What is the land like in England? The south of England is mostly low-lying land, with hills and agricultural land and the north of England is mostly covered in moorland and mountains.

* Harry Potter ~ everyone knows ‘Harry’ but who is his author? The author of the Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, was born in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, England.

* England is famous for its educational institutes. It has some of the most famous universities of the world like Oxford, Cambridge and London universities.

* We all know that England is famous for some of the world’s greatest pop stars - the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Queen, Phil Collins, the Spice Girl, Oasis and more (see my previous Blog articles starting 3rd December 2012)

* Besides it’s good food (we’ll talk about that another time), England is famous for its creams and butters and for its delicious cheeses: Stilton, Cheshire, Double Gloucester, Red Leicester, and Cheddar.

England is famous for Wimbledon ~ which started tournaments in 1877!

* Many of the world's famous sports began in Britain, including cricket, football, lawn tennis, golf and rugby. England's national sport is actually “cricket” although to many people football (soccer) is seen as our national sport. Football is our most popular sport. Some of England's football teams are world famous, the most famous being Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.

* Ahah -> did you know this one? => Table Tennis was invented in England in 1880. Although the game originated in England, British players don't have much luck in international championships.

So, that ends this week’s theme of fun/interesting facts about England ~ there are waaaaaay too many to mention them all but I hope you enjoyed the few that I mentioned.

Next week’s theme (starting tomorrow) is still ‘floating around in my head’, so if you have a special request, don’t hesitate to let me know ~

See you then ...

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London 2
Here are some more “Wow, I didn’t know that” facts...

* The first hot chocolate store opened in London around 1600. Ironically it was started and run by a Frenchman who made it very popular to drink hot chocolate. In a hundred years you could find almost as many hot chocolate stores as you could coffee and tea houses -> great for this time of year!

* If you ate breakfast in Medieval England, you were also often served beer!

* The first telephone directory for England was published in 1880 and contained 25 names -> and they probably all knew each other ;-)

* In 1666 the City of London was almost wiped off the map during the Great Fire. Eighty-eight (88) churches alone were burned to the ground after the four (4) day inferno.

* St Paul's Cathedral in London survived the Blitz during WWII, despite tens of thousands of tons of German bombs falling all around the area.

* There is a greater number of Rolls Royce vehicles per capita in Hong Kong than in England.

* The sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." uses every letter in the English alphabet.

* The term "the whole nine yards" came from WWII Hurricane fighter pilots. The length of the ammunition belts in each cannon was 27 feet (1 yard = 3 feet). Firing continuously at a German aircraft coined the phrase "I gave him the whole nine yards".

* Highest pub is called the ‘Tan Hill Inn’, in Yorkshire - 1732 feet (527.9m) above sea level.

* Smallest pub is called ‘The Nutshell’, in Bury St Edmonds - 15ft x 7ft 6in. (4.572m x 2.286m) -> THAT is small!

* The original London Bridge was made of wood and was pulled down by Saxon sailors in 1014 -> and floated-away - ha ha!

* 32% of women and 54% of men surveyed using an Internet Dating service admitted they were already married - -> THAT is not a good marriage situation!

See you tomorrow ...

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IT’S “PAY-DAY” ~ Friday 25th, so let’s have a few facts about the Economy...

* London Heathrow Airport is the world's busiest airport for international passenger traffic, and the third for total traffic.

* London is the world's largest financial centre ~ I guess we all kinda knew that one.

* Britain has the highest per capita consumption of cider, as well as the largest cider-producing companies in the world. Cider making was introduced by Viscount Scudamore in 1639, who brought the recipe from France. In 1674 he built the county's largest house with cider money at Holme Lacy, near Hereford.

* Harry Ramsden's holds the Guinness World Record for the largest fish and chip shop in the world, seating 250 people, serving nearly a million customers a year. It is Britain's longest established restaurant chain. Its first shop opened in 1928 at Guiseley, West Yorkshire.

* At least a hundred of Europe's five hundred largest corporations are based in London.

* Tourism is the sixth largest industry in the United Kingdom. Tourism employs about six to seven percent of the total population.

And importantly:

* Red Lion is the most popular name for a pub in Britain.

And YES, the Brits also like to go out and have fun on ‘Pay-day’, so have a great ‘TGIF’ and see you tomorrow ...

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London 4

Interesting 18th century to present facts ...

* The national anthem of the United States ("The Star-Spangled Banner") was actually composed by an Englishman, John Stafford Smith (1750-1836) from Gloucester.

