Learn English with Podcasts

Have you heard of podcasts? A podcast is like a radio show, but it’s recorded and released through iTunes. It’s absolutely free (!), and there are so many different topics to learn about. I love listening to podcasts since they talk about so many different topics. And you can pause it and start listening again later when you can.

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There are several reasons why listening to podcasts will help you learn English faster.

Practice listening

If you have trouble understanding what people say verbally, then podcasts will help you improve your ability to understand what people say. The more that your ears become used to hearing English, the more that you will understand. If you don’t practice listening to English, then you will never be able to understand people speaking English.

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Lots of different topics

There are sooo many topics available in the podcast library in iTunes. Whatever you’re interested in, you will find it. You can listen to people talk about the news, literature, music, movies, sports, and anything else! When you listen to something that you’re interested in, you’ll enjoy it more. And you’ll remember more of what they say.

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Pause it at any time and come back to it

If you have a normal busy day and don’t often have time to listen to a full hour length of podcasts, don’t worry. You can pause the podcast and it’ll save your place. Later, when you have time, you can come back to where you were and start listening again.

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Slow it down or speed it up

One of the very cool things that you can do with podcasts is slow down the audio or speed up the audio. If you have a hard time understanding the English, slow it down so you can understand more. If you understand everything perfectly and want a challenge, you can speed it up to see how much you can understand.

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Go back 15 seconds to repeat

With a podcast, you can also go back 15 seconds. This is helpful if you didn’t understand something that was said. If you didn’t understand, you can go back 15 seconds and listen to it again.

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Try listening to these podcasts to start with!

These podcasts are specifically designed for people learning English.

  • All Ears English
  • The English We Speak
  • Happy English Podcast
  • The World in Words
  • That’s What They Say
  • Podcast – 5 Minute Language
  • Language Mastery
  • The Actual Fluency Podcast for Language Learners

I also recommend that you listen to podcasts that talk about a subject that you’re interested in or talk about the news in English. Especially if you’re interested in the topic, you’ll pay more attention and learn more.

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Listening to podcasts is a fun way to practice your listening in English and take one more step towards fluency!

What’s your favorite podcast?

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How to Pronounce the Vowel “I”

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the pronunciation of the vowel “e” and I hope that you’ve mastered the two sounds for the vowel “e”! One other vowel is “i”, which also has two pronunciations with different spellings.

Short “i”

One of the sounds that the letter “i” makes is called a short “i”. Listen to the audio to become familiar with the short “i” sound.

Examples with short “i”

  • Big
  • Him
  • His
  • Hip
  • Kid
  • Lip
  • Pig
  • Sin
  • Zip

 

Long “i”

The other sound that the vowel “i” makes is called a long “i”. It can be combined with other letters, which are patterns that you can recognize for the long “i” sound. Patterns include: “ie”, “igh”, “ind”, and “ign”. Listen to the audio to familiarize yourself with the long “e” sound.

Examples of long “i”, spelled “ie”

  • Tie
  • Dye
  • Die
  • Pie

 

Examples of long “i”, spelled “igh”

  • High
  • Thigh
  • Night
  • Flight
  • Bright

 

Examples of long “i”, spelled “ign”

  • Sign
  • Design
  • Assign

 

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Examples of long “i”, spelled “ind”

  • Bind
  • Kind
  • Mind
  • Behind
  • Blind

 

Examples of other long “i” words

  • Time
  • Mine
  • Bride
  • White
  • Slide
  • Pride

 

 

The more that you practice this sound with other words, the more that you’ll get it right every time that you use it!

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How to Pronounce the Vowel “E”

In English there are five vowels. One of the most common vowels is the letter “e”. To make your life even harder, there are several sounds that the letter “e” makes, as well as different spellings.

 

Short “e”

One of the sounds that the letter “e” makes is called a short “e”. Listen to the audio to become familiar with the short “e” sound.

There are two ways to spell the short “e” sound: spell with just one letter, “e”, and spell with two letters, “ea”.

 

Examples with short “e”, spelled “e”

  • Bed
  • Men
  • Net
  • Pen
  • Pet
  • Tent
  • Wet

 

Examples with short “e”, spelled “ea”

  • Dead
  • Head
  • Bread
  • Bear
  • Pear

 

Long “e”

The other sound that the vowel “e” makes is called a long “e”. It can be spelled as “ee” or “ea”. Listen to the audio to familiarize yourself with the long “e” sound.

