3 Ways to Practice Your American Accent

3 Ways to Practice Your American Accent

Three ways to practice your American accent

Three ways to practice your American accent

In my accent reduction coaching programs I get to work  with people from all over the world who need to improve their American accent in order to achieve greater career success.☝

Here are 3 ways that I tell my clients they can use to practice improving their American accent skills.

1. Get an American Accent audio course/book

American accent courses & books are very affordable. They’re also practical because you can play the audio files over & over for repeated practice.

I recommend these BOOKS.

2. Watch a TED Talks video

TED Talks has hundreds of excellent videos online. The videos last from 4 minutes to 20 minutes. Plus, every video has a transcript that you can use to follow along as you listen to the speakers.

I use TED Talks videos with my accent reduction coaching clients and they find these helpful and inspirational.

See TED Talks.

3. Listen to NPR

Most people on National Public Radio speak with a standard American accent that everyone in the United States understands. Focused listening to NPR is an excellent way to concentrate on the sounds and patterns of spoken American English.

When my accent reduction coaching clients listen to NPR in their cars, they always tell me that they can really hear the sounds and patterns that they are working on in their sessions. ✰

 Listen to NPR

Listening & perceiving new sounds and patterns is a KEY SKILL for developing a new accent!

Do something every day!

My advice is this: whether it’s listening to audio courses, watching TED Talks or listening to NPR…..do SOMETHING every day. Learning to speak clearly …..with a more American accent… takes time and effort. It’s something that you won’t accomplish right away.

However…. every small step you take will increase your understanding of American English rules and patterns to bring you closer to your goal.

Practice

 

 

 

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A good American Accent is NOT just about articulation!

A good American Accent is NOT just about articulation!tip

Many people believe that a “good American accent” can be achieved by learning to articulate every vowel and consonant sound very clearly.

This is not correct.

While you should try to make many of your vowel sounds very clear….

LOTS of vowel sounds are reduced.

If you say every vowel sound in a word or sentence clearly, it will actually contribute to your accent.

A serious American accent tip

Any serious student of the American accent absolutely must learn to use reduced vowel sounds in combination with clear vowel sounds.

In fact, the reduced SCHWA vowel sound is the most common vowel sound in spoken English. In American accent coaching we use this symbol /ǝ/ to represent this reduced sound.

Do you know when to use the schwa vowel sound?

The melody of America English

If you want to speak with the melody of American English, learning to use the schwa sound is a critical skill. American English is a stress timed language.…we don’t stress every sound!

Are you surprised?big surprise

Are you surprised to know that you don’t need to stress every sound?

Are you surprised to know that many vowel sounds are reduced?

That’s okay! Most people are.

Learn how Americans speak 

In my American accent training programs, I teach you to use the reduced SCHWA sound to sound more American.

Check out what I have to offer if you’re serious about speaking with an American accent.

 

Do You Pronounce Abbreviations Correctly?

Do You Pronounce Abbreviations Correctly?

Do you pronounce abbreviations correctly?

Do you pronounce abbreviations correctly?

Most of the people I work with in my accent reduction coaching programs never learned how to pronounce abbreviations correctly in American English.

And since they never said abbreviations with the correct stress, there were many breakdowns in communication.

It’s Easy

It’s super easy to say abbreviations correctly if you know the rule. So here it is……

Abbreviations are stressed on the LAST LETTER.

This means that you need to use a rise in pitch to emphasize the last letter.  Then you need to use a FAlling tone to bring your abbreviation to a close.

Three Examples 

Here are 3 examples. The arrows indicate the rise & fall of the pitch:

1. IBM ~ eye beeyeMMm⤵

2. USA ~you wesaAYy ⤵

3. ATM ~ ay teeyeEMm⤵

Listen Here

 

Could you hear how I emphasized the last letter using a slightly higher pitch? Could you hear the fall at the end? Listen again if you didn’t hear that. It’s important.

Why Is This Important?

Why do I teach this accent reduction technique to my coaching clients?

Because…..

American listeners expect abbreviations to be stressed on the last letter. If you don’t do this, there’s a very good chance that they won’t understand you when you speak.

Simply said, if you say every letter in an abbreviation using the the same amount of stress, American English speakers will have a very difficult time understanding what you are saying.

Easy to Fix

While this type of error frequently causes communication confusion,  it’s REALLY EASY to fix.

Give this accent reduction technique a try the next time YOU say an abbreviation. If you do it correctly, Americans WILL understand you more easily!

 

 

Does Your Accent Get Stronger When You Feel Nervous?

Does Your Accent Get Stronger When You Feel Nervous?