* The claim for the world's oldest working railway is disputed between Tanfield Railway in County Durham, which oldest section dates back to 1725, and Middleton Railway in West Yorkshire, which has been working continuously since 1758 ~ now THAT is olde!

* Established in 1734, Bennette's of Irongate in Derby is the oldest department store in the world, pre-dating by over 100 years the first department stores in the USA, France or other parts of Britain. It is still trading in the original building!

* The world's first public street lighting with gas was installed in Pall Mall, London in 1807. In 1812, the London and Westminster Gas Light and Coke Company became the world's first gas company.

* The world's oldest public zoo opened in London in 1828.

This is interesting for stamp-collectors...

* It is in England that the first postage stamps appeared. The first Penny Post was invented by entrepreneur William Dockwra in the 1680's for delivery of packets within London. The first nation-wide stamp (and first adhesive stamp) was the Penny Black, introduced in 1840 as part of Rowland Hill's postal reforms. Because Britain was the first country to issue national stamps, British stamps still have the unique distinction of not mentioning the country's name on them.

* The custom of afternoon tea was devised in 1840 by Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford, who felt the need for an extra meal between lunch and dinner. She began inviting her friends to join her, and the custom quickly spread around British society and throughout the British Empire. Britain's first tea room was opened in 1864 by the Aerated Bread Company at London Bridge.

Talking about the Olympics, this is interesting...

* The world's first modern Olympic games were not held in Athens in 1896, but in the small town of Much Wenlock (Shropshire) in 1850, which inspired French Baron Pierre Coubertin to launch the Athens Olympics half a century later.

“Thomas the Tank Engine” ...

* The English invented and developed the world's earliest railways. In 1901, Hornby became the first maker of model railways. The British love of train also gave birth to Thomas The Tank Engine, originally in books in 1946, then on TV from 1984 onwards.

* The man behind the construction of the world-famous Sydney Opera House was Sir Eugene Goossens (1893-1962), an English conductor and composer of Belgian origin, who was director of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music at the time.

* The world's first electronic, digital, programmable computer was made at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, in 1943-44. Nicknamed Colossus, it was used by British code-breakers to help read encrypted German messages during World War II. Colossus was kept a state secret until 1974, which is why Americans have been credited with the invention of computers.

* Liverpool Cathedral, Britain's newest cathedral (completed in 1978), holds many records. It boasts the world's the largest (though not the highest) bell-tower, with the world's highest and heaviest peal of bells, and the largest organ in the UK. It is the second longest church on Earth after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and the biggest cathedral in England.

See you tomorrow ...

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History & Monuments

Today’s facts are about Ancient times and places in England. Let’s begin the history lesson...

* The stone circle at Avebury is the largest in the world. It was built between 5300 and 4600 years ago and covers 11 ha (110,000 m2). The outer circle is surrounded by a bank and ditch long of 1 miles (1.6 km).

* Colchester in Essex is the oldest recorded town in Britain, as well as the first Roman town and Roman capital of Britain. Colchester Castle has the largest keep ever built in Europe, having a land area 50% bigger than the Tower of London.

* Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest royal residence in the world still in use. It was originally constructed in 1070 and rebuilt in stone in 1170.

* Berkeley Castle is the oldest English castle still inhabited by the family who built it. The founder of the Berkeley family was Robert Fitzharding (c. 1095–1170). He started building the present castle in 1153.

* Winchester was the first capital of England, from 827 to 1066. Winchester Cathedral, completed in 1070, has the longest nave (central part of a church where people sit) of any medieval cathedral in Europe.

* York Minster is Britain's largest medieval cathedral, has the largest Gothic nave in the country, and the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world ~ you should visit York!

* The County of Kent is home to England's oldest church (St Martin's in Canterbury), oldest school (the King's School, established in 600, also in Canterbury), and the oldest brewery (Shepherd's Neame Brewery in Faversham, founded in 1698) ~ now THAT is historical, and all in the same town!

* Champagne was invented in England, not in France. In 1662 scientist Christopher Merret presented a paper to the Royal Society in London describing how the addition of sugar and molasses to wine make it brisk and sparkling. This method, now known as méthode champenoise, was adopted by Dom Pérignon over 30 years later to produce the first sparkling wine in Champagne => so now you know!

See you tomorrow ...

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London 3

Culture & Language

Like I mentioned yesterday, French was actually the official language of England for about 300 years, from 1066 till 1362. Oui, c'est vrai!

Read these interesting facts about good-ole-England ...

* The English class system is not determined by money, but by one's background (family, education, manners, way of speaking...). Many nouveau-riches people (like pop-stars or football players) insist on their children still belonging to the lower or middle class.

