How Do We Say Halloween?


The topic of Halloween came up with one of my non-native English speaking speaking clients. He asked me why we stress the last part of that word, e.g., "HalloWEEN." It got me thinking.....Halloween was originally called All Hallow's Evening. "Evening" was shortened to "e'en. " So we are actually saying an adjective +noun and should therefore stress the noun, "e'en".

What about other holidays? How do we stress them? Remember, we stress with a higher pitch, louder voice, and longer vowelin the stressed syllable. Let's find some patterns:

Holidays with the word "day" are treated as compound nouns. Stress the first part of the holiday.

             Valentine's Day             Presidents' Day         Memorial Day

             Labor Day                      Flag Day                     Veterans Day

             Election Day                  Columbus Day          Groundhog Day

             Mother's Day                 Father's Day              Independence Day

Note: when we use "day" with multiple words, resort to the adjective + noun or proper noun rule, e.g., St. Patrick's Day, April Fool’s Day.

Exception: New Year's Day

Holidays with "Eve" are adjectives + noun: stress the last part

Christmas Eve                        New Year's Eve

Here are some other holidays that are adjectives + nouns:

Good Friday                           Easter Sunday                   April Fools

Ash Wednesday                     Palm Sunday

There are a few single name holidays:

Easter                                      Christmas                          Thanksgiving

Then, we have holidays that are derived from other languages. Notice, with most 2-3 word holidays, we stress the last part.

Rosh Hashanah                    Yom Kippur                      Cinco de Mayo

Hanukkah /Chanukah        Kwanzaa

What other holidays can you think of? Let us know.

Is it "ate" or "it"?

Our clients who speak English as a Second Language (ESL) and are enrolled in accent modification training are often are perplexed by pronunciation RULES. How do we pronounce “-ate” when it appears at the end of a word?  We've covered this in our RULES student workbook, but let’s look at more examples. The World Dictionary defines the “-ate” suffix in the following manner: For adjectives, it is used to denote the appearance or characteristics of the noun, e.g., fortunate. For nouns, it denotes an office, rank, or group with certain functions, e.g., senate, electorate. These words can also become verbs, e.g., separate, graduate, liberate.

The pronunciation changes according to the part of speech. The same word that can be used as a noun/adjective or a verb, but is stressed or pronounced differently and has a different  meaning, is called a heteronym. Check our video on two and three syllable heteronyms.

For all of the three and four syllable words ending in “-ate,” place the primary stress on the first syllable, regardless of the part of speech. However, for nouns or adjectives, the last syllable is not stressed and it is pronounced as “it.” For verbs, the last syllable has secondary stress and  is pronounced as “ate.”

Some of the words below are heteronyms and will be indicated with an asterisk.*

VERBS – pronounce the last syllable as “ate”

liberate                               equivocate                        corroborate                        integrate

indicate                              interrogate                        appreciate                          hesitate

segregate                           alleviate                              ameliorate                         hibernate

meditate                             terminate                          germinate                         elongate

aggravate                           participate                         concentrate                       communicate

translate                            anticipate                           hyphenate                         relegate

depreciate                         discriminate                       proliferate                        disseminate

dominate*                         conjugate*                         laminate*                          coordinate*

subordinate*                    graduate*                           estimate*                           syndicate*

separate*                           moderate*                         delegate*                            elaborate*


ADJECTIVES OR NOUNS- pronounce the last syllable as “it”

intimate                             fortunate                            inordinate                         electorate

consulate                           passionate                          separate*                           moderate*

indiscriminate                  elaborate*                          coordinate*                       graduate*

estimate*                           syndicate*                          delegate*                           duplicate*

Let us know of some more examples that you found. Check out more RULES in RULES Student Workbook.rules

Contact us to learn how to master the RULES.

Is Silence Golden?

