Idioms to Know to Pass the TOEFL Exam and Improve Your American English Fluency

English idioms and pronunciation for ESL learners and accent reduction

Can’t see the forest for the trees? Read on for more English idioms!

A big part of passing the TOEFL exam is the spoken portion, which is able to help with tremendously. You also need to equip yourself with the knowledge of common phrases in English, not the least of which are common idioms in American English.

Why? Because from time to time, these common sayings in English tend to pop upon the TOEFL exam, in the written or spoken portion of the test, so being able to spot them when reading or listening is key.

Here are five common American English idioms to help you pass the TOEFL exam with flying colors!

Cat’s got your tongue: Suggesting that the reason you are unable to speak or answer a question is because you don’t know what to say.

Used in a sentence:

Why won’t you tell me if you’re dating other people? Cat’s got your tongue?

Easier said than done: This is to suggest that whatever is being proposed is easy to talk about, but harder to accomplish in real terms.

Used in a sentence:

Yes, we could build a replica of the Eiffel Tower for our theme park, but that’s easier said than done.

Right from the horse’s mouth: This means that whatever information is being conveyed is coming directly from the primary source.

Used in a sentence:

We’re all getting raises after Thanksgiving, Jerry heard it from the CEO, right from the horse’s mouth!

Can’t see the forest for the trees: To be so caught up in what’s going on right in front of you that you miss the overall purpose or goal at hand.

Used in a sentence:

Julia is so in love with her engagement ring she can’t see the forest for the trees—doesn’t she realize her fiance spent every dime he had on it? What about saving for the future?

Gone to the dogs: When a project or effort has gone so wayward that there’s no saving it.

Used in a sentence:

The Henderson account has gone to the dogs—we won’t even be able to salvage their inventory because of the fire.

Learning English Pronunciation from a Trained Speech Pathologist Vs. Learning English Pronunciation from Free Software and ESL Apps

free language apps pronunciation help for ESL learners

Is there a quality learning app for pronunciation? Not one that can replace a human speech pathology coach!

It’s a fast paced world today, and everything imaginable is popping up in the form of an app. These software applications people can use on their phones, tablets, and other handheld devices allow awesome flexibility and ease of use. But what do they offer in terms of actual value, especially apps for learning and educating? Is there a place in the world of speech therapy, pronunciation, or accent reduction for apps and learning software?

The jury is still out on apps for teaching and free software for learning anything, but the camps are already well formed. While many people say they couldn’t live without their apps, others strongly suggest there’s no replacement for a proper classroom environment or live instruction.

There are apps for language instruction, but none that have been properly vetted by any education or learning institution. And while it may be true that an app can give you great directions, help you track weight loss, or tell you where the nearest Italian restaurant is, it’s yet to be seen how well educational apps are for long term learning of completely new material comes in.

Learning how to reduce your accent in English with an app is surely not a match for online accent reduction classes taught by a speech pathologist who offers one-on-one teaching time to ESL students.

Tell us what you think—have you had an experience with a learning app? Did you feel a free pronunciation app helped you with reducing your accent or improving your English fluency?

American English Pronunciation: Devious Maids Character Gets a Reality Check About Her Latina Accent

reduce accent in English with Pronunciation Pro Carmen Luna Devious Maids

Carmen Luna has an accent. What can this Devious Maid do about it?

In the new smash hit on the Lifetime Network, Devious Maids, this past week’s episode featured a common dilemma among Latinos: the importance of reducing your accent to be taken seriously in a celebrity role.

The character, Carmen Luna, played by Roselyn Sánchez, plays a maid in the home of a Latino singing sensation and superstar, Alejandro Rubio, played by Matt Cedeño. Her dream is to leave the world of housekeeping to pursue her passion, singing and songwriting.

In speaking with a music producer who promises her a world of success in the music industry, he notes her Puerto Rican accent, stating that the American audience that listens to today’s pop music will quickly dismiss her unless she works to reduce her foreign accent in English. The music producer, Latino himself, does admit the irony that he himself has a strong Hispanic accent, but tells Carmen that today’s pop demographic is looking for a new JLo, not a new nobody who they can’t understand—additionally, they won’t be interested in her Spanish language music until she becomes popular, at which point the Latino demographic will be interested in a Spanish album geared toward them.

