Author Archives: Miracle

Learn the English Alphabet (Video)

I was recently looking for a slightly more exciting way for one of my young students to learn the English alphabet when I ran across this gem.  Granted, the pronunciation is a little peculiar, as the speaker does not seem to have a true “feel” for the English language.  (The accent seems to be Indian.)


However, this is still a great starter video for your little ones who need to learn the English alphabet while having fun.


We like it because:

  • The music is compelling
  • The images are entertaining
  • It teaches the names of the letters, as well as the way that the letters sound (at least approximately) in words
  • It is short – only 4 minutes long
  • It’s a great starter video


So, if you are having a difficult time getting your young child to pay attention to you as you try to teach them the English alphabet, give this a try.  Simply, push play!


Tags:, , ,

$100 June Winner: Jadson Teixeira

INNOVA (1809)Congratulations to Jadson Teixeira, the winner of Towajo’s $100 June Alpha-Tester Award.

In the month of June, Jadson gave us a plethora of helpful advice for improving the content of our testing material. Congratulations, Jadson.  We appreciate all of your hard work and we look forward to working with you further in the future.  We thank you for your attention to detail and for your on-going dedication to excellence in English pronunciation.

Jadson is a college student from Brazil.  In addition to assisting us with testing for the month of June, he also maintained a job and was enrolled as a full-time student.  He works hard and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

If you, or someone that you know, is interested in becoming involved with Towajo, it is as simple as signing up for our newsletter.  Please visit our website for additional details.

Happy Studying, everyone!

12 Verb Tenses

Did you know that the English language has a total of 12 verb tenses?  How many verb tenses do you use when you speak English?


In our experience, many students only speak English with 3-6 verb tenses.  Being restricted in this way creates a great deal of confusion when the speaker attempts to communicate in English.  Not only is there a different way to translate each verb tense, but there is a specific “feel” for each tense.  There are subtle nuances being relayed in each tense.  So, using verbs incorrectly is not only confusing, but it makes your English “feel” very unnatural.



Many times native speakers will favor being polite over repeatedly correcting a non-native speaker. If native speakers understand what you are saying, most of the time we will not correct you.  This can lead to a false sense of the English language for many students.  Students are not made aware that they are making errors, and they start to think that their English is correct.  This is especially true with English verbs.


When it comes to English verbs, students must learn the correct construction for all 12 tenses.  They also must understand the meaning of each tense; the feeling, the nuances of each tense.  And for more advanced students, they must learn how to use each verb tense with other English components.


Consider the following situation:
QUESTION: I wanted to invite you to dinner.  Why didn’t you answer the phone when I called you earlier?


A common mistake: I went to sleep. / I went to the store. / I went to my friend’s house. (Using the simple past tense followed by a prepositional phrase is incorrect.)


A correct option #1: I was asleep. / I was busy. / I was tired. (Using the simple past tense followed by an adjective is correct.)


A correct option #2: I was sleeping. / I was resting. / I was watching television. / I was reading. (Using the past continuous tense here is a good option.)


A correct option #3: I had had a long day at work and I went to bed early. / I had turned my cell phone off during my meeting and I forgot to turn it back on, afterwards.  (The past perfect tense coupled with the simple past tense also works very well.)


The act of memorizing the 12 verb tenses does not automatically guarantee that the speaker uses those tenses correctly.  And using the tenses correctly does not necessarily mean that the speaker is using the tenses naturally.  We have found that it is necessary for students to repeat the verb constructions numerous times before they form the verb tenses correctly.  And it takes even more repetition before the speaker beings to use the tenses naturally.


Again, consider the following: It is quite common to hear a student attempting to utilize the present continuous tense in the following manner:


Incorrect: I am go to the store.
But, remember that the present continuous tense requires: the verb “to be” + a verb with “ing”


Correct: I am going to the store.


