Did you see the solar eclipse today? Here's help pronouncing the word "eclipse."
Do people often ask you to repeat yourself? Do you sometimes notice a look of confusion on your listener's face, but they don't tell you that they haven't understood you? These can be frustrating situations as a speaker. One of the biggest advantages of the S.M.A.R.T. method of American Accent training is giving you the knowledge you need to understand why the communication breakdown happened. Not only does the training help reduced these embarrassing and frustrating encounters, but also when they do happen, you'll know what went wrong and how to clarify what you've said.
Our new video series is all about the words that are frequently misunderstood or mispronounced, and how to correct them. You can check it out here.
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Check out our "Real Talk" series: compare spoken and written English to improve your natural, fluent American Accent. Check out the full playlist here: Real Talk Series
What do you call your mother? Here's what you might hear in the US:
It's commonly advised "don't mix business with pleasure," which generally means it's not a good idea to date a co-worker. But there are a few words we use for business that also go along with the theme of love. For example, a proposal can be an offer of marriage or a business proposition presented for others to consider. Engagement can mean customers connecting and interacting with a product or website, or the period of time before a marriage takes place where the couple has agreed to marry.
Here's some help pronouncing these two business and love words.
Do you have a goal you are currently working on? My current personal goal is to sing a solo with my choir. Working as an American Accent coach, I've learned a lot about setting goals and what makes people achieve them or abandon them. It often comes down to a few simple things.
1) Set a small, achievable goal. Maybe you want to be the CEO of a major corporation. Maybe you want to be indistinguishable from a native English speaker. Maybe you want to be as thin as a model. These are fine goals, but they require a great deal of time and and effort. Focus first on the steps you need to reach this end goal - getting a promotion to team leader, changing one accent pattern in your speech, or losing 2 pounds.
By setting a small goal, you greatly increase your chances of achieving it, and staying on the path to your bigger goal.
My first step to singing a solo is to audition for one. I may not get it this time, but I will be happy if I have the courage to try out.
2) Make it a habit. We humans are creatures of habit, and sometimes we have a hard time changing. Instead of fighting this about yourself, use it to your advantage. Take your small goal and develop a new habit that will help you progress towards the goal. Find a way to fold it into your routine and you will be much more likely to do it. For working on your accent, this could be something as simple as listening to your practice words for the first five minutes of your daily commute, or reading aloud for the first page of your usual reading in bed routine.
To reach my goal of auditioning for a solo with my choir, I am listening to recordings of my rehearsals when I go out for a walk. If I don't have time to practice, I can listen and work on the music as part of my already-established routine.
3) Take advantage of low-tech and high-tech tools. Keeping your goal fresh in your mind is essential to achieving it. It's easy to let time go by without working towards our goal. Use a variety of reminders to stay on track. Put your practice time in your calendar. Even if you don't do it at that exact time, you'll be reminded that you want to work on it. Set an alert or an alarm on your phone. Put a sticky note on your computer, or phone, or tv that has your goal on it. Be creative, the important thing is to use what works for you.
I put my choir folder near the entrance to my office so I see it as I walk into work. This reminds me to look at my schedule and find a time to practice. I also set a reminder on my phone and I leave it on my pop-up screen until I have completed it.
4) Tell people your goal. If you know that other people know what you hope to achieve, you may feel more pressure to actually do it. Post your goal and your progress on your social media. Tell your friends or colleagues what you are trying to do, and enlist them for reminders and feedback. A little bit of social pressure can be motivating, and having support for your successes can inspire you to continue to work hard.
I will tell my friends in my choir about my goal so when it comes time to audition, I will know that they are expecting me to take part. I will tell me daughter that I have this goal and she will encourage me, and ask me if I have done it yet.
These are all small things, but put together they will be effective in helping you to make real progress towards achieving your goal.
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Hearing and pronouncing the difference between can and can't is more than just having the "t" at the end. Listen for these clues:
We reduce can when it is used with another verb. It sounds like "ken" or "kn." For example, we say "I ken do that, I kn see it." We don't reduce can't, so it will have a clear vowel /æ/.
When there is not another verb (e.g., "yes, I can" or "no, I can't."), can is usually longer in duration, while can't is more abrupt. "Yes, I caaaan." "No, I can't."
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Having trouble with American v and b? Check out the difference in this video. Then, practice some b and v words here.
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Interested in using the free online practice tools, but not sure what to do first? Watch this short tutorial video on how to get started using our free online practice page.