* FUNNY -> Oxford University once had rules that specifically forbade students from bringing bows and arrows to class -> the Robin Hood gang!

* Fish 'n chips is not much more traditional an English dish than Chicken Tikka Massala. Yes it is old but the first fish & chips restaurant was only opened in 1860 by a Jewish immigrant, Joseph Malin.

* British police do not carry guns except in emergencies - did you know that?

* The world's largest second-hand book market can be found at Hay-on-Wye, a small village at the border of England and Wales. The village is also famous for proclaiming itself independent from the UK in 1977.

OK, the Brits do have a few “weird” things -> read the next two...

* 1) One of England's quaintest traditional events is the cheese rolling competition in Brockworth, Gloucestershire. Every year in May, people chase Double Gloucester cheese down the steep Cooper's Hill. The tradition is said to have originated with fertility rites in Roman times. Other cheese rolling events exist in England, for example at the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire.

* 2) Coveting the title of England's oldest surviving festival alongside the cheese rolling of Gloucestershire, are the Horn Dances of Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire. Based on ancient Anglo-Saxon traditions, the present festival goes back at least to the 11th century, but it might be much older.

* Established in 1902, Ealing Studios in West London are the oldest continuously-working film studios in the world.

* YOU HAVE TO GO HERE => The Rothschild art collection at Waddesdon Manor is one of the world's most important, rivalling with that of the Louvres Museum in Paris and New York‘s Metropolitan Museum ~ must-see spots on your next trip.

See you tomorrow ...

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Interesting England

"Interesting Facts About England"

That is this week’s theme ~> besides getting some ‘reading practice’, you will learn quite a few fun facts about England that most people are unaware of. So grab a cuppa tea and a nice piece of shortbread, and let’s get going ...

Talking about the Land & the People
England is 74 times smaller than the USA, 59 times smaller than Australia and 3 times smaller than Japan (I bet you didn’t know that!). England is however 2.5 times more populous than Australia, and 1.5 times more populous than California. With 2.5 times less inhabitants than Japan, its density of population is slightly higher than the country of the rising sun.

Most people think it is cool/cold in England and always rains BUT -> the highest temperature ever recorded in England was 38.5°C in Brogdale, Kent, on 10 August 2003.

And how about this one =>> English people consume more tea per capita than anybody else in the world (2.5 times more than the Japanese and 22 times more than the Americans or the French).

London used to be the largest and most influential city in the world. Now with a population of 12 million, it remains the largest city in Europe.

The "Slimbridge Wildlife & Wetlands Trust" (100 miles <160 km> north-west of London) is the world's largest and most diversified wildfowl centre. It has the largest collection of swans, geese and ducks on Earth, and is the only place where all six species of Flamingo can still be observed living together ~ a great place to go and see.

"Mother Shipton's Cave" near Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, is England's oldest recorded tourist attraction. Its owner, Charles Slingsby, fenced off the site in 1630 and started charging visitors to gape at this so-called petrifying well. The mineral-rich water from this uncanny spring has the ability to give objects a stone-like appearance after a prolonged exposure -> this is a neat place to visit, that most people do not know about!

And something on the ‘down-side’ -> I guess by eating too many meat pies and fish-n-chips => English people have the highest obesity rate in the European Union (22.3% of men and 23% of women). They also have the highest percentage of overweight women (33.6%) and the 6th highest for men (43.9%). => Get exercising and eating some healthy fooooood...! YOU TELL ‘EM!

Tune-in for some “Culture & Language” bits tomorrow like this -> French was the official language of England for about 300 years, from 1066 till 1362. DID YOU KNOW THAT?

See you tomorrow ...

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Great Study Ideas That Really Help #7

idea 6
#7 Voice Training Steps

These exercises work for anyone and everyone’s voice ~ whether you are going to sing, give a presentation to people or simply talking with your friends.

Yes, these may sound a little strange first of all but after you do them, you will realise how WELL they work and help make your voice clearer and much easier for people to listen to...

1) Lie on your back with your knees in the air and your eyes closed.
Pay attention to how your body feels as you breathe. Seek out and eliminate any tension by "breathing into" that location. The idea is to relax areas of your body that affect your voice.

The important areas to focus on are your jaw, neck, shoulders, chest, upper and lower back, and diaphragm. Breathe deeply to expand your lung capacity.

2) Prop your head back a bit and release your jaw so that it gapes open.
There should be no tension at all in your neck, chest, shoulders or jaw. Take in a deep breath, and as you breathe out, vocalise. It will sound like an open-mouthed moan. As you vocalise, pay close attention to your jaw, neck, shoulders, back and chest. Most likely, they will tense up when you vocalise.