Here are our tips for mastering English verb tenses:

  1. Memorize a single verb tense and its construction.
  2. Learn the meaning that verbs take on when they are conjugated into the specific verb tense.
  3. Understand the nuances in meaning that are implied, or somehow understood by native speakers, with the specific verb tense.
  4. Understand the situations in which the specific verb tense should and should not be used.
  5. Understand the other components (adjectives, adverbs, prepositional phrases, etc.) that often accompany the specific verb tense in order to form sentences naturally in English. Please be aware that there can be a difference between “correct” English and “natural” English.
  6. Once you have a FULL understanding of a single verb tense, move on to the next verb tense.  Make sure you study and research a single verb tense at a time.
  7. Resist the urge to compare and contrast several verb tenses until you have a thorough understanding of each of the verb tenses that you want to compare and contrast.

Recommendations for Business Professionals


This is what happens when you take something that you heard in a movie or a conversation, or that you read in a book, magazine, or even the dictionary, and decide to start using it, without taking the time to truly understand the actual words.


English curse words are appearing on Asian (mainly Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) t-shirts, restaurant menus, street signs, and department stores in droves.


There seems to be some sort of consensus that if one took a few years (or even several years) of English classes that it makes one an authority on the language. This simply is not true. Not only is it not true for English, but it is not true for any language.


Interestingly, these types of inappropriate English words are not just seen on T-shirts. Inappropriate English words can be seen in print advertisements, as signage on university campuses, in business names – and probably most frequently of all, on restaurant menus.


And, from what we have seen, the Asian markets are most susceptible to these types of improper and offensive use of the English language.  Our research on mainstream Chinese, South Korean, and Japanese cultures revealed a very accepting attitude toward many things American.  Mainstream Asian cultures often seem so open to American culture that they accept words and phrases from the English language without question.


We are hoping that this article will help business gatekeepers to be more aware of the manner in which their businesses are being represented.  We are hoping that this article will help compel businesses to be more critical of the English words and phrases that they use to sell their products.


1) Learn the definition of the word/phrase that you wish to use

2) Understand the various contexts in which the word/phrase is used by native speakers

3) Understand when the word/phrase is formal or informal, and whether or not it is appropriate in both situations

4) Understand your target audience

5) Share your idea with native speakers and watch their reactions

6) Share your idea with native speakers and ask them to provide their honest feedback with you

The 5 W’s (and How)

Learning how to use the 5 W’s (Who, What, When, Where, Why) and How is crucial to learning to speak English naturally.


Question: Who is speaking?
Long Answer: Kim is speaking.
Short Answer: Kim is.
Notice the word order: Subject + Verb


Question: Who moved my books?
Long Answer: Kim moved your books.
Short Answer: Kim did.
Notice the word order: Subject + Verb + Object


Question: Who moved my books over there?
Long Answer: Kim moved your books over there.
Short Answer: Kim did.
Notice the word order: Subject + Verb + Object + Additional Information (over there)


Question:  What is that?
Long Answer:  It is a cup. (It’s a cup.)
Long Answer: That is a cup. (That’s a cup.)
Short Answer: A cup.


Question:  What are those?
Long Answer: Those are my car keys.
Short Answer: My car keys.


Question:  When did you graduate?
Long Answer: I graduated two years ago.
Short Answer: Two years ago.


Question:  Where did you buy your bookbag?
Long Answer: I bought it at the mall.
Short Answer: At the mall.


Question:  Why did you buy this house?
Long Answer: I bought it because it is beautiful.
Short Answer: Because it is beautiful.


Question: How was the movie?
Long Answer: It was a lot of fun.
Short Answer: Fun.
(Please note that giving a short answer to a “how” question can be perceived as rude in some circumstances.)

Linking English Words

Muppet-Alphabet-FINAL-2As  part of a natural speech pattern, native English speakers link words.  And we do so in a unique manner. The way that we connect words can seem like madness to non-native speakers.  But, we have a saying in English: “There is a method to our madness!”  In other words, our methodology is not as crazy as it may seem.  So, here is a basic introduction to linking words when speaking English.


