how to speak with an american accent

How to Speak with an American Accent

It’s the hardest accent to master, hands down! The romance languages are pretty straightforward. They have rules about which syllable you put the emphasis on. And if there’s any diversion from the rule they’ll give you an accent mark. 

But what’s the deal with English? Why is it so hard to pronounce? That makes it difficult for people to understand you. The trouble is if people don’t understand you it can stall your career.

Don’t believe the folks that tell you you can’t change your accent. You can. They just don’t know how to do it. You can be crystal clear and persuasive

You’ve mastered English writing and grammar.

You’ve got a mastery of American English grammar and writing. You understand the language perfectly. 

But what’s with the American accent? Why is American English so hard to pronounce? It doesn’t seem to make any sense. Is there no rhyme or reason?

I’ll tell you: English is spelled wrong. Why are there five vowel letters and 16 vowel sounds? How are you to know what vowel sound to produce? Why can one consonant sound be pronounced by many different letters and letter combinations?

Why is the letter O in “computer” pronounced like a schwa sound (I’ll explain later) and the letter O in “doctor” pronounced like the sound the doctor makes you say when she sticks the tongue depressor in your mouth?

Not being understood isn’t only frustrating.

It can hurt your career as well as your personal life.

If your accent is making it so people don’t understand some of your messages, or if it makes it too hard to process, you’re going to have a hard time getting that promotion.

It’s hard to tell people that their accent is standing in the way of their success because of political correctness. But if you aren’t understood by colleagues, clients, and bosses, then you aren’t getting your job done as efficiently as you can.

Everyone needs to work on being clear in high-stakes situations, even in their native languages.

accent reduction
Free E-Book Download

You can acquire a Standard American English accent.

The good news is that you can acquire a standard American English accent if you desire & have some willpower. The bad news is there’s a lot of wrong information out there. Not here on this site, Convey is the place to be!

There is no rhyme to the American accent but there is reason and I’m going to explain what that is in the following text.

The stakes of a situation.

First, take into consideration whether a situation is high-stake or low-stake. You’ll notice there’s a difference in the way you run a team meeting and how you report to your boss.

It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking in your first, second, or third language! The stakes have a huge impact on how your words come out!

Did you ever notice you perform better in low-stakes scenarios? If you’re ordering a cup of coffee or chatting with the doorman on our way into the building there are no or low stakes. So there’s no stammering or garbling up your words. You’re as smooth as silk!

But when you report to the CEO that’s a completely different story. The stakes can be quite high and now you’re as smooth as burlap!

But don’t worry, we’ll take this into consideration with your training and we’ll make sure you are cool as a cucumber during the crucial moments of your life.

high stakes communicative situations

The Ultimate Trick to Getting Rid of Your Accent

Quick overview

  1. You have to feel weird. Producing American English is very different from other languages. You have to use a lot of air, and you need a back resonance, limited face movements, etc. All of this is going to make you feel weird as you’re talking. But when you hear the recording of yourself, you’ll say, “Who’s that gorgeous American speaker?!”
     
  2. Learn to hear the differences between your speech and American speech. This may be the most challenging part. But it’s all downhill from here.
     
  3. Glue your phrases together. Most people are out there teaching you to pop every consonant, resulting in very choppy speech.
      
  4. Don’t over-articulate. Over-articulation is when you spend too much time on a consonant and don’t allow for co-articulation–how one sound impacts the ones around it.
      
  5. Use a back resonance. Most languages have a front resonance pattern. You’ll need to get used to speaking with the air’s vibration over the back of the tongue. Your speaking voice can become American sounding.
      
  6. Master Standard American English intonation. The pronunciation of sounds in American depends on intonation. Intonation depends on information. The most important words in your sentence are more prolonged than non-essential words.
      
  7. Contrary to popular belief, don’t move your face. All over YouTube, you’ll find folks telling you to stick out your tongue, and purse your lips, and smile broadly, all for different sounds. Nope. Since American resonance is in the back, you’ll want to reserve facial movement for facial expressions that supplement your message.
      
  8. Master the flap sound. “Butter, water, letter, Ita” In American, when a /t/ is between two vowels, it’s lightly flapped on the roof of your mouth behind your teeth.
      
  9. Listen to American television & movies. I’d go so far as to say play your favorite lines many times and transcribe what you hear into the IPA or create your own alphabet as long as it’s consistent.
      
  10. Record yourself speaking and assess relentlessly. Recording yourself and assessing your specific skills is the magic trick. Don’t forget to look for and eliminate your filler words.

Or you can let us help you. We can walk you through your options. Which course is right for you? Just scroll down to the blue box at the bottom of the page to schedule a free consultation. We’ll get your accent sorted in no time!


How to Speak with an American Accent

Let’s delve a little deeper into what I mean by the steps above. Don’t be afraid to sound weird when you practice. If it doesn’t feel weird, you’re not doing it right. It’s got to feel strange to be different from your usual.

(If you have questions, comment below, or reach out to me through the link at the bottom of this page.)

obtaining an american accent


Learn to Hear the Difference

Listen carefully to short recordings of Standard American English (SAE) speakers. Choose someone you admire and find them on YouTube. Play a single sentence or two a few times and write down what you hear.

Then do the same with your speech. Record the same sentence that your fav star said and relisten to yourself a few times. Try to hear the differences for each of these steps in the process that I describe here.

