There are many plausible reasons why you are reading this article right now.
You are trying to blend in with your American colleagues and friends. People often misunderstand your English, which causes miscommunication.
You feel embarrassed when someone says they can’t understand your accent and asks you to repeat what you said.
People brush you off and you think it is because you are clearly not a native speaker.
Confidence becomes an issue whenever you try to speak English.
Here’s some news for you – this guide is not going to help with any of those problems.
The root of most of these issues is either shame related to your own accent, or incorrect English pronunciation. If it’s the former, accept your original accent as part of your identity. Shame can only be treated with acceptance, not perfection.
If it’s the latter, learn basic English pronunciation first. An accent is about pronouncing in a specific style. Accent training is an advanced stage in your English learning journey, and it can’t fix erroneous pronunciation. Only proceed with the guide if you are fluent in English already.
Americanizing your pronunciation should only be done as a preparation for an upcoming move to America, or settling in. It helps you understand what others are saying and make yourself heard as well.
These are the 11 most common idiosyncrasies of the American English accent. Mastering these can give you the kickstart you need in your quest for attaining classic American pronunciation.
1. Stress the Correct Syllable
When a word has more than two syllables, there is always a stressed syllable while the rest are unstressed or weak. The stress differs from word to word.
What remains constant is the “uh” (schwa) sounds of the other weak syllables. This means you have to pronounce those syllables subtly so as to make the stressed syllable stand out.
Example: My American friend likes bananas.
2. Use the Glottal T
When the “T” in the middle of words is stopped halfway, a throaty sound is produced. You don’t hear the “T” sound fully. There are two cases where this is applied:
- NT + Vowel
If a word has an “NT” followed by a vowel, the “T” sound is completely gone.
Example: People on the internet write such long sentences.
Pronunciation: People on the inernet write such long senences.
- T or TT
When words have a “T” or a double “T” in the middle of words, the sound is stopped in the throat. Neither fully omitted, nor entirely pronounced.
Example: They pressed an important button in the elevator.
3. Change T to D
Whenever the “T” in a word is between two vowels, it is pronounced as “D.” This also applies at the end of a word if the next word begins with a vowel.
Example: I’m excited whenever I’m in the city. I wear a sweater that always makes me smile.
Pronunciation: I’m excided whenever I’m in the cidy. I wear a sweader thad always makes me smile.
4. Silence T and D between Consonants
When there is a “T” or “D” placed between two consonants the “T” or “D” isn’t pronounced. This applies if a word ends with either of these characters and the next word starts with a consonant.
Example: That old man is the most famous in town.
Pronunciation: That olman is the mosfamous in town.
5. Use the Colored R
When there is an “R” in the middle of a word and it’s followed by a consonant, it should sound like “err.”
Example: You learned the first word that you heard.
Pronunciation: You learrned the firrst worrd that you hearrd.
6. Pronounce ER and ARY At the End
If a word ends in “-ER” or “-ARY,” pronounce it clearly with all your might. This is atypical of American pronunciation, since other English accents (like the British) often omit this sound while enunciating such words.
Example 1: Remember to water the flowers.
Example 2: The secretary of the military commander was at the library today.
7. Make Contractions with WILL
American English joins pronouns with “WILL” and shortens it, both in writing and in speech. This is characteristic of the American accent and there is a special way of pronouncing it.
Only the “-LL” from “WILL” is pronounced in conjunction with the rest of the word. It produces an “-ULL” sound.
Example: You’ll go to the party when they’ll go.
Pronunciation: Yull go to the party when theyull go.
8. Link “S + Vowel”
If a word ends with “S” and the next one begins with a vowel, those two words are linked. They are pronounced at a stretch instead of individually. The “S” becomes a “Z” sound. The common words following such “S”-ending words, are “in” and “it.”
Example: There are cars in the garage.
Pronunciation: There are carzin the garage.
9. Create J Sound from T and D
When a verb ending with “T” or “D” is followed by “you” in the next word, it produces a unique sound similar to “J.” This process is called assimilation. The two words are not pronounced separately, but rather linked together while speaking.
Example: Didn’t you know that they won’t meet you?
Pronunciation: Didn’jyou know that they won’t meejyou?
10. Blend Words with Back-to-Back Sounds
When one word ends with the same letter as the beginning of the next word, you should connect the two words in your speech. This also applies if the sounds are very similar, if not identical.
Example: Most days, I have a great time at work.
Pronunciation: Mosdays, I have a greatime at work.
11. Master Intrusion
When two vowels come together, we sometimes hear an extra “Y” or “W” sound between them. “Y” sound appears if the first word ends with -iy, -ey, -ay, or -oy sounds. And if the first word ends with -uw, -ow, or -aw sounds, then the “W” sound comes in between the two words.
Example: He asked me to go out and buy three apples.
Pronunciation: Heyasked me to gowout and buy threeyapples.
Note that learning American pronunciation is a slow process. This guide should serve as the first step in that long journey. As you live in America for a few years and communicate with people, you will pick up the accent naturally. Don’t rush the process. If you’re indeed in a hurry, seek out a professional accent trainer.
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