Keep practising until you can vocalise without tensing your muscles.

Repeat step #2 This will perhaps create tension in your jaw or neck areas. Continue to practice until you can perform this without any tension.

Recite a poem or a section from a book or magazine.

Try to maintain your relaxation and resonance (the quality in a sound). Listen to how different your voice sounds. The longer you practice on the floor, the easier it is to maintain your good speaking habits.


4) Sit upright.
Chances are, there will be some tension in your key vocal areas. Pay special attention to your neck and your shoulders. Breathe into your tense areas to relax them.

Repeat steps #2 and #3 while sitting upright.

Extend these habits to everyday conversation.

It will be more difficult to maintain relaxation when you have to think of what to say, but with practice it will come.


(1) Good posture is essential to a good voice.
(2) Your jaw and lips are the most important parts to relax because they form your resonating chamber, like the sound-hole in a guitar. If your mouth is too closed, you must exert more effort to achieve the same volume. Having your jaw and lips relaxed and free-moving will make your voice sound more natural and less strained or muffled.
(3) If possible, perform these exercises in a closed room without carpet so that you can hear yourself better.
(4) When your vocal chords create sound, you should feel vibration in your chest, back, neck and head. This vibration will create resonance and give your voice a full, delicious sound. This is what you are trying to achieve, so spend a lot of time on relaxing these areas.

Tune-in again tomorrow for next week’s theme ...

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Great Study Ideas That Really Help #6

idea 7
#6 Voice Projection Exercises

These will help with your speech, your singing and the overall way your voice comes out and is heard better. Read on ...

Breathing - When and How
Breathing properly ~ especially taking a few deep breaths before you begin speaking can also help relax you. This will automatically drop your pitch and reduce any signs of nervousness, such as voice tremors.

Of course, any program of self-improvement requires that you actually practice these exercises. They will feel odd at first - oh, all right, some of them will feel downright silly! They will however, in the long run, help you to improve your speaking voice.

Open your mouth wide, but keep the muscles around your mouth and jaw loose. This allows a richer, fuller tone. 

* Remember to take in all saliva so your mouth is empty and your voice comes out clearer.
* Articulate, using all the muscles in your tongue and all the muscles controlling your lips to shape the sounds. You don't want words to be slurred together.
* Sit or stand up straight with your chest held high. This is one of the most important things you can do. Make sure that your head is not sticking forward like an ostrich, but rather in line with your neck, back and tailbone, so that your airway is unhindered.

Breath support
The more air the better. Always take very deep breaths. You should feel your breath reach all the way into your lower back muscles and abs. Keep the muscles in your neck completely relaxed, and warm up before you try to give a speech. Many people overlook this, but the warmer and more stretched your vocal chords, the better sound you will produce.

When you need a clear voice, stay away from thick drinks such as milk and alcoholic drinks. Water is absolutely the best thing for your voice. If you ever have a presentation or meeting or speech coming up, drink plenty of water and nothing thick or alcoholic for three days in advance. And on the day of your event, drink nothing but water and plenty of it. Plus, keep a bottle with you at all times.

Don't just listen to the pros, use your eyes on live and televised performances ~ watch the way they use their lips to shape the sounds and words that they are saying.

If there is someone’s voice/tone/accent/pronunciation that you especially like, listen to it and repeat after them, listen and repeat, listen and repeat ... (you get my point of copying them until you start to sound that good/clear).

Despite popular belief, DO NOT add lemon to your water when you have to give a speech -> it dries out your voice, causing it to sound strained.

Tune-in tomorrow for #7...

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Great Study Ideas That Really Help #5

idea 5
#5 Speak Clearly...

One of the easiest ways to improve your speaking voice is to improve your clarity of speech.

The way you form your words says a lot about you. Besides regional accents, when you speak clearly, people can follow what you are saying more easily, and they will think that your English ability is GREAT!

These are a couple of exercises I found that REALLY WORK to warm-up your vocal chords and make your voice sound very clear -> try the exercises once and you will understand what I mean...

To test yourself before doing the exercises, read a few sentences from a book or anything you have at hand - book, magasine, cereal box - anything will do.

Open your mouth with your lips and teeth slightly apart.
Stick your tongue out as far as you can without straining - your tongue will remain stuck out for the entire exercise.
Beginning with the letter "A", pronounce the letters of the alphabet as clearly as possible, in sequence, adding a letter to the sequence with each repetition: "A", "A,B", "A,B,C", "A,B,C,D", "A,B,C,D,E", and so on until you have said the entire alphabet with the last repetition.
Retract your tongue to its normal position and as quickly as you can, repeat the entire alphabet once more, opening your mouth and stretching your lips to over-pronounce each letter in an exaggerated manner.

