Kamis, 12 Mei 2011

Lesson One: Many Sounds In English Are Not In Your Native Language

The main reasons why speaking English is so hard

This special pronunciation section will explain to you why English is hard to speak correctly and give you some help on improving your pronunciation. These are the main reasons why English is so hard. There is a lesson for each one.
Note that the pronunciation examples are in American English accent. In the last lesson you will find American and British English examples.
It is likely that some of the sounds that are common in English are not used in your native language. The most common ones are 'r' as in 'right', 'l' as in 'light' and the 'th' sound as in 'thing'. The 'th' sound, where your tongue is between your teeth is uncommon in other languages.
The other sounds that you will most likely find difficult are the 'moving vowel' sounds or "diphthongs".

Pronouncing Dipthongs

Here are some examples of diphtongs:
hi price eye by
The vowel sound in these words changes as you say them, it starts off as 'a' and becomes 'e' Here is a picture showing the starting and finishing mouth positions:
vowel sounds
Notice that your mouth position changes considerably when saying this vowel. You start off with your mouth open and your tongue at the bottom of your mouth, and go to having your mouth closed with your tongue at the top of your mouth.
It is very common for students learning English to have difficulty making both sounds. Many students pronounce just one one of these sounds, either the starting 'a' sound or the finishing 'I' sound. To speak well and be understood, you need to make both sounds.
Here is another example of a diphthong:
This is the sound in words like
'boat' 'goat' and 'coat'
Your tongue needs to start off near the middle of your mouth, with your mouth open. Then your tongue needs to move back and up slightly at the same time as you close your lips. Your lips also need to be 'rounded' slightly.
Here is a technique you can use to feel the difference in different mouth shapes:
  1. Start by putting your finger on your lips like you are saying 'shhhhh' and telling someone to be quiet. (Perhaps you don't make this gesture in your culture, or it is rude to do so. Actually, it can be a little rude in European cultures also, so you need to use it with care. You're most likely to see it among audiences at live shows, at the movie theatre, or in the library if someone is rudely talking.)
  2. Hold your finger still - don't move it when your lips move. Now make an 'ee' sound. You should feel your lips come back to be flat against your teeth. Your finger should now not be touching your lips.
  3. Now make an 'au' sound sticking your lips out. You should feel your finger be pushed out, away from your mouth. This is what 'rounding' your lips means.
  4. Now say the word 'goat' with your finger touching your lips, and check that your lips become rounded at the end of the vowel sound.
  5. Well done! You are probably making the vowel sound correctly now.
As you know, the 'th' sound can also be difficult. Here is how you need to make the 'th' sound:
Can you see how your tongue needs to between your teeth so that someone watching you can actually see the tip of it? Many people find this strange to do, but if you do not "poke your tongue out" a little in this way, you will not pronounce the sound correctly.

Pronouncing The "th" Sound In English.

The 'th' sound is quite common in English and found wherever the letters 'th' are found together. Here are two common examples for you:
Mouth Thumb

Usually, It's Better To Order "Rice" Than "Lice".
The Difference Between The "r" And "l" Sounds.

The R and L Tongue Positions

r l
The images above illustrate the difficulty in distinguishing the two tongue positions; however there are important differences:
For 'r':
  • Your tongue curls up around the edges, and you blow air through the middle of your tongue.
  • The top part of your tongue does not touch the top of your mouth.
  • Your lips should be slightly rounded.
For 'l':
  • The top of your tongue should touch the top of your mouth.
  • Your lips should not be rounded
Most people say 'l' correctly however for further help with 'r' you may find the following video helpful:

Backlog Analysis: unlearn typical English mistakes

Isn’t it frustrating: it is always the same mistakes that prevent you from getting that better mark in your English tests. How can you unlearn those mistakes?
Don’t try too much at a time. Instead, concentrate on just one typical mistake. Go through the explanations and exercises in your grammar reference or textbook. When reading English texts, look out for that specific grammar aspect.
Our backlog analysis contains 26 typical problems. We show you where on ego4u you'll find relevant explanations, exercises and tips. Take the print out of our analysis and your last English test and consult your English teacher. Look through the test together and pick out one problem. Write down the category … and start unlearning that problem.
If you’ve unlearned the mistake by the next test, you can tackle the next problem.