Sadly, in a following scene, Carmen is seen trying to repeat a weather forecaster on television, pausing the newscast to take the time to repeat what he said in her best attempt at an American accent. While you have to applaud her effort, this method of learning to pronounce American English will not likely garner the results she wants—without access to the tools of accent reduction from a professional speech therapist, it’s very difficult to successfully learn how to speak English like an American just by observation alone.

We wish Carmen had access to something like Online accent reduction courses like this offer day-by-day accent reducing exercises, mp3 recordings, and online pronunciation videos that have shown time and time again that they create guaranteed results in English fluency and pronunciation.

DREAMers, Deported Immigrants, the Dream Act, and Educating Foreigners for Success

accent reduction center speak english like an American immigration reformThe desparity between the advantages native-born Americans and naturalized citizens is no secret, and it’s also no secret that those who are here without papers are even further disadvantaged, especially when it comes to education, wages, and the ability to climb career ladders.

But that’s changing. Perhaps much like the March on Selma, the segregation battle, and the bravery of Rosa Parks, people on both sides of the literal and figurative fences are rising up, taking to the streets, and making it known that they want immigration reform. They want it for their friends, for their family, for their coworkers, and for themselves.

According to Ted Hesson of ABCNews, “The Senate bill would allow previously deported spouses, children and parents of permanent residents and citizens to apply for a provisional immigration status. The same would go for some young immigrants, aka DREAMers, who lived in the U.S. but have since been removed or voluntarily left the country.”

With this kind of thought and fire behind the movement, it won’t much matter what the House of Representatives does with their upcoming vote—eventually, immigration and how we look at immigration, immigrants, and the inalienable right to education for everyone in the US. What’s most important now is what immigrants will do with their legal right to be in the US once they have it. And one of the most powerful ways they can leverage their freedom to stay here is to educate themselves, work on fluency in English, and perfect an accent in English while working to reduce a foreign accent in spoken English.

Being able to speak English like an American is every bit as important as any degree an immigrant from anywhere can hold. Improving English pronunciation is the key to unlocking all other forms of potential for immigrants.

For those ready to continue moving forward even in the face of those who will try to back peddle the immigration movement, being able to be heard is tantamount to every effort in this fight and in the successful days to come thereafter.

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Accent Reduction Classes at Indian Call Centers Now Part of “Everyday” Training

learn to speak English like an American with Pronunciation ProMany have struggled with English pronunciation from a call center employee, and likewise, many call center employees in India and other countries have struggled to understand varying dialects of English, from Texan to Californian, New Englander to New Yorker, and many, many more.

But the fundamental error in thinking among native English speakers who have interacted with Indian call center employees is that because their English pronunciation is not good, this means that they don’t know or understand English. Quite to the contrary, mostIndians who speak English as a second language speak with excellent grammar, and often with an extensive vocabulary. The issues they face are primarily a thick Indian accent, and challenges with American English pronunciation.

To this end, many call centers in India have started to make English pronunciation classes part of their basic training for call center employees. In this way, a lot less time on phones is wasted, more customers can be dealt with in a more timely fashion, and more work gets done in less time. It’s an issue of efficiency as much as it is an issue of communication.

According to a recent CanIndia article, “Accent reduction is the need of the hour.” Author Prapid Rodrigues writes on, “foreign-born professionals working at blue chip companies voluntarily sign up for such [pronunciation] classes. It is seen as a way to move up the corporate and social ladder. Accent reduction is actually a misnomer, because it means learning an accent.”

In other words, for those Indians trying to improve an accent in English, many working even within very limited budgets are still doing what they can and must do to reduce Indian accent in English and create more intelligible spoken English—not just to get a call center job, but with the aim of learning how to speak English like an American in order to one day leave the call center behind.

In Mumbai, getting a call center job is an accomplishment, and can be worth a lot when pitted against the alternatives worth far less income. But when an Indian native has done accent reduction training, if he or she does ever end up in the US, Canada, or the UK, the odds at landing a job are much better, and the odds of landing a higher paying job are also much better.