 

Examples of long “e”, spelled “ee”

  • Bee
  • Cheek
  • Deer
  • Feed
  • Free
  • Jeep
  • Knee
  • Queen
  • Sleep
  • Sheep
  • Three

 

Examples of long “e”, spelled “ea”

  • Beach
  • Bean
  • Cheap
  • Cream
  • Dear
  • Heat
  • Meal
  • Peach
  • Sea

 

 

Practice your pronunciation of each of these words to improve your short “e” and long “e” sounds. The more you practice, the more that you will pronounce the sounds perfectly during your conversation.

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3 Vowel Combos in English

One of the hardest parts of English is the combination of vowels that influences the sound of the word, as well as the correct spelling of the word.

Vowel – the following letters of the alphabet: a, e, i, o, u (and sometimes y)

English combines vowels to create new sounds and provide more variety of sounds to use while speaking. This makes it harder to learn English but also gives the language much more variation and different sounds that are possible to use when creating a word.

There are so many combinations of vowels, including the combinations of “ee”, “ea”, and “oo”. Today we’re going to look at three other combinations: “ie”, “ui”, and “ou.”

“ie”

 

 “ie”

 

“ui”

 

“ou”

 

 

Did you listen to the audio to practice your pronunciation?

Now when you see these vowel combinations when you’re reading, you know what sound they make. When you want to spell something, you know what your options are for the sounds of the word.

And you are one step closer to speaking English fluently!

What other examples can you think of for these vowel combinations? Let me know in the comments!

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The v. The in English

Pronunciation tip of the day!!

One of the secret pronunciations of English is that the word “the” is spelled the same, means the same thing, and can be pronounced in two different ways.

We use the word “the” to show or demonstrate a noun or object.

  • The apple
  • The boy
  • The girl
  • The road
  • The school
  • The shoe
  • The sky
  • The color blue
  • The ice cream
  • The car

But depending on the word that comes after the word “the”, you change how you pronounce the word “the”.

Rule: If the noun starts with a vowel (the letters a, e, i, o, u), then you pronounce the word like “thee”. If the noun starts with a consonant (all the other letters), then you pronounce the word like “tha”.

Let’s look at the pronunciations.

Nouns that start with a vowel

  • The apple
  • The egg
  • The ice cream
  • The open door

 

Nouns that start with a consonant

  • The boy
  • The girl
  • The road
  • The school
  • The shoe
  • The sky
  • The color blue
  • The car

 

Now go practice your pronunciation and let me know how it goes!

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Silent Letters in English

Surprise! There is one more thing that makes English hard to learn – silent letters. In Portuguese, silent letters do not exist. You pronounce every single letter in the word. But in English, there are often letters that you do not pronounce within the word. This is called a silent letter, due to the fact that the letters silent or not pronounced.

Silent letter: a letter within a word that is not pronounced

For example, in the word “thumb”, the letter “b” is not pronounced at the end of the word.

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In English, there are several patterns that you can learn to know which words possess silent letters in the pronunciation.

Silent Letter “B”

Do not pronounce the letter “b” when it comes after the letter “m” at the end of the word.

  • Comb
  • Thumb
  • Numb
  • Climb

 

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Silent Letter “C”

Do not pronounce the letter “c” when it is combined with the letter “s” to make “sc”.

  • Scissors
  • Muscle
  • Scenario

 

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Silent Letter “D”

Do not pronounce the letter “d” in specific words such as:

  • Wednesday
  • Sandwich
  • Handsome


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Silent Letter “E”

Do not pronounce the letter “e” at the end of words when it is meant to change the pronunciation of the word.

  • Hop v. Hope
  • Sit v. Site
  • Bit v. Bite
  • Hid v. Hide

Do not pronounce the words with the “e” at the end such as the following:

 

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Silent Letter “G”

Do not pronounce the letter “g” when combined with the letter “h” to make the combination of “gh”, usually at the end of the word and when it comes after a vowel.