Many of my accent reduction clients have told me

Susan, my accent gets worse when I feel nervous. When I speak up in a large group or at a big meeting, I start to speak too fast. It’s hard for me to control my speech.

Even my clients who have made huge improvements with their spoken English tell me that when they feel nervous they tend to:

  • speak too quickly
  • become hoarse  or squeaky
  • stumble over their words

So what can you do to prepare for “high stakes” speaking situations such as meetings, phone call and key negotiations?

Here are 3 Strategies

1. Breathe ☆

When we have to speak in front of a group, (or even at a virtual meeting) we often become so nervous that we forget to breathe properly.

Lack of proper breath will not support your nice strong voice.

In order to prevent than, be sure to take some deep breaths before speaking. This will calm you down, and give you the air you need to support your best voice.

2. Warm Up Your Voice ☆

There are easy exercises that you can do to warm up your voice before speaking. These warm ups will make your voice sound strong, help you focus your energy & calm yourself down.

One exercise is to hum. Hmmmmmm… feel the vibration in the facial mask area between your mouth & nose. Humming will warm up your vocal chords and bring a nice resonance to your voice.

You can even hum up and down the musical scale a couple of times. Just be sure to breath as you do this. ♫

3. Lip flutters ☆

I first read about lip flutters in Susan Berkley’s book, Speak to Influence. Then my voice teacher recommended that I do these to warm up my vocal chords before my Skype calls. Click on the image above to see the book.

To do lip flutters, purse your lips together and push the air through. Try to push the air from your diaphragm, not from your mouth.

Try These 3 Strategies

So if YOU want to improve they way you speak when you feel nervous, try to warm up and calm down with these 3 easy voice tips.

They are sure to help you sound more clear and confident when you speak at your next important call, meeting or presentation.

Sound More Confident & In Control

As I often tell my accent reduction coaching clients, speaking with a slower pace and rich tones will make you sound more confident and in control. Research indicates that this may be especially important for women. You watch a video on this on my ConfidentVoice Facebook page.

 

Phrases, Pitch & Pauses!

Speak with the right pace using phrases, pitch & pauses

Phrases, pitch & pauses

Why don’t people understand me?

After coaching hundreds of people on the American accent over the the past 7 years…I want to tell you something really important that I’ve learned when it comes to speaking with the right pace.

Anyone who wants to improve the way they communicate in American English can use this technique.

Here’s the technique~

When you speak American English you need to:

  1. Speak using fairly short phrases
  2. Use pitch to emphasize the important word in each phrase
  3. Pause briefly at the end of each phrase

Why should you use phrases, pitch & pauses?

By speaking in shorter phrases you can control the speed of your speech.

You’ll sound more confident and in control when you do this.

When you emphasize the important word in each phrase using pitch emphasis, your listeners will immediately know which words are important.

And when you insert a little pause at the end of a phrase, you’ll give your listener a nice opportunity to process what you said.

Sounds easy, right?

The people I work with in my accent reduction coaching programs have had great success using the phrases, pitch & pauses technique. In fact, they tell me that:

  • Americans understand me much better
  • I feel more in control of my speech
  • using pauses allows me to breathe more during talks & presentations
  • I feel and sound more confident

I’ve taught the PPP technique to founders, managers, Toastmasters and lecturers.  It’s a technique that everyone can use to speak American English in a manner that sounds clear, professional and engaging.

Remember

If you speak too quickly, stress every word the same way, and don’t insert pauses,  your speech will sound fast and monotonous. American listeners will quickly become disinterested in what you’re saying.

 You’ve seen this in their faces, right?

Learn to speak using phrases, pitch & pauses

I teach you how to speak American English using stress, pitch & pauses in my iPad book, American Accent Fundamentals.

My iBook is an excellent introduction to the fundamentals of the American accent for anyone who wants  to speak American English with a pace that sounds clear, professional and engaging.

 

I understand English, the problem is SPEAKING

The problem is speaking

The problem is speaking

The problem is speaking

The people who I work with in my accent reduction coaching program understand English. As they tell me every week~

Susan, I understand English, in fact I understand it really well. The problem is speaking. People don’t always understand me when I speak.

This happens to lots of people

If you first learned to speak English outside the US or Canada you may not SPEAK English in a way that North Americans can understand.

Even if you read and write English at a Masters or PhD level, you may have found that people don’t understand everything you say.

This is normal

It’s extremely rare that anyone who learned English outside the US or Canada  speaks with the syllable stress and melody of American English.

VERY RARE!

In most cases, those of you who learned English in China, India, Russia, Europe or Latin America never had the opportunity to learn

……from a native speaker.

