Clear American English
I always tell my accent reduction clients that one technique for speaking clear American English is to lengthen your vowel sounds.
Long Clear Vowel Sounds
Why are long clear vowel sounds so important?
Here’s the reason.
In spoken American English every word has one syllable that is stressed.
The vowel sounds in stressed syllables are said a bit louder and a bit longer than the other vowel sounds in a word.
Lengthening the vowel sound in stressed syllables is one of, if not the best technique you can use to reduce your accent and make yourself understood by North Americans.
How Do I Know This?
The idea that lengthening the vowel sounds in stressed syllables is a key technique for speaking clear American English is not my idea.
Research done in the US and Canada consistently proves this point.
English speakers tend to store vocabulary items according to their stress patterns.
We store words under stress patterns . . . And we find it difficult to interpret an utterance in which a word is pronounced with the wrong stress pattern
(Brown 1990; Levelt 1989)
Learning to speak with the correct syllable stress, using long clear vowel sounds in stressed syllables WILL allow you to be understood.
My experience coaching hundreds of international professionals to speak American English in a manner that’s clear and engaging bears this out.
A New York Times Story About Long Clear Vowel Sounds
Here is a short story from the New York Times that describes a Japanese student changing his accent to sound more American.
And yes….he started to lengthen his vowel sounds.
Archive on Syllable Stress
If the idea of syllable stress and long clear vowel sounds is NEW for you, I invite you to read more on this topic at my syllable stress archive.