How to Speak English without an Accent: Phonetic Differences Between Chinese and English

English pronunciation for Chinese peopleWhile it is true that more than one-third of all Chinese speakers use the Mandarin dialect, it is also true that there are many other dialects of Chinese, including Cantonese, Wu, and Taiwanese. The differences in these dialects can mean a difference in the various challenges when it comes to learning how to pronounce English correctly and with confidence.

With that said, there are many essential commonalities that make English pronunciation for Chinese people difficult at times. For example, Chinese has far less vowel sounds than American English, and can therefore present an issue when it comes to phonetics and speech patterns that are common in English, and not so common in Chinese.

One of the most fundamental and interesting differences between Chinese and English is that in Chinese dialects, changes in tone and pitch can completely alter the meaning of a word that is otherwise pronounced exactly the same. Now try and imagine this in English. For example, no matter how loudly or quietly, and no matter what octave your voice is in, if you say the word “dog” in English, it means the same (unless you’re speaking in terms of contextual differences like slang) thing—a furry, four-legged mammal prone to chewing bones and chasing cats. In Chinese, the slightest change of tone can be the difference between polite conversation and salty language.

These issues and differences between Chinese and English can make even the most well educated Chinese professional or student sound like they do not speak English. It is often incorrectly assumed by many Americans that pronunciation is the same as fluency or comprehension, and this is simply not true. But for those whose English pronunciation is a problem, a thick accent can deter work associated and defer promotions and other opportunities.

Being able to be understood is the most important part of speaking any language, and that’s why Pronunciation Pro focuses on listening to each English language learner as an individual to determine what his or her unique challenges with English speaking are.

How to Improve Your English Pronunciation Skills

English pronunciation practice and accent reduction classes onlineKnowing how to speak English clearly and confidently is the key that unlocks your potential in every arena of your life. Everyone wants to be able to speak English like an American, but English pronunciation is usually a challenge for ESL learners. For many foreign-born professionals and students, English pronunciation is not on par with their American counterparts, even though they are well-versed in using advanced terminology specific to very niched industries and professions.

Many non-native English speakers can use words and language structure in a manner that is comprehendible  to most, but the issues begin to arise with English intonation and rhythm, which are essential to excellent English pronunciation.

When people can understand you more readily, they won’t have to struggle asking you to repeat yourself, and you won’t have to struggle or feel embarrassed that your pronunciation is holding you back in a crowd or during a presentation. In the most honest terms, people will be more willing to listen to you if they don’t have to work so hard to understand you.

So how do you speak English clearly and confidently? One thing we know is that trying to teach pronunciation to yourself does not work. New evidence also suggests that free apps to learn pronunciation are not effective. There is something to be said for learning English from native speakers around you, but without the specific practices and exercises to improve English pronunciation offered by a well rounded accent reduction program that is managed by a professional speech pathologist, your efforts would only be half of what your potential in English really is.

A professional speech pathologist sounds expensive, but it’s not! With, you’ll get access to a live accent reduction coach who is a native English speaker, and who, yes, is a certified speech pathologist. All for less than $20 a month!


English Pronunciation and Accent Reduction: What We Can Learn From My Fair Lady!

improve your American English accent with pronunciation pro My Fair LadyThere’s a lot to be learned about English pronunciation and accent reduction from the fair lady, Eliza Doolittle, and her accent reduction coach Professor Henry Higgins.

As the story goes, Higgins makes a bet with his buddy, Colonel Pickering that he can turn the unwitting street urchin, Eliza, into a high society socialite in a mere six months time. He works tirelessly with Eliza to reduce her cockney accent to make her sound like a proper lady of the times, and in the end, he is a smash success, and wins his bet with Pickering.

At, speech pathologist and accent reduction coach Annie Ruden offers to non-native English speakers the same kind of English pronunciation help—but Ruden gets it done in HALF the time it took Henry Higgins!

How is this possible? How can you begin to speak English like an American in just 12 weeks? Well, our old friend Higgins and his protegé Eliza didn’t have access to the Internet, and they surely weren’t able to interface using MP3 recordings, live webinar training, and live feedback from a certified American English trainer based on unique recordings from each student. Perhaps if Higgins had this kind of access, he would have taken up English pronunciation training as his full-time job!

