October 2013

Accent and Comprehensibility are Apples and Oranges

Every once in a while you experience a flash of insight that is so clear and so bright it is like being struck by lightning. It’s haunting. I had one of those brilliant flashes earlier this year at the TESL Ontario conference in Toronto I did a talk about it.

I know that details don’t help people learn language. I also know applied linguistics (and grammar) are onerous piles of details. But I didn’t know how to prove to investors that accents (individual sounds) and intelligibility were  not only separate fields – which is exciting enough but that one of these fields is critical for students and the other doesn’t matter at all. Unfortunately, current pronunciation programs, texts and curricula are devoted to the field that doesn’t matter. Collaborating with McMaster University demanded that we create a test and some empirical evidence to back up our radical claims.

McMaster University logo


We developed an accent test then had ESL students from 18 different language backgrounds complete the test. The results were astonishing, simple, irrefutable and conclusive.

Look forward to the release of our app that distinguishes accent from intelligibility and slashes learning times.

Until next time,

Teacher Judy

English is Stupid, Students are Not (PDF)

Spelling in English is crazy! No one can speak English from reading it. English is Stupid, Students are Not teaches ESL learners to speak English using the patterns of language, independently of spelling. Employment, education and bold self-expression can belong to those who learn how English conversation works from the pages of this comprehensive speaking guide.

Click here for more information about the book and how it can help you.

English Phonetic Alphabet Workbook (PDF)

The ENGLISH PHONETIC ALPHABET WORKBOOK is a comprehensive collection of ESL exercises that instill the 40 sound building-blocks of spoken English. It includes over one hundred pages of practice for the Thompson Vowel Chart that pairs vowel sounds with the names of common colors. A special Language Index on page 215 directs language groups to customized sound support.

The EPA Workbook is a Companion to Chapter 1 of English is Stupid Students are Not.

GRASS IS BLACK, Pronunciation Dictionary (PDF)

The world’s first dictionary by sound also includes thousands of English expressions cataloged by their main words.  English spelling doesn’t make sense. GRASS IS BLACK organizes the 2,000 most common words in English by main vowel sound. Learners can finally look up spelling from the words they hear!

SUPER BONUS FEATURE: Full circle EIS - GIBThe idiomatic use of words are also found in each entry. Spelling and Expressions together in one book. It’s brilliant and so simple it’s amazing no one thought of it before.

(The founding concept, the Thompson Vowel Chart is a free download and how to use main vowel sounds by color is laid out in English is Stupid, Students are Not.)

Free Collaborative Wiki and a Facebook Group Just For You

What does ‘wiki’ mean to you? It didn’t mean a thing to me. I had some sense that it was information and it was free because of Wikipedia and both those assumptions turned out to be correct.

An ESL teacher asked me for tips on how to use the English Phonetic Alphabet in a Literacy Class? Learners don’t need much to use EPA effectively but they do need to know how to hold a pen, their ABC’s and the names of colors in English for it to work for them.

Teachers send me wonderful letters all the time describing in great detail how they use EPA for all their students including literacy. Wouldn’t it be great if the teachers could talk to each other and share ideas in their own space without having to go through me? A fellow Radical teacher from Portugal said to me, “You need to make the teachers a wiki?” I knew she was right I just wasn’t sure what she said.

Teresa Presenting EPA at the Lisbon TESL Conference in April, 2013

Teresa Presenting EPA at the Lisbon TESL Conference in April, 2013

Teresa Almeida d’Eca from Lisbon skyped me through the process and in no time we created for you

www.englishphoneticalphabet.pbworks.com .

When you visit the site you can see all the lessons and information assembled there. To collaborate on the site (download and upload materials for free) you join the wiki. To join click Request Access in the right sidebar, fill in your email address and create a password for the site and you are notified of your acceptance by email.

I’m closing in on my 60th birthday and my small self thought I could retire without having to learn any more technology! Wrong. Although I am scared of technology and I am not good at technology, wikis turned out to be easy enough for even this old grandma.

If wiki doesn’t mean anything at all to you – we also started the Thompson Language Center Facebook Group to the same end. Uniting English Phonetic Alphabet, English is Stupid, Students are Not and Speaking Made Simple users in ideas and discussion. Please Join Us

Many thanks to my awesome Radical mentors in these awesome projects.

Until next time,

Teacher Judy


ATESL Calgary, November 1 “Pronunciation at a Glance”

I was excited to present and exhibit at the ATESL Conference! November 1 & 2, 2013

Pronunciation at a Glance is the workshop that introduces ESL teachers to a revolutionary Speaking methodology. The program has been warmly received and is widely used in Ontario and Quebec. I enjoyed bringing this exciting system to the West for ESL teachers and students.

ATESL 2013 logo

SAIT Polytechnic