Tongue Twisters
Now that you have finished your warm-up, re-read the same passage. You will be amazed at how clear and crisp you will sound, compared to your first efforts.

Another way to accomplish this is to repeat tongue twisters and nonsense rhymes. Any simple poetry will do the trick, as long as it requires you to repeat similar words or phrases. Tongue twisters can be great fun to try and say as quickly and clearly as possible.

She sells seashells by the seashore, but the seashells she sells are seashells no more.


Misty, moisty was the morn, dreary was the weather, when I met an old man dressed all in leather;
Dressed all in leather against the snow and rain, with "How do you do?", and "How do you do?", and "How do you do?" again.
With "How do you do?", and "How do you do?", and "How do you do?" again.

This second piece is for ‘enunciation’ (the articulation of speech regarded from the point of view of its intelligibility to the audience -> how well and clear you can speak, so people understand you) as much as speed - the repeated greeting is quite a workout for the lips, if the words are pronounced correctly and distinctly.

And lastly for today -> Slow Down
Another way to improve your speaking voice, is to make an effort to speak more slowly, especially when you are trying to give information.

Most of us, tend to speak very quickly - sometimes too quickly for ease of communication.
Speaking more slowly has two effects - it will make you more intelligible, more easily understood, and it clarifies more importance to what you are saying.

Think about it - this technique is often used by actors to convey a significant plot point or stress a particular feeling.

I do not recommend speaking slowly all the time, as you will sound like a recorded announcement rather than a natural speaker but it is one of the techniques at your disposal to help clarify your speech.

Remember, the more you do them, the better and clearer you WILL sound ...

Tune-in tomorrow for #6...

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Great Study Ideas That Really Help #4

idea 4


You will have to excuse my lateness today but I have been baking aaaaall day ~ yes, I can cook ;-)

Friday, Saturday and Sunday I will be getting into a lot of details and giving some great examples of how to make your voice ‘more natural’ and 'clear', and you will sound even better when speaking ~> so don’t miss that!

Today, I want to share with you a very easy and natural thing to do -> yes, it involves speaking with people but don’t worry, it is a lot easier than you think ~ read on ...

So you want to be ‘fluent’ ~ that’s great but that means you need to speak to people -> true!?! OK, start-the-ball-rolling by greeting people with a “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”, “Hello” or “Nice to see you again” ~ simple things like that.

Hey, you do it everyday in Japanese when you see someone; “おはよございます” -> no big deal, right!?! You are simply giving a polite greeting to someone and don’t expect them to stop and have a 10 minute conversation, do you? Of course not! Do the same thing but in English.

On the way to work, in the train station, at the office (even say “Good morning” to your Japanese co-workers - that will make them laugh and smile - who cares -> this is your practice time!), in the supermarket when you see a foreigner looking at something (oranges for example) -> “they look good don’t they!”, at the book store “is that book interesting?”.

Someone you see often at work or at the gym or the supermarket; “Hello ***, I like your hair/tie/shoes/bag/dress today” -> simple compliments are also a very good way for you to make normal, natural, everyday conversation. It is very easy, you don’t have to use difficult words and your confidence when speaking will get higher and HIGHER ~ "Hello Robin, I like your tie today." ~ "Thank you!"
-> That was easy right!?!

And if someone doesn’t answer back, don’t worry! The main purpose of this is for YOU to be more confident and sound more ‘natural’ when you speak, so go say “HELLO”, it’s easy ~

Tune-in tomorrow for #5...

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Great Study Ideas That Really Help #3

idea 3

#3 Sing ~

In addition to #1 ‘Recording your voice’ and #2 ‘Repeating/Shadowing’, today’s #3 ‘Singing’ helps your vocal chords when speaking English.

To be a little more specific; when we talk, the muscles in our jaw and vocal chords are relaxed. However when singing, it is as if these muscles are having a hard workout at the gym. They are forced to be in the ‘right shape’ when we use English.

This may sound strange but as the muscles are used under-pressure and ‘forced’ to be used, this REALLY HELPS to make speaking smoother and easier and more natural-sounding.

Yes, singing probably feels a bit silly to help with your English ability, plus we're not used to bursting forth in song as if we were in a musical. Give it a shot though, and listen to your voice afterward.

You can sing along with your favourite song or sing some words from a book (along with your favourite tune). Sing a few of the words quicker than the rest, and then sing the next few a little slower. Then sing the sentences again, first with a high voice and then in a low voice.