CONSONANTS: B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, W, X, Y, Z
(NOTE: Y is a consonant, but sometimes it sounds like the Long E vowel sound)


We connect words when one ends in a consonant and is followed by a word that begins with a vowel. There is no break between these two words, when pronouncing them, in most circumstances. We combine the words as if they were one single word.


Written form: that egg
Correct Pronunciation: 
(Ex: He said thaaa-teeeg looked strange.)
 Incorrect Pronunciation: tha.tuh.e.guh.
(Ex: He sai-duh tha-tuh e-guh look-duh stran-guh.)


We connect words when one ends in a vowel and is followed by a word that begins with a consonant. There is no break between these two words, in most circumstances. We combine the words as if they were one single word.


Written form: see the
Correct Pronunciation:  seee-thuuuh
(Example: Can you seee-thuuuh man?)
 Incorrect Pronunciation: see.thuh.

When a word ends in a consonant and is followed by a word that begins with another consonant, the ending consonant in the first word is cancelled out. The two consonants are melded together as if they were one. There is no break between the two words.


Written form: that the
Correct Pronunciation:  thaaa.thuuuh

(Example: He said that the music was too loud.)

 Incorrect Pronunciation: tha.tuh.the.
(Ex: He sai-duh tha-tuh thuh musi-cuh wa-zuh too lou-duh)

When a word ends in a vowel and is followed by a word that begins with another vowel, the two vowel sounds are connected with a "y" or a "w." This is absolutely essential to keeping a smooth and natural sound when speaking/reading English.


Written form: see an
Correct Pronunciation:  seee-(y)aaan

(Example: I can seee-(y)aaan eagle.)

 Incorrect Pronunciation:


The same rule applies when there are two vowel sounds in two different syllables.

Written form: oasis
Syllable Distribution: o-a-sis
Correct Pronunciation:  o-(w)a-sis

(Example: There is an o-wa-sis in the desert.)

 Incorrect Pronunciation: o.a.sis


Inflections. When connecting two words, inflect (make your voice go up in pitch) on the second word. Your voice inflecting (or going up) is the necessary indicator for the listener that there are two words, and not one.


Remember you are connecting the two words and saying them, as if they were one. Inflecting helps the listener to hear two very distinct words.



that egg: thaaa-teeegg
see the: seee-thuuuh
that the: thaaa-thuuuh
see an: seee-aaan


that egg: tha-tegg
see the: see-thuh
that the: tha-thuh
see an: see-an

But, here is the really important thing that students need to remember before they even attempt to work on the above-listed rules:

The vowels determine the word!  


So, when students mispronounce English vowels, following linking rules does not improve their pronunciation. Linking while pronouncing the WRONG English vowels does not make the speaker easier to understand.  In fact, linking while mispronouncing the WRONG English vowels only results in a great deal of confusion.


Minimal syllables in English consist of a vowel, and possibly a consonant. It is very important that the vowels in each syllable be pronounced correctly.


A common mistake that students make is to use the vowel sounds of their own native language when speaking English. This can result in a great deal of confusion, because in English this can result in the speaker pronouncing a completely different word from what he intended to pronounce. For instance - maybe he says "sheep" instead of "ship," "pet" instead of "pat," or "left" instead of "laughed."

A Word About Articles

To non-native speakers, words like “a,” “an,” and “the” may seem largely insignificant.  However, these words are extremely important in the English language.  They serve two main purposes.  1) They help us to express whether a noun is singular or plural and 2) They give indications as to whether or not the specified noun is one that has been previously identified between the speakers.


Native English speakers “feel” articles.  We do not think about them. For us, articles are an inherent part of many nouns.  Consider the following.  If you ask the same question to a native English speaker and a non-native English speaker, there is a very strong chance that the outcome could be something like this:


What is this?
Native speaker: a watch
Non-native speaker: watch


What is this?
Native speaker: That is a watch.
Non-native speaker: This watch.