They say that silence is golden. Whether or not that maxim rings true, silent letters can be perplexing to second language learners and can be challenging for their pronunciation. Our clients who attend accent modification/accent reduction classes realize that effective communication involves mastering these idiosyncratic rules. Of course there are many exceptions, but the following are examples of some common words containing letters that should not be pronounced. /b/ is often silent when following /m/ at the end of a word

comb                   tomb                    climb                    thumb                 dumb

/b/ is often silent preceding /t/ in a word

debt                      doubt

/l/ is often silent when followed by /m/

palm                     salmon                 psalm                   calm                     balm

/l/ is often silent when followed by /k/

talk                       walk                     chalk                    yolk                        folk   

/gh/ is often silent

daughter              through                although              dough                   taught

/g/ is often silent when followed by /m/ or /n/

align                     foreign                 resign                   malign                   ensign                 

/w/ is often silent before /r/

written                 wreath                 wrap                     wrought                wrong

/t/ is often silent at the ends of words

ballet                    cabaret                gourmet                  bouquet                buffet   

/k/ is often silent before /n/

knight                  knit                       knife                     kneel                      knot

/p/ is often silent

receipt                 pneumonia          raspberry             psychologist

/st/ can be silent

listen                    whistle                 thistle                   glisten

 /ch/  can be silent


/h/ is silent in the beginning of some words:

honor                   herbal                   honest                  heirs                      honorable

There are many more examples of silent letters in the English language, and exceptions to the “RULES” mentioned above.

Let us know which words you can  find.rulesrulesbythesound

To learn more about pronunciation variations for English consonants and vowels and practice their pronunciation variations,  please see RULES By the Sound.   the RULES by the Sound Pronunciation Platform, and RULES: Rules for Using Linguistic Elements of Speech.

Tips for Teaching When You Have an Accent

One of our clients recently earned her PhD  after many long, hard years of study.  Since she knew she wanted to pursue a career in academia, she took accent modification and presentation skills training to prepare her for her oral dissertation and job interviews. As busy as she was, she devoted as much time as possible to her independent self-study between sessions. She made tremendous progress and was able to secure a faculty position at a university of her choice.

Although she was a “listener-friendly” speaker by this point, she wanted some pointers to maximize her "understandability"  in the classroom setting.

The following are some useful tips if you or your students are in a similar situation:

  1. Acknowledge your accent and give your students “permission” to request a repetition or clarification if they don’t understand something you said.
  2. Make sure you are FACING THE CLASS while speaking. DO NOT talk while writing on the board or looking at the screen!
  3. Speak at a slightly slower rate than normal. This may be difficult if you are nervous, so be sure to PAUSE after important points, and use deep slow breaths to calm you down.
  4. Practice your lecture ALOUD ahead of time. Make a note of any particularly challenging words, and make sure you are using the correct stress pattern.
  5. If you have to use unfamiliar words that are difficult to pronounce, either write them down or provide additional information or context, e.g., “The test will not be cumulative; in other words, the exam will only cover content from the midterm to the final.”

By following these tips, you will enhance the quality of your presentation skills. Let us know if you have any other suggestions.

Accent Modification "Milestones"

Business group portrait

A lot of adults considering accent modification training subscribe to the adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Although it is more difficult to change speech habits after the teen years, with awareness and practice, a successful outcome (sometimes described as listener-friendly speech) is a reasonable, attainable goal. What factors influence individual performance in changing speech behavior?

The following factors must be considered:

• The perceived strength of the accent (vowel and consonant production, intonation patterns, etc.) • Overall English language proficiency • The presence of any cognitive, speech-language or hearing disorders such as dyslexia, ADHD, etc. • Motivation and time devoted to independent practice • Responsiveness to constructive feedback • Current employment situation/responsibilities • Career aspirations • Support network • Insight into communication differences

Clients enrolled in a weekly 12-16 week program typically begin to notice concrete changes at approximately the mid-point of training. At that time, clients may begin to report that they can identify and self-correct speech differences in their own speech. They are also more aware of the speech patterns of others, and report that they are better listeners because they are more tuned in to the subtleties of communication.

At the end of training, clients typically are more consistent with their mainstream sound production, and use intonation patterns that are more in line with native speakers. They often speak more slowly, project their voice more appropriately, and have a greater sense of confidence when speaking to both native and non-native English speakers. They often realize that they no longer have to repeat themselves.

It is important to note that everyone progresses at a different rate, and the end results vary. However, despite the challenging and demanding nature of this type of training, with positive and constructive input, time, and patience, accent training can be a powerful and empowering pursuit.