Now, speak the sentences in the same ways that you sang them. Listen to the variations in your voice as you speak the words more slowly, and then more quickly, and again as you vary the pitch of your voice from high to low as if you were still singing the words.

This kind of vocalisation stretches and improves your speaking voice in the same way as it does your singing voice ==> TRY IT, IT DOES HELP A LOT!

Tune-in tomorrow for #4...

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Great Study Ideas That Really Help #2

idea 2

Yes, you’ve probably heard it before -> there’s a reason = => IT WORKS!

I always recommend my students to do this, as it not only improves your “listening ability” but helps a tremendous amount with your speech, too.

Initially, don’t worry if you do not understand everything that you are hearing, as that will come in-time.

The important thing is to pick-up the ‘sounds’ and repeat them, then your tone and pronunciation will definitely start to sound more natural (getting towards the ‘fluency’ that you are aiming for).

Remember how you learned your mother-language as a child - we repeated the sounds that we heard our parents and family members making. That's right, at first we did not understand the meaning of ‘yes’ or ‘はい’ or ‘oui’ or 'ja' etc, but we kept repeating those sounds and gradually began to understand their meanings, we put the words together and then were able to speak.

THIS is one of the best ways to get better and sound very natural -> REPEAT!

Tune-in tomorrow for #3...

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Great Study Ideas That Really Help #1

idea 1

This week I will be going over some GREAT IDEAS that will definitely help bring your English to a higher level ...

#1 Record yourself ~

What I mean is to record yourself (speaking English of course), in a couple of different situations and then listen to how you sound:

1) Reading a column or page from a book or magasine.

2) Talking casually on the phone with someone (imagine you are speaking with me on the phone).

3) Giving a business presentation ~ you definitely need to speak clearly and articulately.

When you record these - SAY THE DATE (so you know when you did it) and then play it back, so you can hear how good or bad you are.

I have done this, and yes it is a little embarassing at first but it really does help -> you get to hear how loud, quiet, clear, mumbled and generally how good you are at something or how “Oh boy, I really need to practice my casual conversation, as I’m saying too many ‘uhuhs’ or ‘yeahs’ etc”.

My point here, is that doing this will give you a good ‘base’ of where you are right now, what you are good at and what points you need to practice more. Do this every month, in order to check yourself.

So get out the ‘recorder’ and go for it ~

Read #2 tomorrow ...

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MG ~> a historic car ...

It was very hard to decide who should be this week’s last company in the list of English cars. A couple of “M”s came to mind; Morgan and MG. Morgan, actually first started with a 3-wheeler car in the early 1900s (still made today), but MG is a car with more fun for the everyday driver and classic racing style; engine, body, tyres and road.

In the videos below, you can see the old MG TDs and MGAs - both historic cars that have true car-heritage.

MG was soon known for being an affordable performance car and they outgrew their manufacturing factory three times due to their popularity! Some of the best and wellknown models are the MG TC, TD, MGA, Midget and MGB ~ everyone has there favourite -> which is yours?

Like with several companies, they also started to produce race engines as well, and held speed records in that era.

When driving the older models you feel like you are part of the machine ~ you hear every component in action, feel the blast of air, and even pop gently out of your seat with the car when it skips over bumps.

And with these models, the brake pedal acted only on the front wheels, while the outside lever (hand brake) actuated the rear brakes.

Stabbing the pedal had about as much effect as trying to blow a house down, so in emergencies you also reached for the outside lever and PULLED HARD ~ true driving action and fun at the same time ;-)

Watch some of the old MGs in action ~ so cute ~

MG Cars in the Luffield Cars MGCC Speed Championship Part 1:

MG Cars in the Luffield Cars MGCC Speed Championship Part 2:

MG TD 1953:

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Jaguar ~> English car heritage...

What English boy didn’t grow up seeing and reading and dreaming about one day driving and possibly owning a Jaguar!?! The XK, SS, E-type, XJS and the XJ220 -> all dream cars!

Jaguar - pronounced “jagUar” not ‘jagaar’, as said in Japanese and American - like most car companies, has gone through hard times, great times and then some really rough times too, but they have kept on going. This high-class English sports car and sedan manufacturer has been sold numerous times, and is presently owned by a company in India.

Luckily I have had the experience of owning a Jag - as it is commonly called.

I managed to get hold of one of the last V12 XJS Coupes back before Jaguar was bought by Ford and everything changed to be -> a V8? Smooth? Modern? Naah, that’s not a ‘real’ Jag! The rumble and power of a V12 is just not the same when it changes to a V8!

