Improving English Pronunciation: Word Stress

Each language has its own pattern and rhythm in which you speak it. When individuals learn a new language, they commonly speak it using the stress pattern and rhythm of their first language. In English, some syllables within words are stressed while others are not. If the correct stress patterns are not used, a person’s English can sound unnatural and can be difficult to understand.

I remember a number of years ago, I had a friend whose second language was English. She was telling me about the “NO-TIS-BORED”, all with even stress. Initially I didn’t know what she was talking about, until I realised she meant the notice board (“NO-tes board”). Word stress patterns can change the entire meaning of a word. This is easily seen in the words “dessert” (de-SERT) and “desert” (DE-set).

In English, the majority of words with two or more syllables will have one part that is emphasised (i.e. stressed). The vowels in stressed syllables are said louder and longer than the vowels in unstressed syllables. Look at the word stress patterns in the following words (the stressed syllable is underlined):

  • before  (be-FORE)
  • water  (WA-ter)
  • computer  (com-PU-ter)
  • kitchen  (KI-tchen)

Unfortunately there are no fixed rules when learning word stress. It is helpful to learn the correct stress pattern when learning each word. If you are unsure about the pattern in a word, try saying it with different patterns and see which way sounds the most natural (e.g. “COM-pu-ter”, “com-pu-TER” or “com-PU-ter”?). Most dictionaries will let you know which syllable is stressed. The stressed syllable has a mark before it (e.g. ‘apple = “A-pple”). Alternatively, you can hear the correct pronunciation of a word by typing it into an online dictionary with audible pronunciation.

Becoming more aware of word stress will improve the clarity of your English pronunciation and make you a more confident speaker. To finish, have a go at saying your name. See if you can work out which syllable is stressed.

If you would like to work on your English pronunciation, we offer individualised Accent Reduction Training sessions. Contact Designed 2 Shine Speech Pathology for more information.

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Strategies to Help Late Talkers Talk!

Being a speech pathologist, I frequently meet parents who are concerned that their children are late talkers. Children can learn to talk later than expected for a range of reasons. Some children develop a little slower than other children, but still learn to talk well in their own time. Other children have older siblings who talk for them, so never really need to talk. Some children have specific language impairment or another diagnosis that may mean they don’t progress through the typical communication milestones. Whatever the reason, there are some things you can do to facilitate your child’s communication development.

Below is a list of strategies you may find helpful. Always remember when communicating with your child, the goal is to share interaction. It should be enjoyable for both you and your child. Even if your child does not use words, they are still likely communicating with you – learn to look for non-verbal communication, and respond in an encouraging way. If you have concerns with your child’s language development, it is always helpful to seek professional advice. A speech pathologist will be able to give you recommendations specific to your child’s needs.

Strategies to Encourage Language Development:

• Speak to your child one level above where they are. For example, if they have no words, aim to speak to them only in 1-2 word utterances. If they are saying single words, speak to them in 2-3 words sentences. If they speak in 2 word sentences, speak to them in 3-4 word sentences. This will provide an example they can easily copy.

• Talk about things that your child is interested in or looking at.

• Be VERY repetitive (e.g. “key… key… want key… key”)

• Don’t ask too many questions (e.g. “What’s this?”), or questions that are too hard (this can stop the interaction)

• Rather than simply giving your child something, offer them a choice out of two things. This encourages them to communicate a response (e.g. “Milk or juice?”).

• Play games with the same routine each time (e.g. peek-a-boo!, hide & seek, tickle, chasey), and then pause sometimes or swap roles. This helps teach turn-taking and creates opportunities for your child to communicate “more”.

• Be positive. Verbally reward any communication attempts they make (e.g. If they say “du” for juice, say in an excited tone, “Juice! Good boy, juice. Yes, juice!”). Praise is the best motivator for further effort.

• Add a word to whatever your child says. For example, if they say “Dog”, you can say, “Yes, dog. Dog sleeping!”.

• If they make a mistake when talking, don’t say “No, that’s wrong”. Simply repeat what they said in the correct way (e.g. if your child says “Daddy goed to work”, say, “Yes, daddy went to work”).

• If your child isn’t saying anything, or just points at something while making sounds, say whatever you think your child is trying to say. For example, if they are pointing to their drink, say “Drink.. want drink… drink…. here’s drink… drink”.

• Look at picture books daily. Rather than reading the words, talk about the pictures (what you see and what is happening). Use simple sentences.

• Don’t pressure your child to talk. Try not to ask them to say specific words (e.g. “Say spoon. Spoon. Can you say that?”). This can put pressure on the child and take the joy out of communicating. Instead wait for your child to ‘take the lead’ and start an interaction. Then respond to what they’re communicating.

• Whenever your child communicates a message (whether it be a look, sound, smile, body movement, gesture or word), it is important to respond immediately with interest. Imitate them, interpret or make a comment about what they’ve said.

• Create opportunities for your child to communicate or initiate an interaction. Some ways to do this includes:

o     Place their favourite object out of reach but in sight… then wait.
o     Offer a little bit… then wait (e.g. a tiny bit of food, rather than giving them the whole lot).
o     Choose an activity your child can not do without your help.
o     Offer a choice… then wait.
o     Pause a familiar activity… then wait (e.g. a song they know well).
o     Change a familiar activity… then wait (e.g. put their shoe on their hand rather than their foot!).
o     Hide objects in surprising places… then wait (e.g. a toy car in their shoe).
o     When things go wrong.. wait (e.g. If you spill some food or a toy breaks).

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Ways to Help Facilitate Early Literacy Development

Is your child beginning school next year and you would like to give them a head start? Or is your child already at school, but having difficulty learning to read and spell? There are some things you can do to help your child. Work through the following activities (start with the top ones first; when your child is able to do them, move on to the next few).

  • Syllable Clapping

Can your child clap the syllables (“parts”) in words? For example, “How many claps in the word banana?” (“ba-na-na” has 3 claps). Counting the syllables in words is an important pre-literacy skill. This skill can be practiced anywhere – when eating at the dinner table or driving the car. Ask your child to “clap the parts” in words of things you see (e.g. pasta; table; lady; shopping trolley; stop light).

  • Rhyming Words

Tell your child that rhyming words sound the same at the end. Read books that have rhyming words. Draw your child’s attention to how they sound the same at the end (e.g. “mat and cat… they rhyme… they sound the same at the end… mat… cat… they both end in at…”). Get some pictures of words that rhyme and place 3 pictures in front of your child (2 that rhyme and 1 that doesn’t). Ask your child to find the 2 pictures that rhyme. When you’re child has grasped the basic concept of rhyming, give them a word and ask them to think of words that rhyme with it (e.g. “light” – “night, right, kite, fight, etc”). It doesn’t matter if your child says words that aren’t real words!

  • Identifying the First Sound in Words

Begin talking about everyday objects and the sounds they begin with (e.g. “ball.. what sound does ball start with… b-ball?”). You may like to put some things in a bag and have your child lucky dip them out. Discuss what sound each item begins with. Some good sounds to begin with are m, b, t, s, f (it may be helpful to focus on one sound one week, and then another one next week).  Draw attention to your mouth – have your child look where your lips and tongue are as you say each sound. Read books with alliterations and comment on them (alliterations are when words in a sentence start with the same sound (e.g. Betty bought big bananas)). Tongue twisters are good alliterations!

  • Sound/Letter Link

Teach your child the letter names and sounds of the alphabet. If your child has trouble grasping both the letter names and sounds, it is more important they learn the sounds (e.g. “b” is the sound; “bee” is the letter name).

