Improve Your English Pronunciation with Lisa From Accurate English

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Lisa of Accurate English has some actionable tips for anyone hoping to improve their English pronunciation. Don’t forget to check out the Accurate English YouTube channel for more!

Elle: Hello everyone and welcome to the LingQ podcast with me Elle. If you would like to study this podcast episode as an English lesson, I have created it for you on LingQ. The lesson link is in the description. With LingQ you can follow the transcript and audio, so read along as you listen. You can slow it down, speed it up. You translate words and phrases you don’t know. You can then do vocabulary activities with those words and phrases. So an excellent way to study a language. If you feel like challenging yourself also, why not start a LingQ language challenge. I’ve also put the challenges page link in the description so go check that out to see if your language is there. We have many, many languages. I just started a language challenge in French, it’s called the 90-Day Challenge. So I am dedicated to intense french study for 90 days. And my goal is to read a French novel for the first time. So I’m going to read a Stephen King novel in French.

So by the end of the 90 days, I will have leveled up my French skills and also finished a novel in French for the first time, so pretty cool. If you’re watching or listening on YouTube, Spotify, Google, or Apple podcasts, SoundCloud and you would like to give us a review, a like a, share, a follow we would greatly appreciate that.

This week I am joined by a very interesting guest. Her name is Lisa Mojsin. She is an accent reduction specialist and founder of Accurate English, which is a training center in LA. Lisa, thank you so much for joining us.

Lisa: My pleasure Elle. Great to be here.

Elle: And so you’re joining us from LA right now. How, how are things in sunny LA or is it sunny?

Lisa: It’s very sunny. It’s usually sunny. And that, that’s one of my favorite things about living in Los Angeles. The sunshine is important to me. It makes me happy.

Elle: Yeah. That must be nice waking up most days and knowing that it’s going to be just a lovely day.

Lisa: I, I never take it for granted. I still appreciate it.

Elle: So, Lisa, as I mentioned, you are an accent reduction specialist. For anyone listening and a lot of our listeners are studying English and hoping to improve their pronunciation and accent, what is an accent reduction specialist, and what kind of techniques do you use to help English learners with their accent?

Lisa: Well, an accent reduction specialist does, uh, one of two things. Um, I either help people reduce their strong accent and very often it’s for professional reasons.

There’s something about the way people speak that’s holding them back professionally. And then they usually come to me because there’s some kind of crisis, they’re not getting the promotion they want, or someone complained to them I don’t understand this person. And it’s, it’s an emergency in a sense.

So when people come to me, they know that in order to get ahead in their careers, they have to speak clearly. And they have to be understood every time they speak. Um, or they, they want, um, they want to go after their dream job, but they don’t even dare go for the job interview because they’re so… that the moment they start speaking, when people hear their heavy accent, they’re not going to get the job.

So that’s one type of student that I see. And of course, because I’m in Los Angeles, I work with people in Hollywood, people who are born in another country, but they’re actors, they’re living in Los Angeles and they need to compete. Uh, acting, acting in LA is already extremely competitive. When you go on an audition, there are so many people that want that one job.

And so if you have an accent, then you might not get the job because of that. So people who already are maybe quite advanced, who already have a very good accent, uh, but all it takes is making one mistake during your audition. You might have a script where there’s a word you didn’t pronounce correctly and suddenly the director or the casting director might say, you know what?

I don’t think we’re going to hire this person for this role. They have a strong accent and no, they do not have a strong accent they just mispronounced one or two words, but it’s perceived as a strong accent. If you need to sound a hundred percent like a native speaker. So those are the other types of people that I’ve spent my career working with.

And as far as, uh, what techniques I use, it really depends on the individual. Um, I would say my number, the number one thing that I do is I find out, uh, the psychological aspects to why they came to see me because so often they already have so many blocks and so many insecurities about the way they speak.

And that’s already going to interfere in how well they speak and, um, how much progress they make. A lot of times they hate the sound of their voice. Well, we’re going to have to record your voice and that’s part of your homework. You’re going to have to regularly record your voice. A lot of them say, I’ve had people say, you know what, I’m not doing that homework because I refuse to listen to myself.