Instead, you probably learned English from a textbook.  Your teacher was probably not a native speaker.

Maybe you never really spoke English at all in your English classes! Many of my accent reduction coaching clients have told me that.

Spoken & written English are really different

One of the BIG reasons that people speak American English in a way that’s difficult for Americans to understand is that written English and spoken English are very different.

English doesn’t sound like it’s spelled.

You can’t SEE key features of spoken English such as

  • syllable stress
  • the schwa sound
  • the tapped T sound
  • linking

….in the written language. Even though they are critical for clear SPOKEN English.

How I help people to speak American English

In my American accent coaching programs, I teach you to SPEAK English in a way that will allow Americans to understand you.

I teach you how to speak like we natives do.

I’m not saying that you’ll lose your accent. You probably won’t. And that’s not necessary.

However, you CAN learn to speak in a way that sounds clear and engaging to Americans.

Take a look at my American Accent Coaching Programs

If you’re serious about speaking clear, engaging and professional American English, check out my coaching programs. Making changes to the way you speak is an investment in time and an investment in money.

But if spoken English is critical to your career success, it’s absolutely an investment worth making.

My Programs for STEM Professionals

My Basic Programs

Without Credible

 

How to sound friendly in American English

How to sound friendly in American English

How to sound friendly in American English

How to sound friendly in American English

Have people commented that your American English sounds sort of

  •  flat
  • monotone
  • unfriendly

Many of the people I work with in my accent reduction coaching programs have been told this. Since my clients are for the most part very friendly people, they want to change this perception.

How can you do this?

In order to change sound more friendly when speaking American English, you need to learn how to use American English intonation patterns.

What are intonation patterns? 

Intonation is the melody of spoken language. ♬ It’s the way we use pitch emphasis in phrases and sentences.

The way you use intonation sets the TONE of your message. This can be friendly, bored, uncertain, angry, confident…..

Here’s an example

When I ask someone “Hey Susan, how ARE you?”  ⤵ I use rising falling intonation.

I rise up on ARE …and then glide or fall down on you.  That type of melody makes me sound nice & friendly.☺

If I just say “Hey Susan, how are you?” without a rising falling intonation contour, I don’t sound as friendly.

Listen here to compare the tone of my message

 

Learn to speak in a friendly manner

I teach you to use rising falling intonation so that you can speak English in a manner that’s friendly and engaging in all my accent reduction programs. I you want to sound more friendly when YOU speak American English, take a look at what I have to offer.

Here is a short QUIZ on American English Intonation Patterns-Give it a try!

American English Intonation Patterns

Choose the best answer for each question about American English intonation.
Start
Congratulations - you have completed American English Intonation Patterns. You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.

 

 

Do you ask questions with the correct intonation?

Do you ask questions with the correct intonation?

Do you ask questions with the correct intonation?

Do you ask questions with the correct intonation?

Have you found that your American colleagues don’t always respond right away when you ask questions?

Many of my accent reduction clients have told me that they’ve experienced this.

How to ask questions so that Americans will understand you

If people don’t understand you when you ask questions, it could be because you’ve  never learned the correct intonation patterns for asking questions in American English.

If you don’t know these rules…don’t worry….I’ll explain them now.✔

Here are the rules

In American English we use different intonation patterns when asking questions. Here are the two most common patterns.

Question Intonation Pattern 1

1. We use rising intonation when the question can be answered with a “yes” or a “no”.

For example the question; “Are you COMing? ⤴” has rising intonation.

Question Intonation Pattern 2

2. We use rising -falling intonation when the question starts with a “wh” word such as what, when, where, who or how.

For example the question; “When are you COMing? ⤵” has rising falling intonation.

While many people use Pattern 1 above, they don’t use Pattern 2. This can create confusion in the ears of the American listener.

If you want American listeners to understand that you’re asking a question, you must master this rising falling intonation pattern for WH type questions!

Listen Here

 

Learn to ask questions effectively using the correct intonation

I teach you how to use American style intonation in all of my accent reduction programs. If American English is challenging for you, take action and start learning to speak clear American English today.

Websites for learning the American T sounds

The American T sounds

Websites for learning the American T sounds

Websites for learning the American T sounds

My posts from last week on the American T sounds were very popular. I’m pleased that so many people found that information useful.

If you’re ready to learn more about the American T sounds here are two websites you can use to learn and practice.

1. VOA News

The reasons for the American T sounds

2. Rachel’s English

Articulation of the tapped T sound.

Click here to read my past posts on the American T sounds.  Thanks for visiting!