Learning English is difficult enough on its own. So, congratulations on taking the steps to advance as far as you have! But, sometimes knowing grammar and sentence structure isnât enough when you get into real world situations. It can also help to know major English accents, such as the standard American accent.
Understanding and communicating with Americans in their native accent is key to advancing your study of English. This article is full of tools and tips to help you master the kind of speech common in the USA and urban Canada. Read on to learn how to do an American accent!
To help aid you in this article here is a link to a phonetic alphabet chart. You can use it to help understand some of the word and phrase breakdowns.
This is a simple sentence that most can understand. Notice, when an American says the sentence, go to the and this in the sentence are short sounding syllables. It almost sounds like heâs saying go-to-the as one word. Letâs, movies, and weekend are longer sounding and stressed.
Sentences can be broken into content words or structure (or function) words.
Content words are typically nouns, main verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Theyâre words that add meaning to a sentence. Also, content words are words with meaning that are emphasized in speech. Basically, theyâre the words you intend a listener to understand.
Structure words are usually auxiliary verbs, pronouns, articles and prepositions. They exist for grammatical purposes.
On that note, letâs revisit the example above. Even if you only heard the content words Letâs, movies, and weekend, you would still understand what the speaker intended to say.
Learning to differentiate between content and structure words and when to emphasize them is a big step in communicating in an American accent.
This is an example of linking, and there are many words that Americans link together. Overall, there are many categories of connected speech as well, so letâs look at some other common forms.
Americans use connected speech that involves an intruding sound that inserts itself between two words.
For example, the phrase Do it will sound like someone is saying Dewit.
In addition, sounds can disappear when a stronger syllable sound appears in the word after another word that is spoken. Weâll add to our previous example of Do it to show this concept.
Listen to the phrase in the Nike commercial: Just do it.
It sounds like the announcer is saying Jus-Dewit. When the /t/ sound disappears, itâs called an elision, and it commonly happens with /t/ and /d/ sounds in American accents.
A final example of connected speech is called assimilation. This happens when the sounds of two words blend together.
When Americans say wonât you, it can sound like theyâre saying wonchu. Phonetically the /t/ and /y/ become /Ê§/.
When Americans say donât you, it can sound like theyâre saying donchu. Phonetically the /d/ and /y/ become /Ê¤/
Understanding and speaking in an American accent can be tricky as it is different from speech patterns in British English. (The British English vs. American English distinction is challenging for many students!) Knowing connected speech will help you distinguish the two forms. There are many other examples, so here is a video that will help you better understand the concept.
As you saw in that video, the word Word is pronounced Werrd. Notice the /o/ sound isnât pronounced.
The word World is pronounced Werrld. Notice the /or/ sound isnât pronounced.
Understanding the /r/ sound is key to understanding what is spoken. There are many more examples of r-controlled words in American English, and you must know and understand them when communicating. Here is a link to an in-depth explanation of r-controlled vowels.
Last, letâs revisit the /r/ sound. No matter where you are, the /r/ sound in the word âareâ is loud, and long. Look at this example:
Where is the parking lot?
Americans pronounce the /ar/ in park strongly, and examples like this carry over into the entire language. To better understand the rhotic sound and the difference it makes between American and British English, you can watch this video, and to gain an even greater understanding of this type of English American accent, check out the tips in this American accent video.
As I mentioned earlier, this article has focused on the standard American accent. This would be the accent spoken commonly on TV and radio, most typically exemplified by speakers in California and the American Midwest. Like all English speaking countries, America has different English accents by region. But the âstandardâ rules above are still incredibly valuable. Learn the standard American accent, and your English will be understandable most anywhere in the English speaking world!