I really don’t like the way I sound. And so I try to make them feel better about their image, uh, anything related to the way they speak, uh, their accent, their voice. So the number one thing I do is I tell them, you sound a lot better than you think you do. And I’m telling them the truth, because like I said, when they come to me, usually there’s some kind of crisis, some kind of emergency, and they’ve probably created that crisis and made it even bigger than it is.

They’re sometimes traumatized. So I want them to relax and to have it be a fun experience because when you make it fun, when you say I can do this, this is going to be interesting. We’re going to work on interesting scripts and different topics that are not so boring and not. So, um, just by the book, um, they get excited about it.

And then I feel like I’ve broken that barrier and now I can reach them because there’s nothing worse than somebody who is so terrified and they don’t think they’ll ever make any progress. Then I feel like the lessons won’t even be very effective. So that’s the starting point.

Elle: And are there any, uh, you’ve been doing this, you, you founded accurate English, I believe 20 years ago, 20 or a little more than 20 years ago?

Lisa: Yes.

Elle: So you’ve had lots of students come through. Are there any, um, standout success stories that you recall specifically, and are there any things that you think those students did, that others didn’t that that made them successful?

Lisa: Definitely. Uh, as I said before, the attitude is extremely important. My favorite types of students to work with, because that’s when I see the most success, is people who have, who have had success in other areas of their life.

Let me give you an example. I worked with a young man who was an actor and he had, I could tell when he came in that he was very focused. He was, uh, just, uh, there was something confident and driven and focused at the same time. And through the course of getting to know him, I found out he had a black belt in martial arts, and I said to myself, aha, okay, this person knows how to work hard.

I don’t know enough about martial arts, but I know it’s hard to get a black belt. And I knew it took a lot of discipline. And so he had that discipline. And that, that drive and the success story was that, um, he came back, he had a few lessons with me and then he came back maybe six months later, later he said he just wanted to get a review to see how he was doing.

And I, there was zero accent. He sounded totally American. And I said, what did you do? He said, well, I just did what you told me. And so what I had told him, uh, these mistakes that you’re making in order to fix them, you need to speak with yourself daily, talk to yourself. And so that’s a, he said, Lisa, every time I woke up, I would just talk to myself in English for an hour or for two hours.

Um, and that did it. But he, he, you know, you speak to yourself, but you’re thinking about how you’re speaking. So if you’re making a particular vowel mistake or constant mistake, you’re paying attention when those sounds. And you’re making an effort to pronounce that well, and it worked, it worked. So I love that.

I love that.

He just said, well, you know, of course this is going to be hard, but I’m going to do it every single day. And that’s, I love that. And a couple of other success stories, I would say the ones that really inspire me is I had a couple of ladies separately from different countries. They were both in their seventies who made great progress.

And so when I get somebody who says, oh, I’m 25 or I’m 30, is it too late? Listen, I’ve had people in their seventies who made very good progress. And also these two women were, um, just, uh, successful, driven, uh, and inspirational their, their whole life was, they learned how to learn. They learned how to overcome challenges.

And when you have that mindset, you can do a lot and age really doesn’t matter. And I suppose my final story is, um, it’s always nice to see actors when I turn on the TV and suddenly there’s a commercial and I worked with someone on that commercial. That’s fun, you know, that’s, that’s always exciting. It’s like, oh wow! We did it.

Elle: I bet .You’re seeing your work in action. You know?

Lisa: I know, I memorized the whole commercial myself site, the whole ad. So I’m saying it with them because we went over it so many times and that’s, that’s always really fun just because in LA you get these types of people to work with and it makes your job fun.

Elle: I bet I actually was when I was looking through your channel, I was especially interested, I am a huge movie TV fan, and I watched the one video, sorry, I forget his name now, but, um, the actor who was in The OA, I recognized him from The OA

Lisa: Oh yes, Ego Mikitas.

Elle: Because that’s an excellent show. And I was like, wow, that’s so cool. It must be very cool to work with…

Lisa: it is an I, I also like film and I, and I, and so part of my job is also, I try to keep up with what’s happening in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, because so often they say, you know, I have an audition with such and such director. And so I like to keep up, so I know who these people are and what my students are going through and what they’re experiencing. Yeah.

Yeah.

