American Accent Training: Learn to Speak Like a Native
Do you want to speak English like an American? Today, learning to speak with an American accent can change your life. In this article, we will provide you with some great tips on how to learn American accent and speak like a native. But first, let’s discuss what the American accent actually is, how it differs from the British accent and what features set the American accent apart.
First, you should keep in mind that the term “American accent” is a gross oversimplification because there are actually many evolving regional American accents. What most people think as the typical “American accent” is the General American accent which is sometimes called Network English or newscaster English. It is spoken by the majority of Americans.
The modern American accent is older than the British accent and it is closer to how the English language used to be spoken than the U.K. accent is. Wondering why it is so?
The American English, as we know and use today, was the accent originally spoken by the first English colonists who established their first permanent settlement in 1607 in what’s now known as the U.S. They brought their native language with them. In 1776, when the USA declared its independence, British and American accents have not yet diverged and the pronunciation was the same in both countries. But in the past two centuries, the standard British accent has undergone a lot of changes while the typical American accent remained practically the same and we can notice only subtle changes.
The primary feature that separates the General American accent from the British accent is that it is rhotic. Americans pronounce “r” sound in all environments, including after vowels, for example, in such words as winter, car and hard while non-rhotic speakers in the U.K. do not.
Other prominent features of the American accent also include:
- Unrounded vowels in such words as rod and lot – they are pronounced as “rahd” and “laht”.
- The ‘short a’ sound becomes diphthongized before the nasal consonants, e.g. man, cat.
- Yod-dropping in such words as suit /sut/, new /nu/
Top Reasons to Learn American Accent
No matter what your native language is or what country you come from, if you speak English with a noticeable foreign accent or even a regional dialect, it will be harder for other people, especially native speakers, to understand you clearly. As a result, your accent can hold you back from being hired or getting a promotion at work. That’s why you need American accent training to minimize an unwanted accent or dialect and learn to speak US English clearly.
If you reduce your accent, improve your pronunciation, and speak fluent American English, it can make a lasting positive impact on all aspects of your everyday day. Here are some of the benefits:
- It can help you advance your career in today’s competitive job market.
- You will be more easily understood by other people and won’t need to repeat yourself.
- You will reduce communication barriers and improve your self-confidence.
- You will improve your oral presentation skills, will be able to speak with clarity and confidence, and deliver powerful speeches and oral presentations.
- A good American accent will help you reduce prejudice with some Americans and meet their criteria for appropriate speech patterns.
- It will help you build trust and credibility because people tend to believe non-native speakers less only because it is harder to understand them.
- It will have a positive impact on your social interactions and you will have more fun socializing with friends and co-workers.
How to Speak American Accent: Tips and Tricks Everyone Should Know
Want to communicate effectively in American English? Need advice on how to speak American accent? Learning to speak with a standard neutral American accent is not easy but you can do it if you work hard on your pronunciation and practice a lot. Here are some useful tips that everyone born outside the USA should follow to sound more like a native speaker.
Speak slower than usual
This tip may sound a bit strange but if you try it, you will see the difference. There are many languages that are spoken at a faster rate than the English language, e.g. Russian, Spanish, Chinese, and Hindi. If you try to speak English with the same speed that these languages are spoken, native speakers may not understand you and you will need to repeat yourself. So you should slow down a little bit when speaking English and make pauses between words a little longer. In this way, your speech will sound clearer.
Speak in phrases, not word by word
When speaking, Americans divide long sentences into phrases which are called thought groups. Try to adapt your speaking pace – speak in short phrases and make brief pauses after each phrase to help other people process what you said. You should emphasize the most important words in your message. Use pitch emphasis on the focus word in each phrase – raise your voice and make a longer sound for the specific word that requires the most attention. When stressing different words in the sentence, you can change its meaning:
- He speaks pretty well.
- He speaks pretty well.
You should also learn the common intonation patterns of spoken American English because we use intonation to display our emotions.
Stress the correct syllable
It’s important to stress the correct syllable in every word because it helps to make your speech sound clearer to other people. You need to articulate vowels in the stressed syllables with extra length and a slight rise in pitch.
- Stress the first part of the compound nouns e.g. laptop, football, parkway
- Stress the second part of the phrasal verb – work out, sign in, come over, log out.
- Stress the second part of the compound verbs – overdue, understand, overdone.
Learn vowel sounds
Every language has a specific set of sounds. Some languages may share common sounds but still, there are subtle differences in their pronunciation which will be very noticeable to native speakers. So you should learn how to pronounce all the sounds in American English.
