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Lesson Twenty Five: Dark L (Part One)

Lesson 25 of English Jade teaches you the pronunciation of the dark /l/ sound in English. This lesson is part one of three lessons on the pronunciation of /l/. In this lesson you will practice the dark /l/ sound in example words and phrases. Click the player at the bottom of the page to listen to this podcast lesson.

There are two pronunciations of /l/ in English. The first pronunciation of /l/ is the easy one which you will already recognise in words like ‘love’, ‘like’ and ‘lips’. This is the light /l/, which is always found before a vowel. Words that begin with an /l/ always begin with light /l/ pronunciation. We make the light /l/ sound by making a light touch with the tip of the tongue on the alveolar ridge (the hard part just behind the teeth). The back of the tongue is in a neutral position, neither high nor low.

The second pronunciation of /l/, the dark /l/, is the one you may not have heard about before. The dark /l/ pronunciation has a lower pitch and takes more effort with the tongue to pronounce. Listen to these two examples:

love and light = light /l/
small hotel = dark /l/

When I make a dark /l/ sound, the back of my tongue raises up towards the back of the palate. The position of the back of the tongue here is close to where it is when pronouncing the ‘long u’ /u:/ vowel. When I make the dark /l/ sound, my tongue tip stays in same forward alveolar ridge position as it does for light /l/. As my tongue pulls back, it cleanly and clearly ends the dark /l/ sound.

How I experience the difference in pronunciation is that the dark /l/ requires much more physical effort to pronounce than light /l/. When I pronounce the dark /l/ clearly, I cannot move on quickly to link up to the next sound. It’s as if there is a tiny pause before my tongue can move to the next sound.

Learning to pronounce light /l/ and dark /l/ is not that difficult because there are two simple rules:

1. All words beginning with /l/ have light /l/ pronunciation
2. All words ending in /l/ end with dark /l/ pronunciation

However, confusion arises when the /l/ sound is in the medial (middle) position of a word. We will look at examples of medial /l/ in lesson two on this subject.

In the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) light /l/ and dark /l/ are classed as the same sound/phoneme, even though to most of us listening, they sound different. The reason for this is to keep things simple. If we didn’t do this, we would have too many letters in the alphabet and too many symbols in the IPA to learn. The difference between light /l/ and dark /l/ is small because there is only a slight difference in articulation between them. Therefore, light /l/ and dark /l/ are ‘close enough’ to be classed as the same sound in the IPA. Close enough is good enough.

Standard dictionaries use the same IPA symbol for light /l/ and dark /l/. This is not helpful when we are confused about the proper pronunciation of the /l/ sound as we won’t find the answer in the dictionary. If the dictionary doesn’t distinguish between light /l/ and dark /l/ in a word’s transcription, clearly, how you pronounce /l/ is a small detail. I’m only teaching you this because I know many of my English Jade subscribers are perfectionists who want their pronunciation to be exactly right. If you find the pronunciation of light /l/ and dark /l/ too difficult, don’t worry; most people probably won’t even notice.

Here are a few example dark L words taken from the lesson:









Get the full lesson notes and recordings by becoming a subscriber to English Jade. CLICK HERE.

English Jade Lesson Twenty Two: Schwa Weak Forms

Many words in English have two pronunciations. There is a stressed form of the word and an unstressed form of the word which is called the ‘weak form’. For example, the word ‘your’ is pronounced as /jɔː/ (stressed form) and as /jə/ (weak form).

Weak forms are often hard to hear in the sentence and it may seem as if the sound is ‘swallowed’. Native speakers use weak forms all the time in their natural speech, which makes them harder to understand than non-native speakers. Weak forms are also the reason native speakers appear to be speaking quickly, when in fact, often they are speaking at a normal tempo.

By learning the weak forms of words and then using them you can greatly improve the overall rhythm and flow of your speech in English.