Elle: Do you bumped into… this isn’t so much a language and accent reduction question, but do you bump into, do you see famous people all the time in LA? I feel like, people often say, you know, I live in LA and I, I see, you know, Leonardo DiCaprio walking down the street. Is that actually true as someone who’s lived in LA for a long time?

Lisa: Well over the yearsI mean, yeah. I mean, I’ve been in LA most of my life. Yeah, absolutely. I’ve seen lots of famous people, but, uh, I think depends. It depends on the neighborhood where you live or which if you go to certain restaurants, you’re much more likely to see them. But I would say, if you’re coming to LA as a tourist, hoping to see a famous person, chances are very strong that you will not owe this person.

That’s just, you know, it’s not that common, but in the course of just living here, yeah, you do, you do. I’m trying to think of who I, I mean, obviously lots of them, lots of them, you know, Tom, Tom cruise, uh…

Elle: whoa. That’s like the biggest…

Lisa: I don’t know if your, your viewers know who this is, but she was very famous in my mother’s generation. Sophia Loran.

Elle: Oh yeah.

Lisa: I was standing next to her in a bookstore and I said to myself, you know, She looks really familiar. Does she go to my gym? Suddenly? Somebody said, oh, miss Lauren. And I said, that kind of stuff will happen. Or I’m just like, okay, I know this person.

Elle: Wow. She’s an icon. That’s amazing.

Lisa: That does happen. Sometimes in the most, I was in some really weird, kind of like tiny little hole in the wall restaurant and I saw somebody that I had recently seen on TV. And it’s something you think, wait a minute, aren’t you supposed to be in this glamorous place? So, no, they’re not necessarily at the glamorous places.

They’re just at the market, for example.

Elle: Yeah. They’re just regular people, I guess, until they get so much money they don’t have to even go out, leave their mansion compounds, who knows? Yeah.

So Lisa, Accurate English, um, is your, uh, your training center, but also, uh, the YouTube channel that you run is called Accurate English and it is just packed full of amazing videos, super helpful for anyone who is wanting to reduce their accent, improve their English pronunciation. What would you tell someone who’s a new subscriber to your channel? Where would you tell them to go? Where should they start?

Lisa: Gosh, you know, there are so many videos there at this point, um, I think if they’re specifically focused on reducing their accent, I do have a playlist where I talk about different sounds, but I would say any one of my videos, depending on, even if I’m in, or sometimes I’m talking about grammar, I’m still integrating, uh, pronunciation in it. Um, because every, the reason I call my company, when I started it, I decided to call it Accurate English, English.

And now my channel is called accurate English because I believe, um, I’d like to, it’s important for me to focus on all aspects of English. So it’s not just about pronunciation. I really believe that all of the different things go together. So for example, if you’re working on your accent, chances are that you’re also want to improve your vocabulary.

Chances are you feel like you don’t quite have the expressions that native speakers do. Uh, so if I’m teaching maybe the most or some of the recent videos have been interviewing native speakers and analyzing not only their accent, but the expressions they’re using. So if you just watch one of my videos, you will be getting an accent reduction less.

Almost certainly.

Elle: Right. So, Lisa, is there anything that someone listening to this episode could do tomorrow or even straight after listening to improve their pronunciation, their English pronunciation?

Lisa: Yes.

I would say the number one thing you should do is listen to the melody of the language. English is about stress and reduction, stress and reduction.

That’s such an important component of pronunciation and accent. Uh, we stress the key words. So stress means longer vowels, louder and higher in pitch. So if you’re going to say a sentence “I need to talk to you”. If your language is pretty flat and each word gets equal stress, it might be difficult to understand your sentence, but we’re going to ask ourselves, what is the key word I want to talk to you?

The keyboard is talk. So talk has a really big vowel. It’s “ah” so we’re going to say it like this. “I want to talk to you. I want to talk to you.” So when you open your mouth on the stressed part of the sentence, it makes your accent better. It makes your speech much clearer. Uh, and, uh, it sounds natural.

Uh, but if you stress every word “I want to talk to you”, it’s not going to sound right either. So do Americans… ask yourself, do Americans speak quickly or slowly? Both. They mumble, they speak really quickly on the unstressed parts of the sentence, but the, they emphasize and they slow down on the key words.

