Mastery of Speech (1919)

My daughter was recently given a series of 8 books with the title Mastery of Speech, written by Frederick Law and published in New York in 1919.

It is described as: A course in Eight Parts on General Speech, Business Talking and Public Speaking, What to Say and How to Say It under All Conditions.

The titles of the eight books are:

  • Book One: How to Speak Correctly and Pleasingly
  • Book Two: How to Use Words Correctly
  • Book Three: How to Speak Well Under All Ordinary Conditions
  • Book Four: How to Speak in Daily Business Life
  • Book Five: How to Speak under Trying Conditions
  • Book Six: How to Speak In Private Life and in Public Places
  • Book Seven: How to Speak on Public Occasions
  • Book Eight: How to Find Material for Talking and Speaking

Book 4 might be useful in ESP business contexts! Books 5, 6 & 8 might be useful in EAP situations!

Here is what it says about the author and an example from Book One: How to conquer foreign accent.

Introducing the Author

The publication of a course in Mastery of Speech is an important step in the broad program of the publishers for national and individual efficiency, for self-improvement and for specific education in the things that will make people more useful, more successful and more prosperous.

Never before in history have the opportunities for service and for achievement been so great. Never before has the need of self-improvement been so urgent.

It is a privilege to present this course of instruction prepared by a man well fitted to show men and women how to speak correctly and pleasingly; how to use words properly; how to speak well under ordinary or under trying conditions in private life or in business life; how to find, and use effectively, the right material for talking and speaking.

Dr. Frederick Houk Law, the author of Mastery of Speech, gives in his fascinating course of eight lessons, the secret of gaining an ability which, if you had the choice of only one gift for your boy or girl, you would probably choose above money, or power, or luxury, or any other desirable possession – namely, the ready ability to be a good talker at all times and under every conceivable condition.

Dr. Law comes from pioneer American stock. His ancestors were among the Dutch settlers of New York. His great-grandfather served under Washington in the War of the Revolution, and suffered at Valley Forge. His father fought with the Union Army in the Civil War. Among his relatives he numbers Stonewall Jackson, one of the greatest generals of the Confederate Army.

Dr. Law was a student at Oxford Academy, Amherst College, Columbia University, Teachers College, Brown University and New York University.

He won the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Philosophy.

He was the winner of the Oxford Mygatt Medal for excellence in writing and public speaking.

He has appeared on the public lecture platform in many states.

He was a member of a legislative committee for the protection of children.

He has taught in two colleges and in one great university.

For twenty-one years he has been Head of the Department of English in them Stuyvesant High School of New York City, a school that includes over five thousand boys.

He has been newspaper reporter, correspondent, periodical editor, and writer of syndicated articles published throughout the United States.

Dr. Law has traveled throughout the United States; among the miners in the Yukon and the Eskimaux in Labrador; has visited Europe many times; been throughout South America; explored South Sea islands; traveled in New Zealand and Australia, Manchuria, China, Korea and Japan; journeyed in Asia Minor and Africa; and been into the ice of the Arctic Regions beyond 81 degrees.

He has written novels, poems, short stories, biographies, works of history, and many newspaper and magazine articles. He is author or editor of twelve widely used school books, as well as author of three important works for self-education in English.

So much for the man who brings you this secret of good talking, correct talking, effective talking, successful talking.

Do you not think that Dr. Law is worth your closer acquaintance?

When you have come to know him more intimately – in these remarkable lessons, which are unique because they are utterly different from any other lessons that are put before the public – you will understand why he has been urged to pass on to you the benefits of his rich experience.


How to Conquer Foreign Accent


If you have been accustomed to speaking a foreign language it is probable that there are certain English sounds that you do not speak properly.

You may think that it is too great a task ever to succeed in giving the proper sounds. Many people go through life speaking a foreign accent. They even transmit foreign accent to their children, born in the United States.

You wish your speech to be free front all accent. You may easily bring this about.

In the first place, your fault is not as great as you think it, no matter how bad an accent you have.

It is certain that there are a very few sounds that you do not pronounce well. It is an easy thing to find what these few troublesome sounds are, and to apply the remedy.

Very often it is saying v for w, or w for v. Sometimes it is saying d for t, or t for d, or t for th. Sometimes it consists in saying -ink for -ing.

Sometimes it is the use of long vowel sounds for short vowel sounds, and of short vowel sounds for long sounds.

These, at least, are the danger points.

Go back to the table of sounds and test yourself on these danger points. Practise until you are perfect.

