Meet pronunciation expert Georgina Taylor – from .
In this episode Georgina shares:
A quick technique to improve your English pronunciation.
A guide to the schwa sound!
How to use films to improve your pronunciation (not the standard listen and repeat method)
An 80/20 hack for English pronunciation, or could you share some techniques for fast improvement?
Have a listen
Then go to and watch the free videos to get even better!
Click to read transcript
Oh wow! Me!
You are now listening to the IELTS Podcast.
Ben: Good points there. I’ve got another question. Maybe you won’t like this question but it’s a dirty question.
Georgina: I’m ready for anything, Ben.
Ben: I’m thinking of students who have just got like maybe 2 weeks to improve and they need to improve fast. So I’d like to know if there’s an 80/20 hack. Like a quick dirty fix we can use to improve our pronunciation. Maybe we covered it before, when it was “slow down,” or “open the mouth.” Is there another hack that we should be aware of?
Georgina: The hack, I guess for me, and look for pronunciation is really those 3 key areas at the start that I discussed. So write a speech, good volume, and moving your mouth. They are the easiest things to change. If you are not making… They’re the foundations for clear English. So if you’re not making those correctly, or doing them well, you can relatively easily change and improve your speech quickly. So really, they’re definitely the first things that I recommend that people check.
The other thing would really be word endings. Definitely, if people have problems with their word endings they can make a huge difference quickly by improving the use of their word endings. That makes a huge difference. And also improving your word stress. So understanding where we put the stress in multi-syllable words. That also has a huge effect on clarity. But unfortunately with changing sounds, vowel sounds and consonant sounds, I would say sorry but 2 weeks is not long enough to make good change in those areas.
People have been making these sounds for a long time, ever since they’ve started speaking English. So to change them, it’s not an overnight process. I wish I had more answers there for you, Ben. But really the write, volume, how you move your mouth, word endings and word stress is the way to go there.
Ben: Okay. Alright. That’s perfect. That’s perfect. That’s good. That would help. That would improve somebody’s score incredibly. Just if they slow down and followed your advice. Slow down, they looked at the word endings, they looked at the tone, and the vowel sounds. If they can do that, just slowing down, and that would definitely improve their scores. That’s some great advice there.
Ben: I have another question. It’s related to the “shwa” sound.
Georgina: That’s my favorite sound.
Ben: Okay. Could you describe it and how we can get it, if that’s alright?
Georgina: Yes. Absolutely. So I guess with regards to the “shwa” sound, the first thing we need to understand is that in English every multi-syllable word has one stressed syllable. The other syllables become weaker. They’re unstressed. And often (but not always but often) in the unstressed syllables we use a weak vowel. And this vowel is called “shwa” as you mentioned.
The vowel “shwa” is a weak vowel that’s only used in weak syllables. Now we don’t know the “shwa” values there when we look at an English word. There’s nothing in the spelling that tells us where our “shwa” is. So you can find “shwa” in your dictionary in the International Phonetic Alphabet. If you look in your dictionary it’s the symbol that looks like an upside-down “e” vowel. So watch out for it in the dictionary next time you look up a word.
But “shwa” is like really easy to make. All you need to do is completely relax your mouth and say “uh.”
Georgina: “Uh.” That’s it. “Uh.”
Georgina: It’s very quick and very weak. You don’t round your lips, you don’t move anything, it’s the lazyest sound that you can possibly make. “Uh.” And I’d like to give you an example now when we use it. Is that okay?
Ben: Yeah. There, please.
Georgina: Beautiful. So let’s just talk for a minute about the word “continue.” Okay? Now that word has 3 parts. 3 syllables. Con-tin-ue. The middle syllable is stressed. Okay? So if you have a listen to the tone or the pitch of my voice you’ll notice that it goes up on the 2nd syllable. I say “continue.” Now the first and the last syllables are lower in pitch and they’re not strong. Have another listen, “continue.” Now most non-native speakers say “con” in the first syllable. They say “con.” They use the vowel “o” and this is because that’s how the word is spelled. That’s how it looks.
Now have a listen to how I say it. I say “con” “continue.” I made that first vowel into a “shwa”. I make it weak. So we don’t use a full vowel there because all of the stress is in the 2nd syllable. We say “continue.” The first syllable is weak.
Ben: Right then. And the only way we can be aware of this is by looking at the dictionary or having a good command of English and listening to the native speakers.
Georgina: Absolutely. Starting to listen. That’s right. And it all comes back to starting to listen to the music and the rhythm of English.
