Some American-English sounds are challenging for speakers who don’t call English their first language. Do you want to know why? Did you ever wonder why it’s so hard to use an American accent when using English as a 2nd or 3rd language?
Because each of English’s 26 letters doesn’t represent only 1 sound in Standard American English.
Let me explain: Take the vowels, for instance. There are 5 vowel letters in the English language. A E I O U. Does each represent a single sound? Heaven’s no!
Guess what? There are 16 vowel sounds in American English! All are represented by only 5 vowels. No wonder it’s the hardest language to learn to pronounce!
Watch Ita Olsen in this video: 3 Amazing Tips to Sounding Smooth in Standard American English
Pronunciation Pitfalls in the American Accent
There are a few sounds that can be a great hindrance or a great asset to your getting your message across. They are below.
Once you master them you’re well on your way to sounding Standard American English, feeling comfortable communicating in all situations, and not having people follow up with, “Where are you from?“
The following are the top pronunciation pitfalls & their solutions.
American Accent--The Flap Sound
This sound is made by lightly & quickly touching your tongue tip to the alveolar ridge (bumpy spot on the roof of your mouth behind your teeth)
When do we make the flap sound? A lot! Whenever a t, tt, d, dd comes between 2 vowels in running speech! For example butter, ladder later, etc.
And not just within a word, but between words.
When you see the D (We’ll use the D to represent the flap sound, ok?) make sure you’re moving your tongue quickly & lightly over the alveolar ridge.
An Introduction to Accent Reduction
This brief introduction will get you started on the road to speaking Standard American English.
Try this aloud:
- butter –> buDer
- Robert is using the computer –> RoberDis using the compuDer
- I have to go to the store–> ihavedagodath’store
Say what?! Americans are crazy! Yup it’s that crazy. We use a flap for most Ts.
Very different from that popping Ts all over the place like everyone else is teaching you.
Look for the terms & phrases in your own life where you need to use the flap sound and start practicing. It’s fun!
How to Remember Names & What to Do When You Don’t
American Accent--The Doctor Sound
This is the sound the doctor asks you to make to see your throat. It’s an American favorite. You’ll find it peppered throughout the language, often in disguise!
Look at the word “doctor.” There are two letter “o”s. Are they pronounced the same?
Heyl no! The first “o” is pronounced like the “ah” the doctor wants you to say. They choose that sound because it causes your tongue to go down in your mouth really low, thereby giving them a good view of your throat. If they ask you to say the “oo” sound, your tongue will be in the way & they won’t be able to see your throat! 🙂
Let’s try these:
- common –> kaamin
- marketing –> maaerkiDing (it’s got the doctor sound & the flap sound!)
- Tom –> Taam
Check out this video: Diction isn’t Your Friend
American Accent--the ER Sound
Another American favorite.
Contrary to what you may have been told, this sound is not made by pursing your lips. You have to curl your tongue back inside your mouth.
The resonance must occur inside your mouth.
But please remember that many “er” sounds are not emphasized in English as much as others. For example, in “mother”, “father” and “brother” the “er” sound should be very short & quiet. Only when the “er” is in a syllable of primary emphasis as in “work” or the first “er” of “burger.”
9 Secret Steps to Influencing Others
Want to be more influential? We all want to communicate our most important messages in a way that encourages others to take action. Whether that action is voting for our candidate or picking up milk from the store, the words we use and how we speak play a huge role in getting the job done.
Apply the American Accent to Your Life
You’ll want to practice my examples, then you’ll want to get these sounds into your life.
It’s not hard to do. Just give some thought to some of the terms & phrases you use regularly & practice them with the correct pronunciation.
Record yourself blabbing away into your recording device. Then write down a revised version of what you’ve said.
Edit for conciseness, of course.
Then find the places where the flap should be and use the capital D instead of the t or d to remind you that it’s a flap. Use an “a” for the places where the ah sound should be. You get it.
And don’t forget to record yourself!
If you want help, take The Perfect Accent online video course. It will change your life.