  • Short Vowel Sounds

Focus on teaching your child the sounds of the 5 short vowels ( i.e. a, e, i, o, u). It is helpful to associate them with a picture, as this way, if they forget the sound, the picture can help them recall it (for example, ‘a’ for apple, ‘o’ for orange, ‘u’ for up, ‘i’ for igloo, ‘e’ for egg).

  • Flashcards – Blending & Segmenting

It is helpful to have some alphabet flashcards (you can generally get these from stores like Kmart or Big W for a cheap price). Make a 2 letter word and place it in front of your child (e.g. “up”). Ask your child “What are the sounds in ‘up’?”). Show your child, “u”… “p”… “up” is made when we join “u” & “p”… “u-p, up”. Continue to make other 2 letter words with the flashcards (e.g. “in”, “on”, “am”, “ad”) and encourage your child to segment them into their sounds. Keep giving your child examples until they can do it themselves. This will encourage your child to understand the link between sounds and words (i.e. we spell words by sounding them out).

Give your child a go at blending 2 sounds together (e.g. put 2 flashcards in front of your child and ask them, “What does this say?”. Help them until they can do it themselves, e.g. “i..t. i..t. it. When we join “i” & “t” together we get “it””.

Working on the above activities will give your child the basic skills they need to learn to read and spell!

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Characteristics of Autism and Tips to help!

Do you have a child with autism? Do you work with a child who has autism? Or are you interested in autism? I have attached a helpful handout that lists some common characteristics associated with autism, and contains some valuable tips to help a child who is on the spectrum. I designed this summary handout to help individuals living in a rural village in India who give their time to help a child who has autism. Hope it’s helpful!

Autism – characteristics and ways to help

 

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Accent Reduction Training

I work with a number of people who, when they see me for the first time, tell me they never knew they could see a Speech Pathologist to help them with their English pronunciation. My purpose for this blog is to inform you of the process involved in improving your English pronunciation.

There are many benefits associated with improved communication skills, such as job prospects, improved confidence and reduced frustration from people not understanding you (for example, do people often ask if you said 13 or 30?).  Unfortunately changing an accent takes time and practice, but the effort put into practicing is worth the effort. Accent Reduction Training will not eliminate your accent, but will help work on the areas of your speech that make it harder for people to understand you.

In your initial session, you will be asked to read a number of words and sentences, and to do some talking. Your talking will be recorded and analysed in depth by the speech pathologist. The speech pathologist will identify the areas that impact most on the clarity of your English Pronunciation. Based on the results of the analysis, you will receive an Individualised Training Plan. Training Plans are typically made to cover 12 sessions. In each session, you will work on 1 to 2 aspects of your speech in depth (for example, the “th” sound and Word Stress patterns). Each area we work on will have been identified as a difficult area in your initial assessment. The speech pathologist will give you specific feedback about what to do to improve (something that can be difficult to get from a book or App!). Following each session, you will be given a home practicing recording. It is best to put aside 10-15 minutes every day to go over the recording to make sure you see improvements. It is best to find a time in your everyday routine. For example, a number of people like to do it while driving to work in their car. It is more beneficial to do a small amount of practice every day as opposed to 1 hour of practice once a week.

Sessions can be held weekly or fortnightly or at a frequency that suits you and your lifestyle. I find, however, that individuals who attend sessions weekly or fortnightly make greater progress, as they tend to practice more regularly and stay motivated between sessions. And for those of you who like to share experiences with others, there is an option to attend sessions with a friend from the same international background.

To give you an example, here are some areas that are typically covered in sessions:

    • Speech sounds (vowels, diphthongs and consonants)
    • Difficult sound combinations (e.g. Do you find it hard to say “ths” in cloths or “lk” in milk?)
    • The fluency of your speech
    • Word and Sentence Stress
    • Mouth position for English
    • Intonation
    • Speech Rate
    • International Phonetic Alphabet

After the 12 training sessions are completed, you will be given a 3-4 month consolidation break. After attending the training sessions, you will now be aware of the different aspects of your speech that require work. The 3-4 month break gives you time to consolidate all you have learnt, so you can transfer your skills to your every day talking. If you would like to receive additional training, you can attend another block of training after the consolidation break. The second block of training is generally more for review, and shorter in duration than 12 sessions.