Ben: Okay. Thank you. Thank you very much. Tell us a bit about your center and your online courses especially. Because I think with so many IELTS students studying in their countries finding quality pronunciation help. And having the ability to do it online is an absolute must. So could you just tell us a bit about that and how the courses work?
Georgina: Absolutely. I’d be delighted. So our courses are all online as Ben said. Basically we help people improve their English pronunciation and we really help you to become much more aware and understand English pronunciation. Because most people have not been taught proper English pronunciation at school. So we really find that people grow in confidence at having a really good understanding of English pronunciation, terminology, and vocabulary, and the rules. And also, being able to hear their own errors and everything.
Our courses are 13 weeks long. And we have different courses for speakers of different languages. And we…. Basically what happens is we give you access to lessons, we give you a recommended time table, and you can take your lessons any time online, and you can repeat lessons if you want. And we have lessons on all the areas of pronunciation that you need to improve for clearer English.
Ben: For your specific… Sorry to interrupt but that would be for your specific nationality. Each course is tailored to your origin, to where you are from, yeah?
Georgina: Exactly. Exactly. So we have so many. We have ones for Mandarin speakers for example, which is very different to our course for Russian speakers for example. And that’s really important when you’re working on your pronunciation and receiving English pronunciation training. Is that it is tailored. We give loads and loads of practice. So we give you audio files, notes, and lots of listen and repeat practice with the videos as well.
Really, our aim is to help you understand the what, why, and the how, of your English pronunciation. So what it is that you’re doing wrong? Why it’s important? And then how to achieve good change with it? And I do urge people not to start working on your pronunciation a month before IELTS exam.
I do think starting 3 or 4 months ahead is really… Because it does take time for you to learn to hear the things that you need to change and to hear what you’re aiming for as well.
So our course really gives people detailed, step-by-step teaching via video, to help you understand your problems and how to fix them. Each course includes over 20 hours video and audio training, and you’ll correct over a thousand words and you’ll practice these in words and helpful phrases as well. People really find that the course improves not just the speech clarity, but really improves their listening skills and their vocabulary and their expression, and their confidence too.
Ben: Excellent. Right. I just have another question. You said it’s 13 weeks long, yeah?
Georgina: That’s right.
Ben: And how many hours a week would that include of study?
Georgina: So minimum we recommend that people do at least 1 hour of video training each week. But it was lots more. As I’ve said the course includes over 20 hours of video and audio training. So there is more. That would be a minimum. And we do recommend that people do a minimum of 15 minutes practice with the audio files everyday. Okay? So we do recommend some daily practice there. And we give you lots of ideas for practice too, about how you can practice in your everyday life, not just with the audio files that we give you.
Yes, so there’s loads of tips as well. And people find that even after their 3-month course is finished they have hours and hours of audio files to continue their practice with. And I’ve got students who did the course many years ago who still use their audio files for regular practice to revise and continue to improve.
Ben: Right. That’s interesting. And you said there’s loads of practical tips for students to practice their English outside of the course. Could you just share one of those if that’s alright? And then we’re almost finished.
Georgina: No problem. So that would be something like… You know, a lot of people say that they watch movies and things to practice their English. What I would recommend is that you watch 5 or 10 minutes, pause the video, and then basically tell the story of what just happened, in your own words. So if you were turning a listening exercise and comprehension exercise into a speaking exercise. So that would just be a really quick little tip that we give to students. There’s lots of ways to… Lots of ideas for making the job between practicing in a structured… Practice exercise to using your speech sounds in your everyday speaking.
Ben: Yeah. That’s good. I like that exercise. And 2 students can do it together as well or they can do it with a teachers, and yeah, they can put all the things they just learned especially in this interview. They can start describing what happened. But slower, checking their pronunciation, even recording it if they were really determined and enthusiastic.
Georgina: Absolutely. That would be great.
Ben: Do you have anything… Ah, yes. Tell us where the website is, please.
Georgina:. Yes. The website is starpronunciation.com. So that is “star” as in the star that is in the sky, and make sure you don’t spell pronunciation wrong. There’s lots of people out there who say “pro noun cia tion” which is not quite correct. It’s “pronun,” “pronunciation.” So the website is www.starpronunciation.com.
And we do have 5 free video tips which we’d love you to sign up to. It’s a really great starting point for people who are wanting to start to think about these areas and start to improve their English pronunciation and speech clarity. So you can do that at our website. Sign up for the 5 free tips. And email me any time if you have any questions.
Ben: Thank you very much, Gorgi… ah… This is my last question. I think I know the answer. I’m just checking. But… Who pronounces the English language the best?
Georgina: Oh wow. Me. Look. I would have to say the British, Ben. I’d have to go with you there.