Click the audio player link below to listen to this podcast lesson on how to pronounce the schwa weak forms. Here are a few example words taken from the lesson:

cat in a hat = /ˈkæ.tɪ.nə hæt/

Does he know him? = /ˈdʌz.i nəʊ hɪm/

Lend us some money = /ˈlen.dəs sʌm ˈmʌ.ni/

Do you sound weak? Language Examples…

Do you sound weak? In this video, I give you examples of unconfident speaking styles. These are expressions people use when lacking in confidence about themselves and their opinions. We will be looking at indirect language: speaking with disclaimers, evading opinions, making oneself small, being doubtful of oneself, and being afraid to speak one’s mind. While it is sometimes necessary to communicate in an indirect way for the sake of politeness, it’s important to know how to speak in a more confident way too. When you communicate in a confident way, you are able to lead other people and to make a good impression. Learn about unconfident speaking styles in order to stop sounding weak!

Introduction to the IPA and vowel sound training

I will teach you four phonemes from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). You will learn /e/ as in pet, schwa /ə/ as in to (unstressed), /ɜː/ as in bird, and /ɔː/ as in court. This lesson is for beginners who are unfamiliar with IPA (the individual sounds of English). Learn the IPA vowel symbols to greatly improve your pronunciation. This lesson is also for more advanced students who are already familiar with the sounds of English and their IPA phonetic symbols, and who wish to refresh their knowledge as a result of doing some practical pronunciation practice. Do these exercises for some time and you WILL hear a difference.

Toxic Language Examples

Toxic language is a way of communicating that harms other people. The lesson is based on the work of Marshall Rosenberg, who educated people to express their needs in a compassionate way in order to avoid ‘violent communication’. I will teach you common examples of violent communication, such as threatening, blaming, labelling, diagnosing, and guilt tripping. Many of us often do some or all of these to others without realising. By learning to avoid violent communication, we are able to express our personal needs more effectively and our relationships with others can improve.

Get Rid of Your Accent — Good Idea?

In these politically correct times in which we live, the ‘experts’ out there on YouTube say that you should not get rid of your accent. These teachers are the same ones who make their lessons for the mass global audience: it’s all very low level, easy stuff. Moron level. The most you ever get with them is ‘4 Amazing Phrasal Verbs You Need to Know’.

These teachers are being politically correct when they talk about accent. I’m not sure if they actually believe what they say, but that’s what they say because it’s the ‘acceptable’ opinion to have. It’s all very friendly and smiley and appeals to their low level mass audience who only want to feel good about themselves. When their teacher tells them comforting words like this, it gives them an excuse not to bother.

YouTube didn’t work out very well for me. Might be because I’m POLITICALLY INCORRECT. I didn’t have ‘the right’ opinions about things. It caused a lot of backlash.

Here’s what I think about your accent:

When it comes to YOUR accent, it’s necessary to separate yourself from the herd.

Most non-native speakers are never going to get rid of their accent because they are too lazy and have no focus. Even if they wanted to improve their accent, it won’t happen for them.

Most non-native speakers don’t NEED to get rid of their accent. This is because they rarely use English. What’s the point of having a native speaker level accent if you have no contact with native speakers? None, really.

But for those people who live and work in the UK, telling them not to bother about their accent is plain bad advice. Okay, if you pick fruit in a field and only work with other foreigners, you can struggle on without having a decent accent. But that is where you will stay: in minimum wage, temporary work for the rest of your life. With a dodgy accent.

Even professionals with high level skills are not immune to the problems caused by having a dodgy accent. The main one being that it seriously undermines you at work. No matter how great the standard of your work is, you’ll be undermined on a daily basis by the way that you speak. Again, like the fruit pickers, you can probably get by here in the UK; you can struggle on speaking badly. Everyone’s politically correct here, so don’t worry, the weakness of your accent will never be directly pointed out to you by your managers or even brought up at job interviews.

This can allow you to go on living in the illusion that the way you speak isn’t important. It’s a comfortable illusion, but it’s also one that’s hard to maintain. If/when you ever have a problem at work — you will remember once again about the weakness of your accent. That’s because you know, deep down, that the way you speak isn’t yet good enough for the work that you do. It’s only natural to feel vulnerable when you know that you’re the weak link. If you don’t do something about it, this vulnerability will haunt you forever.