  • Light
  • High
  • Sight
  • Might
  • Through
  • Daughter

 

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Silent Letter “H”

Do not pronounce the letter “h” when combined with the letter “w” when it comes at the beginning of the word, such as the following words.

  • What
  • Why
  • When
  • Where

 

Silent Letter “K”

Do not pronounce the letter “k” when it comes at the beginning of certain words when combined with the letter “n” to make the combination “kn-“, as used in the following words.

  • Knead
  • Knife
  • Known
  • Knight

 

Fresh bear garlic on wooden table

There are other letters that are considered silent letters. Also, don’t forget that there are always exceptions. The very best way to learn which words have silent letters is to read and listen to the text in an audio format. This helps you look at the spelling of the word and pay attention to how the word is pronounced. Make a list of any patterns that you notice.

What other letters do you know that aren’t pronounced? Let me know in the comments!

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How to Improve Your English with Imitation

Happy Friday! If you’ve been with us for the last month or two, you know that every Friday we talk about one way to improve pronunciation or tips to learn English.

Today we’re going to talk about five things to <imitate> when learning English.

Imitate = to copy or do the exact same thing

Imitation helps you learn English because

  • it helps you pay attention to the sound of the words
  • it helps you pay attention to the way native speakers pronounce words
  • it helps you pay attention to formation of phrases and sentences
  • it helps you tune your ears (make your ears work harder), and
  • it helps you connect your ears and your mouth.

And all of that will help you speak English better and learn English! Sounds great, right?

There are several things that you can use to imitate English.

  • Recording of someone speaking: record someone speaking and save it on your phone or computer
  • TV: press play, pay attention, pause, imitate, rewind (go back), press play, pay attention, pause, imitate … and repeat!
  • Music: same thing as TV but with music
  • Speaking partner in person: this is the same as listening to someone but the person may say the phrase differently every time. The benefit of this is to have the person say it slower.

Let’s talk about five things that you can imitate when listening to a native speaker.

For each of these, use this sentence with the audio.

  1. My name is Sally and, well, I love to run, swim, do yoga, and relax. 2. What do you like to do?

Imitate breathing

  • Does the person breathe before? In the middle? After the phrase?
  • How many phrases does the person say before breathing again?
  • In the example, I breathe before the first phrase. I also breathe after the first phrase and before the second phrase.

Imitate pauses

  • When does the person pause?
  • After which words?
  • Before which words?
  • In the example, I pause at the following points in the two phrases.

My name is Sally | and, | well, | I love to run, | swim, | do yoga, | and relax. | What do you like to do?

Imitate pitch

Pitch is the use of intonation.

  • When does the person’s voice go up?
  • When does the person’s voice go down?
  • With what words does the person’s voice go up or down?
  • In the example, the pitch goes up with the following words: run, swim, do yoga, you, do.
  • In the example, the pitch goes down with the following words: well, relax, like.

Imitate word connections

  • Which words are connected?
  • Which words are separated?
  • In the example I connect the following words.

My name is Sally, and, well, I love-to run, swim, do yoga, and relax. What-do-you like to do?

Imitate speed

  • How fast does the speaker say the words?
  • At what points does the speaker slow down?
  • At what points does the speaker speed up?
  • In the example, I speed up at at the end. I slow down at “and, well,”.

 

Use the audio example and practicing imitating how I say the phrase. Find your own phrases to imitate and see if you can get better the more you imitate.

Have fun!

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3 Vowel Combos in English

One of the hardest things to master or learn in English is the pronunciation. In other languages, the vowels make one sound only. And it’s easy to learn that when you see that vowel, you make that sound.

But in English, each vowel can make two or three different sounds. And when you combine vowels, they offer even more options for sounds.

That’s why it’s important to learn the vowel combinations and what sound they make.

Here are three vowel combinations and the sound they make: “ee”, “ea”, and “oo”.

“ee”

“ea”

“ea”

Note that this is the same sound as the short “e” in the words bed, red, and sled but there isn’t a vowel combination.

P.S. The combination “ea” can also be pronounced as a long “a”, such as in the words great, break, and steak.

“oo”

Note that this is the same sound as blue, but the vowel combination is different.

Be careful with this vowel combination since other words make a different sound, such as book, look, good, and roof.

