Hi I’m Michael, an English Pronunciation Coach, and someone who loves helping others to get ahead in English. In my past I worked with companies including Google, British Airways, BP, The Guardian Newspaper, and Heineken UK. Through my work with these companies, I developed a thorough understanding of what it takes to perform at a high level within international organisations.
One of the most important factors for getting ahead in the workplace and performing at your best is good communication skills. If English isn't your first language, but plays a part in your career plans or your social life, then developing clear English pronunciation is a must. Your ability to speak the language clearly, effects how people perceive you, interact with you, and ultimately it effects your quality of life.
As a native Englishman from London I learned this the hard way.
It all started when I was a child, and I spoke English with a slight impediment known as a 'lisp'. A lisp is when you pronounce the /s/ sound in English by incorrectly putting your tongue between your teeth, instead of behind your teeth. This gives you the /θ/ sound as in 'think' in stead of the /s/ sound as in 'sink'. This was immediately picked up on by classmates in primary school, and as you can imagine, lead to a lot of nasty comments. My parents ended up sending me for speech therapy classes and with some effective training and then lots of practice on my part, I overcame this difficulty, started pronouncing the /s/ sound perfectly, and never looked back.
Fast forward to secondary school, and I'd become fascinated with languages. Growing up in mono-lingual England, I would always hear foreigners speaking English in addition to their native language and found the whole concept of being able to speak another language infinitely fascinating. I dreamed of learning other languages and told myself that in the future I would speak multiple languages.
In secondary school I was taught Spanish and French, but for some reason I was never any good at it. I remember learning endless grammar rules in class, and learning how to talk about things that had no relevance to real life (like how many bedrooms my house had). It was so impracticable and irrelevant to real life speech that my brain used to switch off and I never really learned. I would later find out that this is also how most of the world learns English.
Despite not learning in class, when I was a teenager I went on my first holiday overseas to Turkey. For the first time in my life I was surrounded by another language and I loved it! I asked a waiter at a hotel to write me down some useful phrases and then obsessed over learning them. By the end of the first day I'd learned the list. Over the next 2 weeks, I learned more Turkish than I had done Spanish or French in YEARS of study! Why? Because it was super practical for real life and I was using it every day to get things done. 'This quick results', 'practical for real life' and 'immediately implementable' approach underlines how I teach pronunciation today.
As I went through secondary school and then college, I became increasingly interested in personal development, and in-particular, finding the optimal and most effective way to do things. From achieving a 6-pack, to learning how to learn a language in 3 months, I became obsessed with finding 'hacks' that would lead to the best results in the least amount of time.
After I left British Airways in 2013, It was time to start my language learning adventure.
I moved to Brazil, a country who's music, beaches, culture and weather I'd developed a passion for. My plan was to move to Recife, a city in the north-east of Brazil where very little English was spoken, completely immerse myself in the culture and learn the language in 3 months.
After what felt like 3 months of 'bashing my head against a brick wall' I had moment where I felt like the language clicked for me. Up until that point I had been listening intently to conversations, trying to pick out words that I understood, and generally struggling non-stop. On a sunny day in Olinda, a historical city on a hill with an unbelievable view over Recife and the sea beyond, I was having a conversation with someone and suddenly I realised that something had changed. I had gone from trying to pick out words in a conversation that I understood, to understanding the general sense of a conversation, just with lots of words that I didn't understand. The situation had flipped itself.
This gave me an incredible amount of motivation to keep studying the language and learning the words that I wasn't hearing and it was at this point that I noticed something strange. Up until this point, I'd never paid much attention to accent in Portuguese, I just generally looked at words on sheet of paper and tried to learn them by their spelling...my English interpretation of their spelling. I was getting frustrated because I kept teaching myself words that I thought should be coming up regularly in conversation, the kind of words we all use every day. But I was never hearing them. And more frustrating than that, was when I used these words myself in conversation, people kept asking me to repeat myself. I would say a word as I imagined it was pronounced and people would say to me 'pardon?' or 'I don't understand'. They would say ‘where are you from?’ and I would keep getting confused looks.
This all came to a head one day when something happened. I had learned the word ‘desde’ which means ‘since’ in Portuguese (as in ‘I’ve been here since then’). I had taught myself this word it assuming that it was pronounced exactly as it was spelt, and that each letter has the same pronounciation as in English. The result? I was pronouncing it /des de/ instead of /ˈdezdʒi/. Written down this might not look like a big difference, but in real life pronunciation, it’s a huge difference.
I’d used the word ‘desde’ countless times in conversation with my English pronunciation of the word, and everytime I had used it, no one understood what I meant. On this particular day, I was talking to someone who used a word that I didn’t think that I’d come across until then. When trying to workout what it meant through context, I realised that this was the word! It sounded a world apart from what I had learned and in that single moment, I realised just how bad my pronunciation really was. I realised that it had been affecting everything for me, and that was the reason why I’d been having so many difficulties in the language.
Not too long after that my tourist visa expired and I had to leave Brazil and come home. The plan for 6 months later was to move to Japan where I would teach myself Japanese, but I wasn’t going to make the same mistake this time.
After my pronunciation epiphany, I’d started researching pronunciation online, and discovered that one of the best ways to learn a foreign languages pronunciation is to start by learning your own languages pronunciation as you then have a reference point to work from. In the time that I was going to be back in London I made it my mission to learn everything I could about English pronunciation so that I could then improve my Portuguese.