I don’t advise the mass global audience to get rid of their accent; like I said it’s impossible and not worth it for them anyhow. But for professionals, another, much higher standard is required of them. This standard is to speak clearly and naturally.




Pronunciation: London, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle and More…

Learn how to pronounce the names of the top 10 biggest cities in Britain. Avoid the embarrassment of saying the name of a famous place incorrectly — listen and learn how a person from London says the names of these places. I will also teach you and use some IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet), so that you can get the exact pronunciation. I’ll teach you how to pronounce London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford, Glasgow, Southampton, Portsmouth, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, and Sheffield. No more mistakes!

Building Your Foundation

There is a necessary foundation that you need to build in order to be able to speak well. So many people (native speakers AND second language speakers of English) are missing this foundation because they were never taught properly or supported. In this episode of English Jade I reveal the foundation you need to become a good speaker. Warning: It’s not what you expect! And don’t worry, even if you lack this foundation, I’m going to fill in the gaps in your knowledge.

Start building your foundation: Sign up to get the first 4 lessons of English Jade: CLICK HERE.

All the Uses of ‘From’

‘FROM’ is such a small, common word in English, but it has so many different uses. Watch this to make sure you don’t get your prepositions mixed up.

Is Your Voice Toxic? And What to Do About It…

Toxic voices are extremely common. When a voice is toxic, it is draining to hear or listen to. The draining influence of a toxic voice affects all people within earshot by creating tension and spreading a low mood. However, only sensitive people can directly feel the icky, draining quality of the toxic voice in the moment that it is speaking.

Sensitives are best advised to avoid or disengage from conversations with people who have toxic voices. When sensitives have good boundaries, this happens naturally, as the sensitive will not want to engage in any kind of prolonged conversation with the toxic voice. Or, if they must interact occasionally, for example because the person with the toxic voice is a relative or colleague, then the sensitive learns to disengage from ‘draining conversations,’ which only encourage the person with the toxic voice to offload on them and to drain.

When I’m out in the real world, for example in a coffee shop, and I encounter a draining voice, my attitude towards that person is reserved. The reason for this is to keep my distance and to prevent any sense of familiarity from building up between us. While toxic voices cannot be avoided out in the real world, it is possible to prevent such a person from seeking out your attention in possible future encounters. The last thing you want to do is to give the draining voice your full attention. However, if the draining voice belongs to someone you care about, you may DECIDE to give them attention from time to time as a form of love. But this kind of sacrifice is not owed to strangers.

All voices are draining sometimes. However, a toxic voice is always draining.

All people are negative sometimes. Whereas, a toxic voice is negative about everything all the time.

It is not possible to change someone you know if you identify him or her as having a toxic voice. However, it is possible to detoxify your own voice. This comes down to cleansing yourself from negativity and detoxifying yourself. Note: I’m not advocating that you pretend to live in a ‘positive bubble’, merely that you find a healthy balance in which you can see the good in life, as well as the bad.

Here follow some practical things you can do to detoxify yourself and your voice:

  • Take a break from any kind of news (30 days is a good starting point)
  • Take a course of detoxifying supplements
  • Take supplements for candida and reduce sugars and processed foods in your diet
  • Take a nightly bath and scrub your skin. Soak long enough until the top layer of your skin rubs off
  • Don’t give in to the lure of toxic conversations: disengage, avoid, or label it a ‘draining conversation’. Only when you are healthier and your energy is better can you handle a little negativity now and then.
  • Leave social media
  • Listen to uplifting music
  • Walk in nature, especially in forests or woods
  • Train yourself to notice and appreciate the small, beautiful things or moments in everyday life. For example, the sight of a cute baby. These things are your food.
  • End friendships or slowly detach from spending time with people who moan and complain all the time
  • Stop feeling sorry for yourself and take action

Incompetent Communicators

The quality of your life reflects the quality of your communication, and in particular, your speech. When I go out into the real world I am often struck by how poorly people are able to communicate and express themselves. The general standard of speaking I hear around me is low and stunted. I would go further to say that the quality of these people’s lives is low and stunted, as symbolised by their inability to communicate. They are very much used to being incompetent communicators, AND, it seems, have no desire to change that.