What’s the problem?

Click on a topic to see all relevant explanations, exercises and tips, we have on ego4u.
[PDF] Print Version of our Backlog Analysis (PDF format) (60,33 KiB)
  1. Singular and Plural Form of Nouns
  2. Article
  3. Pronouns
  4. some/any and much/many
  5. Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers
  6. Date and Time
  7. Prepositions
  8. Comparison of Adjectives
  9. Form and Comparison of Adverbs
  10. Adjectives and Adverbs
  11. Affirmative Sentences (Word Order)
  12. Positions of Adverbs
  13. Negative Sentences
  14. Questions
  15. Use of Tenses
  16. Form of Tenses
  17. Conditional Sentences (if clauses)
  18. Auxiliary Verbs
  19. Short Answers
  20. Phrasal Verbs
  21. Infinitive
  22. Gerund
  23. Participles
  24. Relative Clauses
  25. Reported Speech
  26. Passive Voice


I want to give you a short presentation about ...
My presentation is about ...
I'd like to tell you something about ...
I think everybody has heard about ..., but hardly anyone knows a lot about it.
That's why I'd like to tell you something about it.
Did you know that ...?

Word List on Presentations

Introducing sub-topics
Let me begin by explaining why / how ...
First / Now I want to talk about ...
First / Now I want to give you an insight into ...
Let's (now) find out why / how ...
Let's now move to ...
As I already indicated ...
Another aspect / point is that ...
The roots of ... go back to ...
... began when ...
Legend has it that ...
As you probably know, ...
You probably know that ...
Maybe you've already heard about ...
You might have seen that already.
At the beginning there was / were ...
Many people knew / know ...
Hardly anyone knew / knows ...
... hit the idea to ...
... was the first to ...
It is claimed that ...
One can say that ...
I have read that ...
Pictures and graphics
Let me use a graphic to explain this.
The graphic shows that ...
As you can see (in the picture) ...
In the next / following picture, you can see ...
Here is another picture.
The next picture shows how ...
Let the pictures speak for themselves.
I think the picture perfectly shows how / that ...
Now, here you can see ...
Final thoughts on a sub-topic
It was a great success for ...
It is a very important day in the history of ...
It was / is a very important / special event.
This proves that ...
The reason is that ...
The result of this is that ...
It's because ...
In other words, ...
I want to repeat that ...
I'd (just) like to add ...

Word List on Presentations

... should not be forgotten.
... has really impressed me.
I hope that one day ...
We should not forget ...
All in all I believe that...
Summing up / Finally it can be said that ...
Let me close by quoting ... who said, »...«
That was my presentation on ...
I am now prepared to answer your questions.
Do you have any questions?


Structure and Content

  • Introduction: General information on the topic
    Give your listeners an introduction to the topic (some general information) and explain what exactly you are going to talk about in your presentation.
  • Actual Presentation
    Subdivide your presentation into several sub-topics.
  • Conclusion
    Try to find a good conclusion, e.g.:
    • an invitation to act
    • an acknowledgement
    • a motivation  

    Important Tenses

  • Simple Present
  • Simple Past
  • Present Perfect

Tips on Giving a Presentation

As listeners cannot take up as many information as readers, keep the following rules in mind when giving a presentation:
  • Keep your sentences short and simple.
  • Use standard English, avoid slang and techy language.
  • Prefer verbs to nouns (not: The meaning of this is that …, but: This means that …).
  • Use participal constructions sparingly. (In written texts they are often used to increase the density of information in a sentence. In spoken texts, however, they make it more difficult for the listeners to follow.)
  • Speak clearly and slowly.
  • Have little breaks in between the sentences to allow your audience to reflect on what has been said.
  • Communicate freely (don't read the whole text from a piece of paper).
  • Illustrate certain aspects of your presentation with pictures and graphics.
The following tricks will also help you keep your audience's attention:
  • Outline to the audience how your presentation is structured. (e.g. I will first explain ... / Then I will … / After that … / Finally… ).
  • Indicate when you come to another sub-topic (I will now talk about …). This way your audience can follow your presentation more easily.
  • Use a rhetorical question or hypophora from time to time. Your listeners will think that you've asked them a question and thus listen more attentively.
  • Use enumerations starting first / second / third. This also draws your audience's attention.
  • A joke or a quotation might also help keeping your audience listening. Don't overdo it, however. Using too many jokes or quotations might not have the effect you want.