If you have any other questions, or if you feel Accent Reduction Training is for you, please feel free to email or call me using the details elsewhere on this website. I’d love the opportunity to work with you to improve the clarity of your English pronunciation!

 

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Using Books to Assist your child’s Speech and Language Development

It’s never too early to start reading books to children. Research has shown that reading books to babies can even have an effect on their future literacy development. Books have many benefits in helping children develop their speech, language, thinking, attention and literacy skills. In addition, they are a great way to bond with a child, providing the opportunity to spend quality time together. Stories can also be helpful in establishing a child’s daily bed time routine. So, get a book, and invest a few minutes into reading with your child every day.

You can do more with a story book than simply read it. Continue reading for some tips on how you can use a story book to facilitate your child’s speech, language and literacy development.

Literacy Development

• When reading, point to each individual word as you say it. This will help your child recognise the link between spoken and written words.

• Point to individual letters and talk about sounds (e.g. “ssss… here is the letter “S” (said “es”)… “es” makes the sssss sound… snake begins with ssss… can you hear that?… ssssnake… ssss”)

• Talk about rhyming words (e.g. “look, a cat and hat. These words rhyme… c-at.. h-at… they sound the same at the end… cat, hat”)

• Practice clapping out the syllables in words (e.g. “Look, a tiger… tiger has 2 claps… ti-ger… can you say “tiger” and clap out the parts?… and a butterfly… how many claps in butterfly?”)

Sentence Structure

• Reading books provides a great way to model different sentence structures. For example, if your child confuses the pronouns he and she, continually say sentences about the pictures beginning with he and she. For example, “He is riding a bike”; “She is eating a cake”.

• For a different example, if your child has difficulty joining sentences with the word because, say plenty of sentences about the pictures using the word because (e.g. “The dog is sleeping because he is tired”; “The boy is happy because he got a present”).

• After you have modelled the sentence structure, you may like to ask the child a question to encourage them to say the sentence structure  – and it’s ok to give them the answer first! For example, “The girl is drinking juice because she is thirsty”, then ask “Why is the girl drinking?”. If the child does not respond with the word because, reinforce it again, “She is drinking because she is thirsty”.

Vocabulary

• Books are an excellent way to teach vocabulary. It doesn’t matter what level your child is at; whether they speak in one or two word sentences or in nine word sentences, you can teach your child new words while looking at books. Point to pictures and name them for younger children, or model more advanced words in sentences for older children (e.g. “The boy is peeping in the box”).

Receptive Language/Auditory Memory

• While reading the story or looking at the pictures, ask your child questions. This will develop their thinking and help them to engage with what is being read to them (‘Blanks Levels of Questioning’ provides questions to ask children at different levels of development. If you would like a copy of these questions, email me and I’ll happily email you a copy).

• Give your child directions to follow (e.g. “Point to the red bucket”). To make directions harder, give your child 2 or 3 part directions to follow (e.g. “Point to the red bucket, the boy, then the blue bird”).

• Ask questions about what you’ve read, (e.g. “Where is the boy going?”).

• Ask your child to retell the story in their own words, or to repeat sentences after you.

Sequencing/Narratives/Inferencing

• At the end of the story, ask your child what happened first, in the middle, and then at the end of the story.

• Develop your child’s ability to make predictions by asking questions such as, “What do you think will happen next?”.

• Encourage inferencing skills by asking questions such as, “Why is the boy carrying an umbrella?”.

Speech

• If your child presents with sound errors in their speech, looking at stories books provides a good opportunity to practice speech sounds. Help your child say the sound correctly when naming pictures (e.g. if your child says “tat” for cat, ask them, “What’s this?”. Encourage them to keep their tongue down so they can say a “k” sound, “c-at… cat”). Once your child is able to say the sound correctly in words, encourage them to tell the story in their own words to practice the sound in sentences or at conversation level.