Yes, Jags used to have a fair amount of ‘electrical’ problems but that feel and smell and touch of a true Jaguar is just ‘of a different class’ to those cars made today.

This is another car to add to your list of “I want one them” ~ great English car heritage...

Watch this fun video about the E-Type’s 50th anniversary ~ Top Gear - BBC:

75 Years of Jaguar History:

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McLaren ~> vroom, vroom ... !

From one Mini supercar to one racing supercar => the McLaren “P1”.

You probably know the name ‘McLaren’ from Formula 1 racing - that is because they have the second-longest history in F1 racing (only after Ferrari) - that is a long time!

McLaren’ first started by the New Zealander Bruce Mclaren ~ racer/designer/engineer ~ was then taken over by Ron Dennis after his death in 1970 ~ Ron still remains McLaren’s Chairman.

They began production of a rare super car called the “F1” - very fast, very special, very expensive! That has now changed to the “P1” - faster, more stylish, more expensive!!

Watch the videos below to learn more about this amazing UK car manufacturer and listen hard to improve your listening-level, too ~

Jay Leno and his McLaren cars:

Inside the McLaren Technology Centre:

How to Build a McLaren Supercar - the “MP4-12C”:

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Mini ~> but LARGE . . .

Yes, they’re small ~ yes, they’re cute ~ yes, they’re one of the most well known cars in the world ~> No, “Mini” are not ‘mini’ they’re ‘HUGE’!

From their conception in the late-50s, through every time era up until today, Mini are a fabulous and fun car to drive, cool to look at and the memory of owning one will last forever...!

They were originally designed in order to try to beat the European fuel crisis of that time period and quickly became popular from celebrities to the everyday person in the street.
The “Cooper”, engineered by the late race car constructor John Cooper, was soon launched, and this car set new motor sport standards and took triple Monte Carlo rally wins between 1964 and 1967, amongst a host of other competitive titles; the car was voted ‘European Car of the Century’ by a panel of 130 international journalists.

BMW took-over ownership of Mini, and now it has become an even better modern-day car ~ you must take one out for a fun spin ...

Minis through the years:

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Land Rover ~> goes around the globe . . .

land rover1
If they weren’t any good, then why would the Red Cross Emergency Rescue or the Police or the Army etc. use them? Obviously 'cause they are great in any and every situation you could imagine.

Anyone who loves the countryside will absolutely loooove driving ‘off the beaten track’ and getting ‘a little dirty’ in a Land Rover. As you can see in the videos below, they were built to drive in the ‘rough’ ~ in the dessert, in the Amazon, through the woods, through the river, on the mountain-side ~ basically anywhere you can imagine going, a Land Rover can go there, and go well!

So next time you want a fun weekend, take a Land Rover out into the wild and see what they (and you) are really made of ~ and don’t mind getting dirty ;-)

Enjoy the History of Land Rover:

Land Rover Defender Legend:

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Lotus ~> built to race . . .

Lotus 2

When I put my mind to it, “Lotus” is probably my (and many others, too) favourite car manufacturer ever!

Colin Chapman was an incredibly talented engineer, who’s designs were and still are used in F1 car racing (Lotus, for many-a-year was the leading F1 manufacturer and set many, many F1 Historical Level Records; like the first to win numerous first & second cars in several Grand Prix races around the world).

Most companies as you know, like to have large-sized and powerful engines and therefore require using large amounts of heavy-weight metal to cope with the stress of such large engines.

Colin Chapman however, designed body parts that were stressed so that they would add to the overall strength of the car without adding the ‘extra weight’ that other companies have to use. This was an engineering philosophy that re-invented the racing and car industries, enabling Lotus to use smaller and lighter engines that out-beat bigger and better cars in F1 Grand Prix races, at Le Mans, in Rallies and on the road, too.

The rest is history ~ all you need to do is to climb into a Lotus and take one for a test drive ~ car basics at their best; a street-legal race-car for the road and/or for the race track, as well.

You have to try one . . . !!

Watch these couple of fun videos with the GORGEOUS sounds of Lotus engines;




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Aston Martin ~> 007 James Bond


It is so extremely hard to know where to start this week, as there are humongous amounts of great classic and stylish cars from Britain. After much dilemma, I will start with ASTON MARTIN as almost everyone knows the “DB5” ~ perhaps one of the most famous cars in the world after being used several times in James Bond films over the last 50 years. And doubling that, this year is Aston Martin’s centennial-year 1913~2013.

Talking about ‘007’, if you have not seen the latest film “Skyfall” yet, you will see the gorgeous DB5 showing her glorious-self once again.