Word List

Soccer Quiz

Your have to answers 4 randomly picked questions.
Good luck!

Which country does Peter Crouch play for in the Fifa World Cup 2010?

What's the kick called where only one kicker and the goalie are allowed in the penalty area?

When was the FIFA founded?

Which country takes part in the Fifa World Cup 2010?

See if you have mastered the quiz:
0 out of 4 questions are correct.
  1. Which country does Peter Crouch play for in the Fifa World Cup 2010? Your answer was “no answer”.
  2. What's the kick called where only one kicker and the goalie are allowed in the penalty area? Your answer was “no answer”.
  3. When was the FIFA founded? Your answer was “no answer”.
  4. Which country takes part in the Fifa World Cup 2010? Your answer was “no answer”.
Not all answers are correct, yet. Try again.

Vocabulary Game: Better English – Step by Step

With our vocabulary game, you can improve your English the fun way. All you need is our ‘board’, a die, figures, cards and a number of friends.


Put the board on the table. Place the cards on the foto with the ego4u logo and put the figures on the START field. Every player chooses a figure and then you can start.
The first player casts the die and tries to translate the vocabulary / phrase on the top card. Is the translation correct, the player may move forward by the number cast; is the translation wrong, the player must move back by that number (or remain on START). Then it’s the next player’s turn.
The winner is who first arrives on the FINISH field.


You can use your own cards or the ones we have prepared for you. Just print out the English phrases, cut out the cards and write the translation on the back of each card. If you use coloured paper, you can sort the cards by topics.

Vocabulary Cards (PDF file with 36 cards each

Love Test

Is your crush the right one for you?
Do our test to find out.

Choose a number.

Choose a colour.
Your chrush is...

How many letters are in your crush's name?

SMS English

Not only foreigners, but also native speakers have their problems with the English language. Quite often, teachers despair when reading their pupils’ texts. Most mistakes are made when words are pronounced the same, e.g. their/there, its/it’s etc.
When worse comes to worse, some students simply shorten their texts to SMS. This is what a 12-year-old Schottish girl in her 7th year did in her composition about her last holiday.
How good is your SMS English? Try to read the text below. Move the mouse pointer over the (i) sign to see the answers.
  • My smmr hols wr CWOT. (i)
  • B4, we usd 2 go 2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :-@ kds FTF. (i)
  • ILNY, its gr8. (i)
  • Bt my Ps wr so {:-/ BC o 9/11 tht they dcdd 2 stay in SCO & spnd 2wks up N. (i)
  • Up N, WUCIWUG - 0. (i)
  • I ws vvv brd in MON. (i)
  • 0 bt baas & ^^^^^. (i)
  • AAR8, my Ps wr :-) - they sd ICBW, & tht they wr ha-p 4 the pc&qt... (i)
  • IDTS!! (i)
  • I wntd 2 go hm ASAP, 2C my M8s again. (i)
  • 2day, I cam bk 2 skool. (i)
  • I feel v O:-) BC I hv dn all my hm wrk. (i)
  • Now its BAU ... (i)
Would you like to send an SMS in English? Here is a list with useful characters and their meanings:
  • & - and
  • 0 - nothing
  • 2 - two, to, too
  • 2DAY - today
  • A - a / an
  • B - be
  • B4 - before
  • BC - because
  • BF - boyfriend
  • BK - back
  • BRO - brother
  • BT - but
  • C - see
  • D8 - date
  • DNR - dinner
  • EZ - easy
  • F8 - fate
  • GF - girlfriend
  • GR8 - great
  • HOLS - holidays
  • HV - have
  • I - I, it
  • Its - it is
  • KDS - kids
  • L8 - late
  • L8R - later
  • M8 - mate
  • NE1 - anyone
  • PLS - please
  • PS - parents
  • QT - cutie
  • R - are
  • SIS - sister
  • SKOOL - school
  • SMMR - summer
  • U - you
  • WR - were
  • A3 - anyplace, anytime, anywhere
  • ASAP - as soon as possible
  • B4N - Bye for now
  • BAU - business as usual
  • BRB - I'll be right back.
  • BTW - by the way
  • CUL - see you later
  • CWOT - complete waste of time
  • FTF - face to face
  • FYI - for your information
  • GMTA - great minds think alike
  • HAND - have a nice day
  • HRU - how are you
  • ICBW - it could be worse
  • IDTS - I don't think so
  • IMHO - in my humble opinion
  • IYKWIM - if you know what I mean
  • JK - just kidding
  • KOTC - kiss on the cheek
  • LOL - laughing out loud
  • LSKOL - long slow kiss on the lips
  • LTNS - long time no see
  • Luv U - I love you.
  • Luv U2 - I love you too.
  • MON - the middle of nowhere
  • MTE - my thoughts exactly
  • MU - I miss you.
  • MUSM - I miss you so much.
  • NP - no problem
  • OIC - oh, I see
  • PC&QT - peace and quiet
  • PCM - please call me
  • ROTFL - rolling on the floor laughing
  • RUOK - are you ok?
  • THNQ - thank you
  • U4E - you forever
  • UROK - you are okay
  • WUCIWUG - what you see is what you get
  • WYSIWYG - what you see is what you get
  • XLNT - exellent
  • :-) smiling
  • :-* kiss
  • :-)) very happy
  • :-0 shocked
  • :") blushing
  • :-| :-| deja vu
  • (_x_) kiss my arse/butt
  • <:3 )~ mouse
  • :@) pig
  • :’-) tears of laughter
  • :-P stick tongue out
  • :-(*) you make me sick
  • x-( you are mad
  • :-" whistling
  • ;-) wink
  • :-@ screaming
  • O:-) saintly

