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Mid-Course Review of ETJ English: A Pronunciation Course

Pronunciation seems to be an understatement for the course, ETJ English since it taught me so much about stress, intonation and rhythm.
It supplemented Roger Love's Speaking Pro programme so well.

It is geared towards non-native speakers of English but I believe anyone who seeks to improve their speech can benefit from this course.
Elliott, the instructor, says that he sounds clearer than the typical British person because he has great stress control.

Roger Love's Speaking Pro VS Elliott Gile's ETJ English

Roger Love's Speaking Pro teaches about vocal mechanics.
ETJ English teaches about the linguistic mechanics of English.
Where to stress, how to intonate (teaches you what it means to inflect downwards).
Together with how to pronounce vowels, consonants, diphthongs, etc.

So Speaking Pro helps in developing a better voice and ETJ English helps you apply that voice to English.
Let's illustrate the difference for example when it comes to pitch and intonation: the application of pitch to English.
Speaking Pro will help you develop a voice to go from a lower pitch to a higher pitch.
ETJ English will teach you how to vary your pitch throughout a sentence.

ETJ English is geared towards the British modern received pronunciation accent.
I used to travel to the UK quite often before COVID started so decided to go for it.

Lucio suggested power-aligning with USA as they are still the most powerful country.
So it may be wise to look out for other courses if you would like to work or do business in America.

Syllabus of ETJ English by Elliott Giles

Detailed syllabus here.

  1. Introduction

    • How to send voice recordings to the instructor Elliott Giles over WhatsApp (you get access for a year)
    • Holidays and time-off for the instructor
    • Initial accent evaluation
  2. Stress and Intonation

    • Syllable Stress - Which syllable to stress in words?
    • Sentence Stress - Which words to stress in sentences and how to do that using rhythm?
    • Thought Groups - How to break sentences up into thought groups (phrases) to help the listener pay attention to the different parts of what you want to convey
    • Intonation | The 5 Important Tones - the different types of intonation.
      Lucio has talked about inflecting downwards at the end of sentences.
      Elliott will go through the difference between inflecting at the end of thought groups and at the end of sentences.
      How to convey emotion through intonation?
    • Practice Sentences | Intonation
    • Intonation, Stress & Rhythm Practice (Advanced)
      Final lesson on the nuances of intonation, stress & rhythm
  3. Introduction to Vowels, SCHWA and Stress

  4. (OPTIONAL CHAPTER) How The Mouth Works

  5. Vowels

  6. Diphthongs

  7. Consonants

  8. Consonant Clusters

  9. Connected Speech

  10. Listening Practice

  11. Congratulations

I am far from finishing the course.
The second chapter, stress and intonation, is excellent which was why I decided to break it down as seen above.
The instructor stresses the importance of spending at least 2 weeks on each lesson before going to the next.
Essentially he talks about the importance of practising each aspect until it becomes second nature to your English speaking.
In other words, deliberate practice is critical to becoming better at English pronunciation.

I can personally attest to this.
I practise every day on a single aspect by listening to a podcast of a good English speaker.
You should choose a speaker who is not just speaking proper English but enunciates well, has good rhythm, stress and intonation.

I recite back the words and phrases, recording as I go along with Audacity. (It's a free software)
My AT-2020 microphone can give me real-time feedback about how I actually sound which is great.
But I always listen back to the recording to pick up areas where I need to improve upon.

On top of all that, I send the recordings to the instructor for feedback on WhatsApp.
Really quite smart of the instructor to think of how to give feedback asynchronously in my opinion.
The feedback helps a lot because he can probably pick up on things you cannot.

I improved more in a few months than in a few years of the haphazard practice of speaking with non-focused feedback.
Partly because I didn't practise everyday and didn't plan the practice sessions.

Syllable-Timed Accent VS Stress-Timed Accent

The second Chapter is the most critical in my opinion for those who have syllabus-timed accents rather than stress-timed accents.

I have a syllabus-timed accent.
I think Lucio has a syllabus-timed accent too because Italian is a syllabus-timed language. (correct me if I'm wrong)

In a syllabus-timed accent, we spend the same amount of time on each syllabus.
Whereas, in a stress-timed accent, we spend different amounts of time on syllabuses in words and the words in the sentences.

Stressing the Right Syllabus in Words

I spent quite a bit of time to ensure that I stress the right syllabus in the word.
At least 2 weeks.
So I wrote out a list of words, said each word and recorded what I said.
Then I listened back to make sure I stress the right syllabus and send it over to Elliott to get feedback.

A) Stressing the Right Words in Sentences

Then comes sentence-level stress where you base the rhythm of your speech based around the important words in a sentence.
I used to only play with volume but still spent an equal amount of time on important and unimportant words.
This makes a huge difference in how "clear" your speech will be.

B) Breaking Sentences Up into Thought Groups

Then comes thought groups where you learn how to split up a sentence into phrases.
Each thought group comes with a primary word to be stressed and is demarcated by elongating the stressed syllabus of the last word with a slight, upward inflection.

C) Introducing Colour into your Speech via Intonations

After thought groups, Eliott teaches the 5 different intonations in English.
This adds more colour to your speech while also sounding clearer about where a phrase starts and ends.

Then one final lesson to tie everything up and go through the nuances.

Strangely, the above is more important than precisely pronouncing your consonants and vowels in sounding "clearer".
It will help you transition into the stress-timed manner of speaking English.

Although the other aspects like vowel and consonant pronunciation will take a lot of time as you can see from the structure of the course.
Elliott recommends practising a single vowel sound every day for 2 weeks for it to become second nature.

More Structured & Detailed Review in the Future

I still have plenty to cover in this course given that it takes time to change speech patterns.
I may follow up with a more detailed review in 6 months or a year.

Why This Matters?

English is the dominant language in the world.
Having better control over your speech in English allows you to frame the important parts of your speech better.
You can convey emotions better too.

Good vowel and consonant pronunciation help in clear speech which is often important for sounding persuasive.
Intonation, stress and rhythm are also paramount in clarity.
But they also allow you to communicate more.
We can say that they are the non-verbals of verbals.

Lucio Buffalmano and Sam Wellington have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoSam Wellington

In addition to these courses, The Perfect Voice has some great content on accents and pronunciations:

It might be worth checking out if anyone wants to add to their repertoire. Plus, you can always get a refund later if you decide it's not worth it within 30 days.

Based on Matthew's review above though, ETJ English might give a bigger bang for the buck.

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Matthew Whitewood
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