Glue Your Phrases together

Most people are out there teaching you to pop every consonant, resulting in very choppy speech. Instead, use “breath groups.” Link together phrases & clauses. 

For example, “We had a meeting on Zoom / to discuss our latest project.”

Say that sentence aloud, stopping at the slash. 

Practice these four steps to using an American accent.

 

Use Coarticulation, Not Over-Articulation

Each sound in American English impacts the sounds surrounding it. 

We talked about the flap sound, how vowels affect the /t/. You’ll want to practice flaps; they’re everywhere in American speech!

Here’s some practice with the three most common pronunciation mistakes.

Also, in SAE if a /t/ follows an /n/ the /t/ becomes a glottal stop sound, as in “mountain” and “sentence.” 

Don’t get me started with the TH sound. People are all over asking you to stick your tongue out. Please don’t do that! Let’s say you’re placing your order at a restaurant, and you say, “I’ll have the salmon.” Make the TH sound by lightly touching the back of your front top teeth, so your tongue is in place to make the /s/ sound.

How to Speak Clearly in 7 Easy Steps

Back Resonance vs. Front Resonance

Most languages place the vibration of air in the front of the mouth. So it stands to reason that you’ll apply the same technique when you learn a 2nd or 3rd language. But refrain from doing so!

Practice making the sound /u/ as in “roof” in the back of your mouth. Try it with the /o/ sound as well. (Run away from anyone who tells you to make /o/ by rounding your lips!)

How to use resonance so your voice sounds full and standard American.

Then pretend you’ve been to the dentist and gotten novocaine around your lips. Make sure they’re not moving.

The Intonation of the American Accent

Your intonation determines how well people understand you and to what extent they follow your call-to-action.

Intonation is when essential parts of a word or sentence become elongated (among other things), and the least important become shortened.

You can practice your intonation here.

Crystal Clear Speech Gets You Where You Need To Go

It’s not about reducing your accent. It’s about being able to speak in a way that grabs people’s attention and gets them to follow your call to action easily.

It’s also something people don’t want to tell you or they don’t know themselves. Only the best recruiters will tell you to improve your communication skills. All great communicators have worked on their speech, and they consider it an advantage they don’t want to share with others.

how to speak with an american accent


Why the Heck is it Spelled Like that?!

“facetious.” What?

“common” is pronounced /kaaamin/ while “computer” is pronounced /kmpyuder/ What?

“camera” is a two-syllable word. Mmmhmm. So is “chocolate.”

/kaemruh/ /chaklit/

How about “focus.”

Focus on that a bit 😀

As promised:  The schwa sound is the vowel sound in “cut” or “must.” 

16 thoughts on “How to Speak with an American Accent”

  1. I have taken so many classes that have been around teaching me to pop th et sound and stick my tongue out for the TH. This makes perfect sense. Thank you so much!

  2. Great article! Well written, crystal clear! Hahaha! I suppose it would be 😂
    So true about the spelling of English. Words should be spelleded as they’re pronounced.

  3. I followed your advice, gluing my words together, trying that intonation and I definitely felt weird! But I recorded myself and I sounded like a native! Now how do I talk like that all the time? 😂😂

    1. Hi Carter! Great work!

      There’s a simple procedure to talking like that all the time. It involves choosing 1 or 2 categories of your life and focusing on those first.

      At the bottom of this article is a link to my calendar, get on in and we’ll have a chat. 🙂

  4. Every time I ask my friends to correct my pronunciation they always make exaggerated movements with their mouths and tell me to do that. Now I know they’re wrong and I’m not asking them anymore.

    1. mwaaaahaaahaaaa! so funny! Yes, that’s what people do! They’re trying to help but they end up hindering.

  5. Brittney Pagan

    The expressions are the only thing I have problems with. I would want to say, “Are you okay?” But end up saying, “are YOU oOkAy¿”

  6. This is harder than I thought and my husband has just been looking and laughing at me as if I’m loosing my mind while I try out these exercises lol.

  7. Masako Emvall

    I like the way it sounds when American standard English is spoken in the way you teach. In so many ways it’s very different from my native language, words are not glued together, almost staccato, every word is equally emphasized, and no rhythm, more flat. I really need to practice, practice, practice, along with recording my talk, self assessment to communicate in magnetic, persuasive speech!! Thanks to your great teaching!

  8. For an immigrant like myself, it is very important to feel connected. I struggle with the American accent but I loved the way you explained the almighty American accent in a fun way. It will be a great service if it works for me, even a little bit.

  9. For an immigrant like myself, it is very important to feel connected. I struggle with the American accent but I loved the way you explained the almighty American accent in a fun way. The most difficult part for me is the ‘back resonance’. I am having difficulty in using the back of my tongue, I hope you’ll help me with that. The other tip about pronunciation, facial expressions and reversing your face movement are also very helpful. Fun fact, I do feel weird though.

  10. Hey, I enjoyed reading this article, very well written (was quite fun)all the points.
    I have gone through many apps or say websites to learn about American accent. Sometimes I found it boring but from this blog I had regained interest again in this accent. Especially when u said record yourself and you will be surprised who’s this gorgeous American speaker (haha) I got inspired by that…😁
    Thanks for this.

  11. Nads thompson

    Great article , I will definately run from anyone trying to make me look cray cray with all those facial movements.

Leave a Reply to Maria Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *