You're speaking English, but no one is understanding you --- how come?

I have talked to so many people who are frustrated because they know they ARE speaking English, but people can’t seem to understand them. They have taken so many English lessons they have lost count. The answer is complicated and simple at the same time. Let me explain.

First of all, English is not an easy language to learn (this is the complicated part). Learning English traditionally has entailed memorizing vocabulary, grammar rules, etc. The next step would be to practice reading, writing, listening and speaking English. Those steps give you a good foundation, but the step that is often not covered is how to speak English like a native does. To do that you will also need to perfect your stress timing.

Stress timing???? What’s that? Every language has a certain timing or cadence that is used to put emphasis on certain syllables or words. Regardless of what your native language is, you have learned the appropriate syllable or stress timing for your language. You may not even be aware of it because it is so ingrained in you that it comes as natural to you as breathing. The problem is that when many people learn a new language, they still use the timing from their native language. This makes it easy for them to converse in English with others that also speak their native language as well as English. However, when trying to speak English with someone that does not know your native language, they can’t understand you.

I have some very good news for you! To overcome this barrier, you will need to practice HOW you say your words (simple solution). You already know the English words you want to say, you just need to make sure that you are pronouncing them properly so people will understand you. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Listen and repeat – focus on the SOUND (pronunciation) of the word(s) more than meaning. Keep listening and repeating until you are saying the word or phrase identical to the audio. You could use a site such as which not only gives you the definition of the word, but it also allows you to LISTEN to the correct pronunciation. Listening to poetry is also a good way to learn correct pronunciations since the words and phrases used in poems are generally short. Again, there are many sites to choose from, one of the sites I like is You can pick a poem and listen to a phrase, stop the audio and repeat the phrase out loud, then re-play the phrase again and compare how you sounded vs the speaker.

2. Record and play back – record yourself speaking and compare it to a video recording of someone else saying the same thing. You can use your video camera on your computer or cell phone to capture yourself. It is important to watch yourself speak and compare not only the sound of your words, but also watch your mouth movements compared to the person in the video you were watching. Keep practicing until your pronunciation and mouth movements match the English recording. For this exercise you may want to listen to a song, or a video clip. A favorite site for this type of activity would be

3. Schedule a lesson – I know the techniques that will help you improve your pronunciation. Having someone listen to you and evaluate your speaking is easier than doing it yourself. Schedule a lesson now, so that we can discuss your situation and set up a program to resolve this issue for you!
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