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iPad Apps for Speech Therapy

Technology is very much a part of most things we do today, including speech therapy. Since iPads have been on the market, they have become increasingly popular amongst speech pathologists and some client populations, including children with autism. I myself have found iPads to be invaluable – they have a way of holding a child’s attention which sometimes cards or games can’t do. Today I want to post up a list of some of my favourite iPad Apps that I use on a regular basis. Hope you find it helpful!

 

Following Directions

• Splingo – this App is a personal favourite of a number of children I see

 

Auditory Memory

• Milobook – I get the children to listen to the story, then repeat back as much of it as they can.

 

Wh- Questions

• Wh Questions – Developed by Smartyears, this App covers all basic wh – questions

 

Articulation

• ArtikPix

• Articulation Scenes – created by Smarty Ears.

• Milobook – Great for conversational speech. Have children tell you the story in their own words, while you give them feedback about their speech.

 

Vocabulary

• Peekaboo HD – I like using this App for toddlers or late talkers. It can be helpful to teach animals and their sounds, and also to teach them to wait

• Verbs with Milo

• Things that go Together

 

Emotions

• Emotion Detective – This is one of those Apps children either love it, or they don’t. It has a number of helpful parts in teaching emotions and social skills.

The Social Express

• How would you feel if…

Emotion Expressions – This App shows a lady’s face expressing a number of emotions. It’s good for discussions for primary school aged children. First have the child guess how she is feeling , they ask questions such as, “What happened to make her feel this way?”, “How can you tell she is feeling this way?” (Encourage them to look at her mouth/eyes/eye brows); “Have you felt this way before?”; “When did you feel this way?”; “What can she do if she feels.. (e.g. sad)”, etc.
Social Skills

• Conversation Builder – developed by Mobile Education.

• Practicing Pragmatics – made by Super Duper Publications.

• What would you do at school if… – made by Super Duper Education.

 

Inferencing

• Understanding Inferences – developed by Super Duper Publications.

• What are they asking? – developed by Super Duper Publications.

• What are they thinking? – developed by Super Duper Publications.

• Is that Silly? – A personal favourite of mine. Also helpful in learning to explain.

 

Sentence Structure

• Rainbow Sentences – Made by Mobile Education.

• Language Builder – Created by Mobile Education. Great for making sentences with the basic structure “He/She is….”

• iPractice Verbs – made by smarty ears. This App helps teach past, present and future tense.

 

Autism

• Choiceworks – this App allows you to make up visual schedules for each day, can be used to teach children what to do when experiencing certain emotions (e.g. “When I am angry, I can take a deep breath OR count to 5, then listen to music”) and has a timer that helps children to wait and reminds them what to do while they’re waiting (e.g. play with blocks) – the timer can be handy to use while you’re cooking dinner!

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Your Child’s Speech Development

As a speech pathologist, I see many children who have speech delays or unclear speech. There is a typical age at which each child should be able to say certain sounds. If children have trouble learning to say these sounds correctly by themselves, they may experience frustration, ridicule from peers, and a withdrawal from wanting to communicate. Moreover, if speech difficulties are not corrected by the time a child begins school, they may experience difficulties learning to read and spell.

Therapy to correct speech sounds can progress relatively quickly. Therapy involves moving up a hierarchy (from being able to hear the difference between the error sound and its correct production, to being able to say the sound correctly in everyday speech). The clarity of a child’s speech can improve fairly quickly if daily home practice is being done (approximately 10 minutes a day). In addition, choosing relevant goals can help increase the rate at which your child’s speech improves. Research shows that using a top-down approach (i.e. targeting the most difficult sounds for your child first), can result in faster gains in the clarity of your child’s speech. For this reason, it is important to consult a speech pathologist who is experienced in working with speech delays, and is up-to-date in their knowledge of the latest research.