 

Practice these words in front of a mirror so you can make sure your mouth is in the right shape to say the words. Remember that when you see these vowels together (vowel combination) what sound they make.

What vowel combination is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

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Make sure to check out Stofela English instagram for video of these words and how to form your mouth for these three vowel combinations!

Learning English with Music – Heathens by 21 Pilots

Guys. This band is so good. I hope you’ve listened to them before! 21 Pilots is a band that has recently become popular, probably in the last year or two.

One of their songs “Heathens” was featured in the movie Suicide Squad. And it’s a good one 🙂

Today, let’s look at some vocabulary (and lots of slang) you will need to know in order to understand the lyrics of this music.

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Don’t forget to check out my blog post about how to learn English with music for more tips!

Heathens

  • Definition: someone that doesn’t believe in a religion
  • Example: The church welcomes heathens as well as believers.
  • Example in the lyrics: “All my friends are heathens.”
  • Pronunciation:

Sudden moves

  • Definition: to move or make an action quickly or start an action
  • Example: The snake suddenly moved toward me and scared me.
  • Example in the lyrics: “Please don’t make any sudden moves
  • Pronunciation:

Room of people

  • Definition: a closed area with four walls that is full of people
  • Example: The room of people was hot since there were so many people.
  • Example in the lyrics: “Welcome to the room of people
  • Pronunciation:

Murderer

  • Definition: someone that kills other people, someone that commits murder
  • Example: The murderer is going to prison.
  • Example in the lyrics: “You’ll never know the murderer sitting next to you”
  • Pronunciation:

Outsiders

  • Definition: someone that is excluded (or isn’t part of) the main group
  • Example: She feels like an outsider because no one talks to her.
  • Example in the lyrics: “We don’t deal with outsiders very well”
  • Pronunciation:

Newcomers

  • Definition: someone that is new to a group or a place
  • Example: We are newcomers at school. Yesterday was our first day at school.
  • Example in the lyrics: “They say newcomers have a certain smell”
  • Pronunciation:

Freakshow

  • Definition: someone that is really strange or weird (This word comes from people that were part of the circus because they were strange or weird.)
  • Example: She looks like a freakshow. Her hair is orange!
  • Example in the lyrics: “You’ll never know the freakshow sitting next to you”
  • Pronunciation:

Weird people

  • Definition: people that are strange or different
  • Example: Only weird people like this restaurant.
  • Example in the lyrics: “You’ll have some weird people sitting next to you”
  • Pronunciation:

 

Now go listen to the music and practice your English!

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P.S. Don’t forget to check out my blog post about how to learn English with music for more tips!

English Filler Words

If you’ve ever paid attention to Americans speaking in conversation, you will notice that we use lots of filler words.

Filler Word: words that connect what we say or show attitude while speaking

Using filler words will help you

  1. Sound less mechanic or robotic
  2. Sound more like a native
  3. Have more time to think about what you’re going to say

Where to use filler words?

At the beginning of a sentence

  • Well, I like watermelon.
  • Anyway, do you like watermelon?

In the middle of a sentence

  • Watermelons are, like, my favorite food.

At the end of a sentence

  • I like watermelons, you know?

 

Let’s look at four of my favorite filler words to see what they mean and how to use them.

Anyway

  • Meaning: change the topic or change what the other person is talking about
  • Example: Anyway, I like cheese more than apples.
  • Example: Anyway, can you help me with the dishes?

Like

  • Meaning: This word can be used to compare two things, to show similarity. It can also be used as a verb to show pleasure or taste for something. As a filler word, this word doesn’t have any meaning.
  • Example: Can you just, like, stop talking?
  • Example: I can’t, like, stop talking.

So

  • Meaning: This word can be used to connect two sentences. It can also be used to start a sentence if you don’t want to start out the sentence abruptly or randomly.
  • Example: So, can you help me tomorrow?
  • Example: So sometimes I like to eat ice cream.

Well

  • Meaning: This word is similar to the word “so.” It can be used to connect two sentences. It can also be used to start a sentence when you want to start slowly.
  • Example: Well, I don’t like cheese.
  • Example: Well, I don’t know for sure.

 

What other filler words do you know of? Let me know in the comments!

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P.S. Check out my Instagram for help with the pronunciation and use of these filler words!