Be very sensitive about having a foreign accent.

Read examples of dialect given with comic pictures, and resolve that you, at least, will never make the particular errors mentioned as characteristic of your native race.

Ten General Rules for Conquering a Foreign Accent

  1. Breathe deeply.
  2. Open the mouth fully.
  3. Avoid nasality of tone.
  4. Avoid harshness.
  5. Avoid guttural tones.
  6. Avoid too great emphasis.
  7. Speak in a natural and easy manner.
  8. Do your best to imitate those who speak correctly.
  9. Study the dictionary carefully.
  10. Ask your friends who speak correctly to aid you in pronunciation.

Here are some common errors that you should avoid;

  • ah for er – weathah for weather.
  • b for p – cub for cup.
  • p for b – rip for rib.
  • t for c – tane for cane.
  • Omitting d – hundreth for hundredth.
  • Omitting f – fith for fifth.
  • Omitting double sound of g – Eng-lish for Eng(g)lish.
  • Omitting h – wat fol. what, ide for hide.
  • k for g – kink for king, Engklish for English.
  • Adding a second g – bring-g for bring.
  • Omitting g – goin for going.
  • w for r – twy for try.
  • Rolling the r – r-r-road for road.
  • sr for shr – srewd for shrewd.
  • sss for s – wasss for was.
  • d for t – liddle for little.
  • d for th – dat for that, wid for with.
  • f for v – fote for vote.
  • v for w – vidow for widow, vind for wind, veil for well.

Now read aloud the last words in the lines just given, giving full and proper sounds to every word.

In order to learn how to avoid common errors in uttering vowel sounds say the following words aloud. Be sure to pronounce the words in the first column very differently from the opposite words in the second column.

(a) paid pet
sail sell
laden leaden
paint pent
waist west
(aw) caught cot
dawn don
gnawed nod
pawned pond
sought sot
(ah) cart cat
lard lad
hark hack
parch patch
barge badge
(ee) leap lip
deem dim
lead lid
peal pill
cheek chick
(e) jem jam
met mat
led lad
men man
shell shall
(i) nigh now
mice mouse
high how
rind round
rice rouse
(ō) core caw
floor flaw
pour paw
roar raw
sore saw
(ŭ) pup Pope
rub robe
sup soap
but boat
mud mode
(u) full fool
pull pool
would wooed
spun spoon

How to Free Yourself From a Russian-Jewish Dialect

  1. Avoid all guttural tones.
  2. Avoid nasality.
  3. Avoid giving an increasing inflection at the end of a group of words, and at the end of a sentence.
  4. Avoid undue emphasis.
  5. Avoid the use of the present tense for the past. (“He goes home” for “He went home.”)
  6. Avoid prolonging s sounds, isss for is, wasss for was.
  7. Avoid shortening vowels. Men for man, meneger for manager, meple for maple, send for sand.
  8. Avoid using final k for final g, kink for king.
  9. Avoid using v for w, woman for woman, vent for went.
  10. Avoid using w for v, wice for vice, wanity fat vanity.
  11. Avoid using d for th, dink for think, dose for those, wid for with.
  12. Avoid using p for b, pand for band.

How to Free Yourself from Other Dialect

1 Follow the suggestions given above.
2 If you are accustomed to speak Spanish or Italian, be sure to sound every syllable in every English word.

  1. Avoid using long vowels for short vowels – heet for hit, seet for sit, peen for pin.
  2. Avoid beginning words with h, when no such sound is indicated by the spelling pout for out, hove for over.
  3. Avoid adding a final “ah” – makah for make.
  4. Avoid omitting syllables – mon for money.
3 If you have spoken German be particularly careful, in addition to tho suggestions given above, along the following lines:

  1. Do not add the sound of sh – shtay for stay, shtop for stop.
  2. Do not use z for s – zend for send.
  3. Do not open the mouth as much as in speaking German.
  4. Use the tongue much more in English than in German.
  5. Avoid broad vowel sounds – mahn for man.


  1. Read the following aloud, being very careful to say the v and w sounds differently:
    Vain and weak, with vision worn by vice, the would-be vanquisher of the world was voiceless before the violence of the women.
  2. Read the following aloud, being very careful to say the d and the t sounds differently:
    Thomas told the dainty Duchess to turn towards the tower.
  3. Read the following aloud, being very careful to say the th and the t sounds differently :I think that there are thirty-two teachers, all told.
  4. Read the following aloud, being very careful to use short vowel sounds:
    Will Henry come in and sit with us a little while this afternoon?

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