So “I want to talk to you”. And then the same thing, ask yourself the same question related to individual words. Usually there’s one vowel inside that word that needs to be stressed. So if we say, um, fantastic, three syllables. So the second syllable is going to be stressed. So we open our mouth really big. Fantastic.

So open your mouth more, prolong the vowels on the stressed parts of the words and the stress words in the sentences. So that’s fantastic. Open your mouth. That’s fantastic. Otherwise, you’re going to…that’s fantastic. If you’re not moving your mouth, your accent is going to be difficult to understand.

Elle: Excellent.

Lisa: Listen to the, listen to, uh, the stress, listen to the melody and remember, yes, native speakers do slow down on keywords and I speak quickly with everything else.

Elle: Wonderful. Okay guys, anyone listening who wants to improve the accent pronunciation these are some things you can do as soon as you, as soon as you finish listening.

Thank you, Lisa. Um, so Lisa, you aren’t just an accent reduction specialist, you are also a polyglot. What languages do you speak?

Lisa: Well, I majored in French and German in college. I was absolutely passionate about, uh, studying languages. And then I taught myself Spanish and I’m always learning other things, other languages, trying to, trying to figure out how they work. These days I don’t have so much time to, um, to really devote to mastering any languages. But, um, what of my, one of the things that I really like to do is to learn about how other languages work to to be able to help my students. For example, when I work with Russian students and I work with their pronunciation, there’s a mistake that they tend to make.

That makes me curious, well, wait a minute. How does Russian work? Because everyone’s doing that. So then I do research in Russian pronunciation and that helps me, uh, to better prepare myself and to better explain to them what they’re doing and what they need to do. So that’s something that I’m really fascinated about.

And I’ve done that with Japanese as well. For example, Japanese has like sa se su so, but then they don’t say, see, they say shi, shi, they change that S to an S H when there’s an I that follows. Well, that explains a lot because Japanese people frequently say make Mec-shi-co instead of Mexico. And it’s because they don’t have a C they change everything to shi.

Or instead of saying situation, they say shi-tuation. And that kind of stuff really fascinates me. But, um, I, uh, used to be a French teacher. That’s how I started. Yeah.

I taught French in high school for a short amount of time. And later I got a master’s degree in English and that led to changing my career and teaching English.

But French is my first love. And I taught English in Germany when I was in my twenties. And that was exciting too. And that’s when I got a chance to improve the German that I had studied in college.

Elle: Amazing. So languages really are and have been your life?

Lisa: Yeah. Yeah.

I love languages, but my favorite thing is teaching English.

Elle: So you speak these other languages, uh, did that influence the way that you help people with the English?

Lisa: Absolutely. Very much. So I always remember my favorite teachers when I was studying different languages and people who’ve inspired me. You don’t become a good teacher without having good role models in the past. There are so many different techniques that teachers use. I remember there was one professor in Germany. When I lived in Germany, I was in a city called Konstanz in the south of Germany, near the Swiss border. And I took German classes at the university. There was a teacher whose method was amazing. She was so experimental in the way that she taught German.

And she did so many interesting exercises and she brought in real life, and we read the newspaper in German, and then we had to memorize all the vocabulary of the newspaper article and we had to pronounce things correctly. And, uh, I do that a lot. I bring in different things like, like newspapers, we read them and we, the goal, the goal is to sound like a native speaker, not only in your pronunciation, but using the advanced vocabulary that you’re learning from the newspapers.

I think the most important part of it is that I know that it’s really challenging to learn another language and to change your accent. It’s really hard work. But I also know that if you’re passionate about, if you have to find something that really excites you about it, and when I was a teenager, I really wanted to go to Paris.

I watched some French movies and I fell in love with French and I, I just romanticized it and that motivated me. It made me work hard. And then when I was 19, well, I went to Paris when I was 16 and then I went again when I was 19. And I had a teacher at UCLA and I think this is the story that really is my favorite one.