In my eyes, Aston Martins are one of the most stylish and elegant cars (with thundering engine sounds) that you will ever see, hear and drive.

Checkout the ‘One-77’ ~ a one-of-a-kind car with some of the most advanced technology in the industry, a glamorous design, with incredible power and an amazing sound, and with only 77 built! (watch the YouTube videos to see and hear this amazing car).

Aston Martin



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“Great British Sports Cars Week”

OK ~ I don’t know about you but I have been waiting to write about this; The Great British Sports Cars Week! Yes, I love Lotus and Aston Martin and others too, so being able to write about them will make it a very interesting and joyful study-week.

If you have any favourites or requests, then do let me know. Otherwise, start your engines as the race begins tomorrow . . .

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“X”, “Y” & “Z”

We have come to the ‘conclusion’ of the Alphabet Series, and so I decided to end it with Dragon-shaped letters, as we just finished the Year of The Dragon (my birth-year). These last three letters are intriguing in their meanings and usage-variation, since they are extremely different.

“X” words have a strange combination of meanings; from dry to yellow to woody. Don’t worry if you have to look up their meaning ~ I did too!

1. xenomania
2. xenomorphic
3. xenophilia
4. xenophobia
5. xenops
“Y” words are used more often than “X”s and tend to have a slight ‘bounce’ to them;

6. yacked
7. Yankee
8. yawning
9. year
10. yearning
11. yellow
12. yesterday
13. yodelling
14. yonder
15. young
16. youthful
17. Yuletide
18. yummy
“Z” words are the last in the series and have some of the zaniest meanings, as you can see from the first word on the list:

19. zany
20. zesty
21. zigzag
22. zippy
23. zombie
24. zonked
25. zoological

I hope you enjoyed and learned a few more useful and descriptive words from the ‘Alphabet Series’ (like I did) ~ use them, as they will definitely enhance your descriptive power of communication...!

Tomorrow I get back to a weekly theme ~ next week is Classic British Car History ~ see you then . . .

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"V" & "W"

As we enter the valuable last few days of the New Year’s holiday season, I will combine “V” & “W” words today and then close this 'Alphabetic Word-Learning series' with the last three letters tomorrow. That will lead us into Sunday when I will commence with another vibrant and witty series of stories for your eyes and ears.

But for today, check if you know and use these “V” & “W” words:

1. vacant
2. vaguely
3. valuable
4. vegetarian
5. venomous
6. versatile
7. victorious
8. vicious
9. vibrant
10. vintage
11. vital
12. vivacious
13. volatile
14. voluntary
15. vulnerable
16. wacky
17. wandering
18. warm-hearted
19. wealthy
20. well-groomed
21. whimsical
22. whispering
23. wholehearted
24. willing
25. wishy-washy
26. witty
27. wobbly
28. womanly
29. wonderful
30. worldly
31. worthwhile
32. wretched
33. wrinkled

Which of these do you use?

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An unusual amount of “U” words are actually used in our everyday conversations. This is undoubtedly an unbelievable statement to most people, but unconsciously we do use a lot of them.

Even if only for a few minutes, try to be aware of the common and uncommon words that you use daily, and you will be undeniably surprised at the amount you do use.

1. ultimate
2. unable
3. unaccountable
4. unanimous
5. unanswered
6. unauthorised
7. unaware
8. unbearable
9. unbelievable
10. unbiased
11. uncanny
12. unclear
13. uncomfortable
14. unconscious
15. uncouth
16. undeniable
17. underrated
18. understood
19. uneasy
20. uneven
21. unexpected
22. unfair
23. unfortunate
24. unfriendly
25. ungrateful
26. unhappy
27. unhealthy
28. uniform
29. unimaginable
30. unimportant
31. unique
32. unjust
33. unknowing
34. unknown
35. unlikely
36. unreal
37. unreasonable
38. untidy
39. upset
40. uptight
41. urgent
42. useful
43. utilised
44. utmost

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More often than not, “T” words are stressing something rather than being descriptive. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any thoughtful words, as there are a tremendous amount ~ here are a few to use...

1. taboo
2. tacky
3. tactful
4. talented
5. talkative
6. tantalising
7. teachable
8. teasing
9. tenfold
10. terrifying
11. therapeutic
12. thorough
13. thoughtful
14. thoughtless
15. thrilling
16. ticklish
17. tiresome
18. toothless
19. torrential
20. touristy
21. tragic
22. traumatic
23. treacherous
24. tremendous
25. triumphant
26. troublesome
27. trustworthy
28. truthful
29. turbulent
30. turquoise
31. twofold
32. typical

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