When the non-native speaker responds by saying only “watch,” the word automatically feels like a verb rather than a noun.  For instance, “Watch the dog play with his ball.  (He is very funny.)” Using the short word “a” automatically lets the listener know that the speaker is referring to a noun.


For native speakers, the notion of measurement is built into each noun.  We absolutely feel whether or not a noun is singular or plural.  A very young child of about 2 or 3 years of age will already have a feel for the differences between a piece of candy, some candy, and candy (which would be considered incorrect in most contexts.)


And so, by the time that child goes to school at age 5 or 6, he will already have a feel for using articles (a, an, and the) and his sentences, though short, will have already started to feel natural. Articles are not officially taught to native English speakers.  Instead, we are indirectly taught to feel articles with each new noun that we learn.


Native English speakers will go on to learn things like spelling and reading in their first years of school. And non-native English speakers mimic the way we learn.  So, the non-native speakers also go on to learn spelling, reading, and vocabulary in their first years of study.  But, the differences between the two types of language learners will have already begun.


Non-native speakers in these situations will go on to learn to speak English without the foundation of articles.  This leads to numerous problems in grammar and with sentence structure that cannot be detailed briefly in this article.  The problems become compounded until the speaker has developed his/her own way of speaking English.


And because native English speakers understand the non-native speakers, we often times will not correct a learner who makes mistakes.  The longer the speaker uses their individualized version of English, the more it feels natural to them; and the more they grow to accept their individualized version of English as natural.


The speaker goes on to build vocabulary and to memorize more grammatical points, building on a fragmented language foundation. The more advanced the individual’s knowledge of English grammar becomes, the more pronounced the unnatural aspects of the speaker’s language skills become.


Learning articles does not solve all problems for English language learners.  But it does give language learners the foundation that they need to build natural and native-like language skills.  Memorizing English grammar does not, alone, make one a good English speaker.  To truly hone one’s skills, one should begin to develop a “feel” for the language as soon as possible. And for English this means mastering articles.


Memorizing articles is not nearly enough.  If your native language does not use articles, you will need to dedicate yourself to absolutely mastering English articles in order to develop a natural feel with your own English language skills.  To give you an idea of what to expect, our students generally spend about 3 months building their skills in this area. They build other grammar skills, simultaneously. But we have seen the best results when students who are unfamiliar with articles dedicate a minimum of 12 weeks to learning them.

A Warning About English Teachers

This is a Public Service Announcement (PSA).  All persons who claim to be English Teachers are not necessarily good English Teachers.  In fact, many who call themselves English teachers are not even native English speakers and have not learned English well enough to understand the very basics of the language.


Sure.  There will be situations where students want to casually take English lessons with a teacher who is not a native speaker of the language.  In these situations, the student might want to do something like improve their vocabulary skills or prepare for a specific test.  In such instances, an individual with moderate English skills might suffice.  But, this article attempts to serve as a warning to those who are in search of qualified, professional English teachers.


Take a look at the attachment.


Not only is the advertisement full of grammatical errors, but the English is also quite unnatural.  The writing illustrates an extremely low level of English language proficiency.  The author of this ad claims to be a professional English teacher, however he/she seems to have simply memorized some vocabulary words and randomly pulled these words together in what is supposed to be a demonstration of his professional English language services.


But instead of demonstrating English language ability, this person is actually demonstrating a distinct inability to use the English language.


If you are in need of English language instructional services, we recommend locating a native speaker who has experience in the actual language, itself.  And it is even better if the native speaker has experience as an actual instructor.  Otherwise, you could be learning a version of English that is nothing like the version that native English speakers use.


We highly recommend that you choose your next English Teacher wisely.  Good luck!

Answering Questions In English

This is an important topic.


Knowing how to answer questions is a crucial part of communicating in any language.  And yet, many students come to us with extensive vocabulary and advanced knowledge of English grammar, but with very little knowledge of how to use these things effectively when communicating. And so, we find that many of our newer clients have difficulty answering basic questions in English.