I had a teacher at UCLA who taught us French phonetics and French pronunciation for the whole semester. And she would give us dictations and we needed to write French sentences, just using the phonetic symbols. That class was super difficult, but it changed my life. After that class finished, it was summer vacation and I went to Paris and I remember going to a boutique, a store. And the lady said, which part of France are you from? And I couldn’t believe it. I thought I’m not from France, I’m from the United States. That was the greatest compliment you could possibly give me because I really, really wanted to speak French with a good French accent. And it was because of that teacher who taught us French phonetics, who taught us how to hear the subtle difference between the vowel sounds of French and the nasal consonant sounds. And I didn’t know that before. And so then when I started teaching English at Santa Monica College, and I had students from, a lot of students from all over the world who had studied English for many years, But when they spoke, people couldn’t understand them.

I thought, why is no one teaching them pronunciation? Why is no one teaching them accent reduction? Like, like Madame Brichant. That was her name, Madame Brichant. Uh, Madame Brichant changed my life and I don’t think I would be doing this job if it weren’t for her. And she was teaching French at UCLA. Long time ago.

Elle: Wow, what a compliment, eh? Where in France are you from? I bet you would just like…

Lisa: Oh, and I know that my students want that same thing. You know, the actors in Los Angeles who are from other countries, they want that same. They want it. They want to hear “you sound like you might be from Texas”, “you might be from New York” instead of, oh, you know, typical thing is that my students tell me, you know, Lisa, I just said, hello and somebody said, “where are you from?” Or I said one sentence and they said, “oh, you’re Russian, aren’t you?” And there’s nothing wrong with having an accent. There’s nothing wrong with that. But after a while, it gets tiring. Every time you open your mouth, if you live in the United States and you have a foreign accent, you go to the store. “Oh, what a charming accent.” That gets annoying. I had a student who is an architect from France and she said, I want to talk about my designs and my architecture plans to my clients, but they say, “oh, you know, I love your accent. And by the way, I was in Paris. Five years ago. And I went to this place…” and it gets tiring.

It’s gets really tiring. So even if they don’t necessarily eliminate their accent, if they reduce it and neutralize it so that people don’t necessarily always know, oh, you’re from India or you’re from Italy or you’re from wherever that makes them feel better. That’s, it’s just, and it’s exciting when I can help them achieve those goals. If that’s what their goal is.

Elle: Right. Excellent.

Um, so Lisa, anyone who is listening and is going to subscribe to your YouTube channel, Accurate English, uh, after this, what can they expect from your channel uh, moving forward, what’s in store?

Lisa: A lot of exciting things I want to do with the channel. Um, I love interviewing native speakers in Los Angeles, and I particularly try to find people from different professions because my students, the viewers are potentially in these professions. And when the people that I interview use the vocabulary and different expressions, idioms related to those professions, it helps not only with their accent because I teach them how to pronounce those things. But also it’s so important to keep expanding your knowledge of vocabulary, terminology, all sorts of everyday idioms that people in that job might be using.

So I have a lot of people that I’m planning to interview. In addition, I’m focusing more on grammar and writing a grammar course. And, uh, I love teaching grammar. I, uh, really, really am passionate about teaching grammar. And I think that’s sometimes overlooked. We emphasize too much just, uh, how people sound with their accent and maybe increasing vocabulary, but you have to have this strong foundation.

You have to know that when you’re saying a sentence, you’re saying it correctly. And that’s how I learned the languages that I speak. I started with grammar and I like feeling confident that when I say a sentence in French, it will be grammatically correct. Well, maybe these days it might not be because I don’t use it so much, but I remember at one time, you know, we had so many advanced grammar courses and tests that when you know why you’re saying something and why you’re using this particular verb tense, whatever it is a certain construction, you feel a lot more confident and you can communicate professionally. You can write email. And so I want to take my channel more into that direction. Correctness of speech, not just accent, but also all aspects. That’s why the channel is called Accurate English. I believe the goal should be aiming to make everything accurate, your grammar, your pronunciation of vocabulary usage and so on.

Elle: Fantastic. Well, I will pop the link to your channel in the description. And Lisa, thank you so, so much for this chat full of packed, full of really useful info, especially for our, um, English learners. Yeah.

Thank you so much and enjoy the rest of your evening in LA.

Lisa: You too in Vancouver.

Elle: Thank you. Bye-bye.

Lisa: Thank you so much. Thank you. That was fun. Bye-bye.

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