Exercise on Modal Verbs and their Substitutes

Choose the correct substitute for each modal verb.
  1. We ought to win the race. → .................We win the race.
  2. I can swim. →................... I swim.
  3. You must meet my best friend. →.............. You meet my best friend.
  4. He should be in bed by now. → ..................He be in bed by now.
  5. I must get up early. →................. I get up early.
  6. They may stay up late. →................. They stay up late.
  7. She needs to see the doctor. → ...............She see the doctor.
  8. We need not walk. →............... We walk.
  9. You must not sleep → ..................You sleep.
  10. Should I go to the cinema with them? →............... go to the cinema with them?

Exercise on Modal Verbs and their Substitutes

Choose the correct substitute for each modal verb.
  1. We ought to win the race. → We are supposed to(i) win the race.
  2. I can swim. → I am able to(i) swim.
  3. You must meet my best friend. → You have to(i) meet my best friend.
  4. He should be in bed by now. → He is supposed to(i) be in bed by now.
  5. I must get up early. → I have to(i) get up early.
  6. They may stay up late. → They are allowed to(i) stay up late.
  7. She needs to see the doctor. → She has to(i) see the doctor.
  8. We need not walk. → We do not have to(i) walk.
  9. You must not sleep → You are not allowed to(i) sleep.
  10. Should I go to the cinema with them? → Am I supposed to(i) go to the cinema with them?
0 out of 10 answers are correct.

Modal Verbs and their substitutes

Modal verbs are for example may, can, must, should, need. They express an ability, permission, wish etc. to do something. (I may, can, must swim.) Many modal verbs cannot be used in all of the English tenses. That's why we need to know the substitutes to these modal verbs.

Modal Verb Substitute Example
must to have to I must swim. = I have to swim.
must not not to be allowed to I must not swim. = I am not allowed to swim.
can to be able to I can swim. = I am able to swim.
may to be allowed to I may swim. = I am allowed to swim.
need to have to I need to swim. = I have to swim.
need not not to have to I need not swim. = I don't have to swim.
shall / should/ ought to to be supposed to / to be expected to / to be to I shall / should / ought to swim. = I am supposed to swim. / I am expected to swim. / I am to swim.