If you are concerned about your child’s speech, it is best to take them to a speech pathologist for an assessment. This will let you know if their speech is developing within the expected range, or if they are presenting with a speech delay (also refer to the image “Typical Speech Development” for a guide on when your child should master certain sounds). It is best to receive advice earlier rather than later, to ensure your child has mastered age-appropriate sounds by the time they begin school. In addition to consulting with a speech pathologist, the following tips can help improve your child’s speech development.

TIPS TO HELP IMPROVE YOUR CHILD’S SPEECH

• When you hear your child say a word incorrectly, question them about what they said. This will teach them to listen to and think about their own speech, and create an awareness of the sound error (for example, if a child says pish for “fish”. Say, “Is it pish or fish?”. Always say the correct pronunciation last).

• When a child makes a sound error, say the word correctly many times in the following minute, to act as a good example for your child (for example, if a child says pish for “fish”. “Yes, it is a fish… the fish is blue.. the fish is swimming in the water.. it’s a fast fish…”).

• Give your child specific feedback about what they are saying. For example, “oh oh, I heard pish, I think you meant “fish”. You forgot to keep the air flowing… ffffffish”. If they say the sound correctly, say “well done, you said a great /f/ sound… you remembered to keep the air flowing”.

• Use a mirror to show the child what to do with their lips and tongue to make the sound. Get them to watch your mouth closely and copy you.

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Accent Reduction

I work with a number of people from international backgrounds – mostly working professionals – who want to improve the clarity of their speech for both career and personal purposes. When someone has a first language other than English, it is natural that they speak with a different style from a native English speaker. Each language has its own unique holding posture in which native speakers to that language hold their mouth when they speak. While it is beneficial to work on particular sounds and the overall rhythm of your speech, there are some things you can work on that will improve the clarity of your speech. Implementing these tips can influence how easily your listener understands you.

1. Open your mouth. English has a number of sounds that require you to open your mouth. Remember to drop your jaw down and slightly exaggerate your mouth movements when talking. This will feel funny at first as a number of languages have a more closed mouth position when talking. Opening your mouth more can make a big difference to the clarity of your speech.

2. Slow down. Remind yourself to slow down when you are talking. Speaking slowly has a number of benefits. You will make less sound errors, it will give you more time to think what to say, and it will give your listener more time to understand what you’re saying. As mentioned before, people from overseas say sounds differently and in a different style/rhythm. People therefore need more time to adjust to your speaking style. If you speak slowly, it will give them more time to understand what you’re saying.

3. Speak Up. Get in the habit of speaking more loudly. Hold your head up; don’t speak into the floor. Speaking more loudly will not only help your listeners understand you more easily, but also help you look more confident. Speak with conviction – if you don’t believe what you are saying, neither will your listeners.

4. Develop your awareness. Begin listening to your own speech, and how you are saying certain sounds. Take note of the position of your mouth when saying sounds. Once you are aware of your speech, it is easier to change and improve your speech. You may even like to record your own speech so you can listen more carefully to how it sounds. Areas to take note of include:

  • Rate and Volume
  • Syllable and Word Stress
  • Rhythm and Intonation
  • Pronunciation of Sounds – Vowel (e.g. a, e, i) and Consonant (e.g. r, sh, l) Sounds

5. Begin listening to native English speakers. Listen to HOW other people speak English (not just what they are saying). Listen to the way other people say sounds and words. Listen to the way the pitch of their voices goes up and down. The rise & fall of our voice makes our speech clearer and easier for our listener to understand.

6. Identify difficult words. Make a list of words that are difficult for you to say. Practice these words until you can say them more easily.

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Our first blog…

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Welcome to Designed 2 Shine Speech Pathology’s first blog! We are now almost through the first month of 2013. I am back into the swing of things and ready to help you with any needs relating to speech, language and … Continue reading

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