Instead of answering questions, they provide excessive information about a topic, but they often will never get around to actually answering the question.  In these instances, the student is often times attempting to demonstrative his ability in the English language.  He is trying to let the other person know “I speak your language – I speak English.”


But in a healthy 2-sided conversation, the objective is normally to participate in a “give and take” of information.  One person speaks, the other person responds.  And many times the person responding is expected to, at least in some way, address the first speaker’s contribution to the conversation.


Healthy 2-sided conversations require participation from both individuals.  So, if you are speaking for the primary purpose of demonstrating your personal knowledge of English, you could be missing out on a great opportunity to connect with other speakers.  Conversations can easily come to an end when one participant feels that his contribution to the conversation is not appreciated by the other party.


And what of formal situations?  In the workplace and on formal exams, a great deal of communication takes place for the purpose of extracting information.  In other words, if you are learning English for educational purposes or for work, you will have to be able to communicate clearly in order to be effective. Simply sharing random details with your boss when he asks you a specific question, will not suffice.  Neither will it be acceptable to ramble on about the knowledge in your head when your professor asks you a specific exam question.  Your boss, or your professor will want you to answer their specific questions.


At the beginning of your English learning journey, communicating in a way that informs the listener that “you speak the language” is wonderful.  Doing so opens the door for friendships, language partners, networking opportunities, opportunities to socialize, and more.  The beginning of your language journey is a great time to practice using anything and everything that you have learned in a conversation.  Whether you answer the question or not is not so important in these stages.  What is most important at these times is that you are communicating.


But, as your journey progresses, it will be beneficial to begin refining your skills.  Knowing how to answer basic questions in English will make you a much more effective English communicator.  And remember that communicating involves listening as well as speaking.  If you want to communicate effectively, especially when it comes to answering questions, you have to be able to address the actual question that is being asked.


To learn more, read our article on The 5 W’s (and How).

Like Driving A Car

When we first learn to drive a car, we are a bit jittery.  Thinking about all of the things that we have to remember, all at the same time, overwhelms us and makes us nervous.  But, over time, we learn to coordinate the individual movements that once seemed so tricky.  We can steer, check the rearview mirror, adjust our speed, change gears, turn on the blinker, and apply the breaks – all subconsciously.


So, even though we are not actively aware of each individual task that we are completing, we are often doing each of them like a professional!


How did we get to this level of driving?  Obviously, with practice.


Learning to speak English sounds clearly is just like learning to drive.  First, you learn to distinguish between the different English sounds.  This is the easy part of the process.  The hard work begins in the next step.  After you are able to confidently distinguish between the different sounds of English, you then must learn how to actually pronounce each of the sounds.


You must learn to coordinate muscle movements in your mouth, throat, tongue, soft palate, and your lips.  You will also likely need to learn to use your air in a different manner.  English vowels are shaped a special way in our mouths.  And our sounds are produced higher inside of our mouths and throats than in many other languages.  Additionally, we connect words and phrases in a unique manner.


So, you see, it is not simply the sounds that help you to speak English more clearly.  There is an overall approach to speaking English sounds that must be learned.  But, take our word for it.  It really is like driving a car.  Once you learn the basics, you become more comfortable with them.  Then, you learn more advanced skills and become comfortable with those.  Over time, you will notice your mastery and your comfort level significantly improving.


And if you have not already done so, taking a moment to listen to some of our students’ progress recordings might be helpful.  Their progress is so significant, that many times people think that they are actually listening to different speakers.


When you approach English through the filter of another language (your native language), everything that you perceive about English is affected by that language (your native language). This is why we prioritize learning as much as possible about other languages.  And because we have gathered information about our students’ experience with language, we are able to use that knowledge to help our students grasp important concepts about English.  In other words, we teach our students English in a way that they can actually learn it.


Remember the Towajo motto: We teach you to speak English clearly, confidently, accurately, and naturally.  Our System guarantees absolute results.


(Thank you, Dmitry Maslov for inspiring this article.  It is always fun exploring with you.)