There are 5 letters for vowel sounds in the English alphabet (a, e, i, o, and u) and these 5 letters make 15 different vowel sounds. You need to learn to pronounce all vowel sounds correctly to speak clear American English. Get familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet. It will help you identify new sounds and give you some markers to navigate the language.
It’s important to learn schwa or the neutral vowel sound that is used for practically all unstressed vowels in American English. The phonetic symbol for this sound is /ə/. Schwa also occurs in many grammar words, for example, in articles, and prepositions. Getting proficient with schwa will help you make your pronunciation more accurate and natural.
Master American R sound
You have to distinguish between L and R sounds that are interchangeable in some languages. American R sound is rather unusual and seems to exist in only a few languages, for example, in Mandarin Chinese. When pronouncing the American R, you must put your tongue in the middle of your mouth and keep your lips a bit rounded.
Use the American T sounds
You might be surprised but native American speakers do not articulate every T. Instead, they use at least three different T sounds – tapped T, silent T, and held T. You must learn to differentiate and to pronounce all these variations. You should use them in your speech to make it sound smoother and more natural.
Understand the importance of contractions
Native American speakers almost always use contractions. Contractions are not slang but grammatically correct combinations of separate words that are shortened to speak faster. In writing, Americans use an apostrophe to replace the missing letters. Here are some examples of contractions:
- cannot = can’t
- will not = won’t
- I am = I’m
Besides, there are a lot of contractions that are widely used in everyday speech:
- want to = wanna
- give me = gimme
- going to = gonna
You should practice contractions and incorporate them in your spoken English as well. You will sound more fluent and native-level.
Focus on mastering these features of the American accent and soon you will notice that you sound more engaging and natural.
Effective Ways to Learn to Speak English Like an American
Now that you know what features of American accent you need to work on, here are some practical recommendations on how to organize accent training lessons on your own. Use them to improve your American accent.
Practice a lot
Keep in mind that training your American accent requires patience and skill and it doesn’t come immediately. That’s why it’s crucial to stay motivated and train frequently. The more you practice and the more feedback you get, the better your American accent will become. Listen to as much as possible native talks online. You should focus on the phonetic aspects of the language and pay attention to stress, rhythm, and intonation.
Use a dictionary
If you are not sure how to pronounce a certain word correctly in American English, check a good dictionary. You can use online audio dictionaries, listen to the correct pronunciation, and imitate it. If you do it regularly, you’ll soon remember how to pronounce a lot of words and will be able to expand your vocabulary.
English idioms and proverbs are an important part of the written and spoken English. If you want to sound fluent and more native, you need to learn common idioms and expressions of American English and use them in your speech, especially in informal settings.
Make a list of words that are challenging to pronounce
A good idea is to make a list of words that confuse you. You should also list the words that have some tricky combinations of sounds or are especially challenging for you to pronounce. Practice pronouncing these words regularly.
Watch free video lessons on YouTube
The best way to learn the flow of English and practice difficult sounds that don’t exist in your native language is to mimic native speakers. You can find a lot of free video lessons on YouTube and expose yourself to the American way of speaking English. Besides, you can subscribe to pronunciation podcasts and listen to them on the go.
Find some interesting stories, poems or articles in English and read them out loud. Pay attention to how you pronounce sounds and analyze the correct intonation while reading. You should try to stress content words – nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs and use the proper intonation pattern to express your emotions.
Training your American accent can be a pleasure if you use this tactic. Choose your favorite song and sing along! You will practice your pronunciation and have fun.
Imitate native pronunciation and record yourself
How can you tell if your practice is working? Use your phone to film yourself speaking English. You will hear how you speak and you will see how you do it. Find a good video clip, choose several sentences, start recording and try to imitate the sounds and the intonations. When comparing the two videos, you will be able to see what you did differently and identify your shortcomings.
Use Accent Hero
If you want to reach significant positive changes in the way you speak, the best thing you can do is to take an online American accent training course at Accent Hero. Here is why:
- You will get 16 hours of free practice spread over 4 weeks that will make you a better speaker.
- You will learn how to pronounce correctly 200 frequently mispronounced English words along with an instant personalized feedback. It will help you understand which of the mistakes you make.
- Register with your Facebook or Google account and improve your pronunciation skills anytime and anywhere.
- Accent reduction is a lot of work but it is possible if you do it with Accent Hero. Start improving your American accent today!