AS soon as I was in Japan, I threw myself into the language and culture, and started to learn Japanese. This time I started with pronunciation and despite common thinking that Japanese pronunciation is quite simple because of the limited number of sounds in the language, It’s actually quite the opposite with high and low pitched syllables making a huge difference to the meaning of a word that has the same sounds.
I also started teaching English in Japan and ended up doing language camps at top private schools around japan, as well as tuition in private language schools. I was finding it strange that nearly all of my students had a very good understanding of English grammar (most had had past lots of tests), but in conversation, they were extremely difficult to understand. Most of them ahd spent lots of timetalking to English teachers, so they knew how to talk, but this hadn’t made them easy to talk to. One day I was delivering a class at an upmarket private language school next to the famous Prada building in Aoyama, where I had a moment of realisation...a moment that would forever change my future path.
Up until this point I had identified that pronunciation was an issue for me learning other languages, but I had never thought about the difficulties of English pronunciation for foreign learners of English. People often joke in English that the Japanese pronunciation of London is ‘Rondon’ (ロンドン) because there is no /l/ sound in Japanese, but I had never thought beyond this and how it could effect the rest of their English speech. I realised that the reason why my students were struggling was not because of poor English, but instead, poor pronunciation. English actually has multiple sounds that Japanese doesn’t and even many of the sounds that both languages have come from different places within the mouth.
I realised that from my own pronunciation studies, I knew exactly what they should be doing to make the sounds correctly, and that as I had experienced 18 years earlier in primary school with my lisp, that with the right training, sounds could be learned, and perfected.
In that moment I decided I was going to set up my own English Pronunciation class and start helping people develop this critical skill in English.
That night I logged onto meetup and created a meetup called ‘The English Pronunciation Club’. I scheduled the meetup for one week later and created a topic - Learn the difference between /b/ and /v/ in English. I’d been advised to schedule a meetup 2 weeks before hosting it to allow people to see it and schedule it, but I was excited to get going and didn’t want to wait, so instead, I started reaching out to Japanese contacts I’d made and did my best to fill the event.
One week later... 2 people showed up. And then a 3rd half-way through the event. A disappointing turnout, turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it enabled me to work really closely with the people that showed up, and 2 hours later, my 3 attendees had mastered a pronunciation difficulty that most Japanese never learn.
A week later, I had 12 attendees, and a week after that. The meetup grew so quickly, that the café where I was hosting the event had to shut of a whole floor of the venue, just for everyone to have a seat.
I wanted to share this knowledge in others places so in my first month I spoke at other events and even took to setting up next to a fortune teller and teaching English in the Street.
The meetup continued to grow at an exponential rate, but I soon shut it down and left Japan to move back to London, to be with my girlfriend who was moving there from Brazil.
English Pronunciation In London
At first, I wasn’t sure if there would be the need for my service in London. English isn’t part of daily life in Japan, so pronunciation difficulties were understandable, but for the millions of foreigners in London who used English every day, I had a feeling that they may be better equipped. It turned out they weren’t.
One of the first things I did when I got back to the UK was set up ‘The English Pronunciation Club London’. On the first Meetup (which I did schedule 2 weeks in advance this time), I had 25 guests.
It became clear that pronunciation wasn’t something that just affects the quality of people's English Speech, but the overall quality of life. In that one meetup I had attendees from all over the world, who were all experiencing similar difficulties. They lacked the confidence to speak in different situations, they felt judged when they were speaking in-front of others, and they were frustrated that they were constantly being asked to repeat themselves. It was affecting their performance in the workplace, and there happiness in their social lives.
They felt like weren’t respected by their colleagues, they felt like their expertise was being overlooked because of the way they were communicating, and they felt that because of this, they were living as a completely different person compared to when they are speaking their own language.
I made it my mission to make world class English pronunciation accessible and affordable to anyone who wants a better quality of life in English. For the last 2 years I’ve been doing this through my Youtube channel (English School Online), and the channel has already helped thousands of people to feel confident in their English pronunciation. What I've realised from all the thank you messages and comments I’ve received are these 2 things:
By making pronunciation simple, fun and relevant to real English speech, my subscribers are able to get results much quicker than most traditional pronunciation methods.
To get the quickest and best results whilst practicing alone (which is how most people practice pronunciation), additional study resources and ongoing support are needed. Enter: The How To Speak English Clearly course.
The How To Speak English Clearly course is the most effective solution to learning great English Pronunciation and regaining your confidence in English. It takes you through a simple 5-step process to learn each of the 44 English sounds correctly and then shows you how to fully integrate each new sound into your everyday English speaking.
Unlike traditional pronunciation methods which focus on learning phrases and drills that aren't directly relevant to your everyday speech, How To Speak English Clearly focuses on deconstructing the very words and phrases that you’re using everyday in English, and then shows you how to get them right. This approach has you making immediate improvement’s right from day one. In a matter of minutes you can be corretly pronuncing something that you have mispronouncing for years.
How To Speak English Clearly is built specifically for non-native English speakers living in London, the UK, and other English speaking countries around the world. It’s these people who’s lives are most effected by poor pronunciation.
It is also an invaluable resource for anyone who needs to speak English clearly for their career or personal life.
English is the language of opportunity, the language of global business, and the language of the future, and with 2 billion people learning it, there has never been a more crucial time to speak it clearly
Just imagine being valued for being you, and never being asked to repeat yourself again!