But the essentials of Professor Higgins’ approach is not unlike what Pronunciation Pro uses today: the use of intonation training, working on the rhythm of spoken English, phonetics, and other accent reduction exercises are what made Professor Higgins successful, and this is exactly the framework that Pronunciation Pro uses as well—but with the added benefit of taking less time, working at your own pace on your free time, and at an unbeatable price that begins with a 7-day free trial.

Interested in reducing your accent in spoken English? Check out’s $19 monthly subscription and read through the FAQs and testimonials to see how you too can enjoy the benefits of a 50-75% reduction in your foreign accent in English. It’s simple, builds confidence, and you’ll do it in half the time Eliza Doolittle did!

How to Pass the TOEFL Exam: Prepare for the Spoken TOEFL Test

pass the TOEFL spoken English test PronunciationProFor foreign students in the US, the TOEFL iBT test is an important step towards job placement and advancement. The test is administered as at sit-down exam, or via Internet, and measures ability to use and understand English at the university level, and evaluates how well you combine listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills.

Over 27 million people have taken the TOEFL exam, including students planning to study at a higher education institution, scholarship and certification candidates, and students and workers applying for visas. Known as “The Test of English as a Foreign Language,” TOEFL was developed by the ETS that many colleges and universities in the US require ESL students to take. These people must have a passing TOEFL score before they can apply to programs.

Designed for advanced learners who are ready to prove they have the ability to live, study, or work in an English-speaking environment, knowing how to pass the TOEFL exam is important for many—and preparation is key to success.

To pass, applicants must pass the speaking portion of TOEFL, which accounts for a fourth of the total grade. There are six speaking questions: two about familiar topics, and four based on short readings and conversations. After hearing a question, individuals must provide a response, and are evaluated on delivery, language use, and topic development. Many who take the exam find the speaking portion to be challenging.

In order to score well on TOEFL speaking section, English pronunciation is important, but unfortunately, many are not aware their accents can hinder results on the exam.

With a mandatory two-month waiting period between exams, many college hopefuls only have a few opportunities to pass the TOEFL before their desired application date. Considering the $160 to $250 testing fee per exam, passing the first time is ideal.

For those who want to prepare for the TOEFL exam, English pronunciation and accent reduction courses online can help their ability to speak English clearly and have a better chance at passing. offers help online in a 12-week program that is tailored to your schedule and budget to enhance confidence while speaking English. Providing a free trial and a basic version that costs less than the price of one TOEFL exam, there are a variety of options complete with online trainings with affordable ASHA certified Speech Pathologists.

Speaking English clearly is important for the TOEFL test, for participating in classroom settings, and for job placement. Preparing before the exam with an English pronunciation expert is beneficial and can help relieve stress before the TOEFL exam. Prepare for the exam in a way that will yield results, by signing up for Pronunciation Pro.

Could a Good American Accent Mean More Success? New Study Draws Interesting Conclusions

In a new study published in the latest journal of Evolution and Human Behaviour, individuals with clear, English deep-voices are more likely to achieve higher positions within a company, make $187,000 a year more than those with higher or stronger non-English accents, and they were found to have held their positions for longer than their non-native associates. So, it turns out it’s not what you say, but how you say it.

The research, led by professor William Mayew of Duke’s University’s business school, found that despite nationality, there was a strong reoccurrence of English pronunciation being a significant factor in how an individual’s authority and respect is decided upon by others. Judging others based on their accents is often done subconsciously, and given that the corporate world is so full of examples of deep voices and refined tones, that we don’t notice anything out of place until we hear it. Prime Minister Julia Gillard for example, has faced significant ridicule for her pronunciation, tone and accent. After a tour in America where school children asked her if locals speak English is Australia, she decided to undergo English pronunciation courses, which unsurprisingly to the study, her approval ratings rose significantly.

Professionals with English is a second language are beginning to take pronunciation courses online in hopes of being taken more seriously within their career. In a survey by Personnel Today, 84% of respondents trusted a statement when it was spoken in an American accent, yet only 11% believed the statement if it was spoken in a Scouse accent. Studies have continuously found similar findings that all end with the same conclusions of English accents have the most likely chance of being seen as responsible, professional, and worthy of higher positions.

While qualification should be based on factors that have nothing to do with pronunciation, given that it makes such a large impact on others subconsciously, it can be rewarding to business individuals who choose to work on this aspect of their professional career.