Signs of Incompetent Communication

Inability to Listen — I regularly encounter people who have no listening skills. They can’t follow the thread of a conversation. Instead, they talk over people and change the subject. A person who does this is UNABLE to relate to another person because they are incapable of giving others true attention.

Mouth Covering — Some people cover their mouths when they speak. It gives the impression of anxiety and also that they are trying to hide. It also makes them harder to hear, and most people won’t put in the effort to hear them because it requires too much ear-strain.

Only Slang — Slang has its time and place in communication, but people who can only speak slang dialects demonstrate a lack of intelligence. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone giving these people a job.

Mumbling — Mumblers don’t open their mouths much when they speak, therefore the sounds come out unclearly. It gives the impression of being (a) mentally slow or (b) very low in energy.

No English — I used to live abroad in a country where I tried and failed to learn the language. Due to the fact I failed, I went home. If you can’t speak the language and you intend to live somewhere permanently, the quality of your life will be extremely poor, you will be isolated, and you will live totally apart from the culture of the place. People failing to learn the language of the country they move to is extremely common, but yet, so many people stay even if it means that they are mute.

Not making any sense — some people have the appearance of being able to speak, but the content of what they are saying makes no sense. It’s all disconnected and random and is draining to listen to.

The above list features just some of the signs of incompetent communication I regularly encounter in the course of my daily life. For most of these people there is no help possible as they really don’t care about their speaking ability.

Top 10 Reasons People Don’t Like Their Voices

In my work as a speech and voice coach, here are the top 10 reasons people have for not liking the way that their voices sound:

Men Who Don’t Like The Way Their Voices Sound…

  1. Voice not deep enough (sounds too feminine)
  2. Voice lacks gravitas  (sounds unconfident)
  3. Voice not loud enough (sounds unconfident)
  4. Voice is overly nasal (sounds nerdy)
  5. Voice is monotone (sounds boring)

Women Who Don’t Like The Way Their Voices Sound…

  1. Voice is shrill (sounds unpleasant)
  2. Voice is manly (sounds overly deep)
  3. Voice is squeaky (sounds too high pitched)
  4. Voice has mucus (sounds unhealthy)
  5. Voice is damaged by smoking (sounds unhealthy)

For my help improving the way your voice sounds, check out my Best Voice Profile service.

How to Ask Someone Out (Phrases to Use)

Learn 35 useful conversational phrases for making friends or asking someone out on a date. Meeting new people can be awkward, especially if you don’t know the language perfectly. In this lesson, I will teach you what to say when you first meet someone new at a class or activity, what to say when you meet someone by chance, and what to say when you want to get to know someone better and to deepen your relationship. Learn these phrases and you will improve your conversational ability in friendship and dating situations.

Healing Speech and Communication Issues

Some things I have learnt from my own experiences related to speaking and communication as well as working with my clients…

If you are mute you don’t have to be

If you put yourself in a mute situation you are choosing pain

If you created a life of muteness you gave up yourself

If your voice is quiet and unheard you are choosing that

If you can’t express yourself you can start

If you can’t show yourself you can learn

If you can’t breathe you can heal

If people silence you they don’t want to hear you

If people you care about silence you, you don’t need them

If your family don’t hear you, accept them or go where you will be heard

If you’re a lone voice where you are, accept that they won’t and can’t hear you

If you think that most people listen, you’re wrong

If you think none of this matters, I’m not the teacher for you

If you want to learn perfection, that way leads to pain

If you want to be more imperfectly you, I’ll teach you everything I learned

Over Enunciation — How Annoying!

Over enunciation (also over articulation and over pronunciation) is when a speaker puts far too much effort into saying every sound in a word. I give you an example of a speaker who over enunciates, and share with you what it reveals about people who speak this way.