In some cases, the same word can be a noun or a verb. We pronounce it differently depending on which way we are using it. A rule that applies to some of these words is that the stress falls on the first syllable when it is a noun, such as in the word produce: The produce is fresh at that store. The stress falls on the second syllable with the word is used as a verb: They produce microchips in Silicon Valley. Because the stress pattern is different, the vowel will also sometimes change. We use a vowel schwa (sounds like "uh" as in "cup") to mark an unstressed syllable. Listen to the example below:
Notice how in the first sentence, produce sounds like pro-dooce, but in the second sentence, it sounds like pruh-dooce. We call this vowel clarity - the stressed syllable retains its vowel, whereas the unstressed syllable is reduced to a schwa vowel. In addition, notice how the first syllable in the noun is much longer than in the verb. We use a longer vowel on a stressed syllable than an unstressed syllable. Try some of these phrases, making sure to use a long, clear vowel on the stressed syllable.
When in doubt, it's a good idea to check the pronunciation using an online dictionary.
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When working on speaking English correctly, we often focus on correctly pronouncing all of the sounds in words. Mispronounced sounds can make your speech difficult to understand. It's important to understand which sounds in your speech contribute to your accent. (To learn more, try a free screening or sign up for an assessment of your speech.) When you want to sound more natural when speaking English, however, it is helpful to know that in flowing speech, native speakers leave out or reduce some of the sounds. Pronouncing everything can make you sound unnatural. Just like linking, where sounds run together, reducing is a way that speech flows more easily. Here are some examples:
to becomes t': today = t'day, tomorrow = t'morrow, to go = t'go
We run the word "to" into the following word or syllable, dropping the vowel oo. Listen to the examples below.
the jumps on to the next word: the store = th'store, the matter = th'matter, the weather - th'weather
We shorten the word the and run it onto the following word when the word after "the" is stressed. We use vowel schwa on this word in most contexts, not vowel ee (the = thuh, not thee). You can hear this in the recording below.
are loses its vowel sound, or sounds more like er: what are = what'r, who are = who'er, those are = those'r
We reduce the word are and tack it on to the previous word in some cases. It sounds more like a short vowel er. Listen to the recording below.
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How do you master the American Accent? According to Emma Watson, the key is having a good coach. And, apparently, watching plenty of TV. If you aren't on the movie set with a coach handy, consider online accent training, either with individual coaching sessions or our self-study program.
Changing your speech patterns takes a lot of practice, but you can have fun while you are doing it. Many people use American movies and TV shows to listen to the American accent. Repeating and imitating what you hear on TV can be a good way to develop your ear and try on the American style. Even non-American actors who use their American accent professionally use this technique. In a recent interview with Conan O'Brien, Australian actor Rebel Wilson talks about using reality TV shows to perfect her American accent. You can hear her in action in the video below.
Watch these Irish people trying out different regional North American accents. How did they do?
Buzz Feed frequently plays with language and culture, from people trying international junk foods to trying out different accents. Here's a fun clip of people around the world showing off their best attempts at the American accent.
If you learned to speak English in India, your pronunciation of American English will be affected by both your native language(s) and the Indian English Dialect. Whether you first spoke Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali or another language, it is likely that you have some of the following pronunciation patterns that contribute to your accent when speaking English.
You can use this chart to identify which pronunciation targets you can work on to improve your American Accent. Many sounds link to practice materials or further information.
Want to learn more about the American Accent? Subscribe to our special online practice site for speakers of Indian English. Videos, audio recordings and more, all designed for native speakers of Indian Languages. Subscribe today!
One of the most common errors for those learning the American accent is the vowel in the words it and him, referred to on this site as “Vowel I" or /ɪ/. This sound is frequently confused with the vowel in the words eat and seem, “Vowel ee or /i/.”
These two sounds are similar, but Vowel ee /i/ has a more exaggerated smile posture for the lips, and the front of the tongue is slightly higher in the mouth. Vowel ee /i/ is a tense vowel, meaning that the muscles in the face are engaged. Vowel I /ɪ/ is a lax vowel, meaning the lips and face need to be relaxed. Practice going from one sound to the next to feel the different postures for your lips and tongue. Use the video to help you.
One way to solidify the distinction is to practice with minimal pairs, or words that differ only by this vowel sound. Listen to the following sets of words, and practice making a clear contrast between vowel ee /i/ and vowel ɪ.
For even more practice, use these short phrases which contrast the ee and I vowel sounds.
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