While accented speech is comprised of several elements, pronunciation is one aspect which many speakers and listener can identify as sounding different. Some sounds in American English are infrequent or nonexistant in other languages and must be learned and practiced in a hierarchy to develop the sound. Others are easier to say, but hard to use in running speech. Understanding the levels of practice is an important step to changing your speech.
1. Sound level (phonemes): This level is single sounds. Practicing at this level is usually only necessary when the sound is new to you, but knowing how to say a sound by itself correctly is helpful and can be used as a tool when working at more challenging levels. Use the recordings below to try some of the American English phonemes which are most frequently mispronounced in accented speech.
Voiced th. IPA symbol: /ð/ Example words: those, that, breathe. Tongue between teeth, air flowing, voice on. Common error patterns: stopping (sounds like d) or alveolar tongue placement (sounds like z).
Voiceless th. IPA symbol: /θ/ Example words: thing, this, bath. Tongue between teeth, air flowing, no voice. Common error patterns: stopping (sounds like t) or alveolar tongue placement (sounds like s).
Vowel ɪ. IPA symbol: /ɪ/ Example words: it, is, different. Common error pattern: use of vowel ee (IPA /i/), the vowel in the words eat and need.
Vowel er. IPA symbol; /ɚ/ or /ɝ/. Example words: third, word, her, paper. Common error patterns: rolled r, use of vowel schwa (uh sound).
You can try some words with initial, medial and final voiceless th sounds using the recordings below.