Ben: I’m just joking. I don’t even pronounce British English. I’ve got this crazy, messed up, northern, farmer, Yorkshire, Lancashire, accent. It’s far from the best. But I think I just… I love the Austra… sorry?
Georgina: I’m just going to say I’ve never had a student come and say that they want to speak New Zealand English. I’m still waiting for that to happen.
Ben: I get the same. Nobody in my life has ever said “I want to speak like a Yorkshire farmer.”
Georgina: It’ll happen one day, Ben. I’m sure.
Ben: I can keep dreaming. We’ll see. Have you ever heard… I’ve forgotten what his name is now, but he’s got awes… Oh well, some of my favorites are David Attenborough.
Georgina: Oh, beautiful. I love David Attenborough. He uses excellent, really wonderful syllable stress. And that’s what makes his English so interesting to listen to.
Ben: Exactly. Just the way that he places the syllables. That’s what makes it… and the cost of content isn’t bad but he could talk about a brown paper bag and make it sound so interesting.
Georgina: I would be riveted. Yes.
Ben: Exactly. Okay. Alright. Well thank you very much, Georgina. That is amazing. A really good interview there. And yeah for all the students listening, I’d strongly recommend getting those video tips. And I’m going to put them on the Facebook page as well. I’m going to put a link up there. So I’d definitely listen to those especially if pronunciation is an issue. And even if it’s not a serious issue, have a look and you could put the tips into practice. And you may find something that is at fault and you can correct it as well. So I’d definitely go and check that out at www.starpronunciation.com.
Georgina: Fabulous. That’s the one.
Ben: Awesome. Thanks again, Georgi.
Georgina: Thanks so much, Ben. Enjoy your day. It’s been great.
Ben: Right then. I’ll stop recording. That was fantastic. Thank you very much.
Georgina: Oh, is that what you wanted?
Ben: It was absolutely perfect. Yeah. What I was thinking I’d do, because I’ve got enough podcast now to last releasing 1 every 3 weeks. I’ve got enough up until November. Right?
Georgina: Right. Correct.
Ben: And it’ll be such a shame for listeners to wait. So what I’ll do is once I finished editing it, I’ll send you the two edited versions because I’ll probably split it up. And then I’ll send you those 2 versions and then maybe you can put one of them on your website for like a bonus or something like that. There’s a bonus for IELTS students. And then I’ll release it to everybody else in the public. Probably November or December. Is that okay?
Georgina: Okay. That sounds great. Yeah. That’ll be really fabulous.
Ben: Awesome. Okay. Right. Well I’ll get the recording done I think in about a week or so.
Ben: And then I’ll send it straight over.
Georgina: Thanks, Ben. That’s great. Lovely to chat.
Ben: Alright. Yeah. Thank you very much Georgi. Have a good week.
Georgina: Thanks so much. And if there’s… So can you just tell me how your… just so I can post on our Facebook site and everything. How do your… So do people sign up for free? How does it work for your podcast? Just give me a rundown.
Ben: Okay. Yeah. All of them are available at the website at dichvugiadinh.info. And they can subscribe to get them all for free. And to get all the updates through iTunes. Because that’s where I get most of my visits is from. From iTunes. Yeah, they’re available at the website and iTunes. And then sometimes I offer some extra podcast if they sign up, like it’s a free gift. And then that’s when the sponsor subscribed and they can get lots of email help as well. Like tips and stuff like that. But yeah, mainly it’s just all available on website. And they don’t even have to sign up to get the majority of them.
Georgina: Beautiful. And would it be relevant to people that aren’t even studying for IELTS? Like professionals and all that stuff? Or is it really for IELTS students?
Ben: No. The majority of the… It’s 50-50. 50% of the podcasts are for IELTS specific exams. But there are other skills in there that are covered. Even just a general guide of how to improve your English, your listening abilities, maybe your reading abilities. The reading one, that’s just up now, that’s really good especially for the exam, but even for business professionals who have to do a lot of reading.
Georgina: Okay. Right. Excellent. I’ll pop that in our… Because we’ve got in-ears part of our course, we’ve got through general sheets on improving your English for IELTS and improving your general English, and listening to podcast and stuff. So I’ll pop you in the list there.
Ben: Oh, that would be excellent. That would be great.
Ben: Right then.
Georgina: Awesome. Thank you.
Ben: Well, yeah. Thanks very much Georgi, and I’ll send you an email once it’s all done.
Georgina: Thanks, Ben, great to chat. Keep in touch.
Ben: Alright. You too. Take care.
Georgina: See you. Thanks. Bye.
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