A common error when speaking English is to pronounce the "g" sound in words ending with "ng." Check out the video below for help with these words. Read more about this sound here.
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An important step in being understood and sounding more American is learning to use American intonation. Intonation is the music of speech, the stress patterns or rhythms, the pitch changes, and the vocal tone. Intonation is complex, but there are some simple rules that you can learn which will help you understand and use correct American intonation.
For words with more than one syllable, we have an intonation pattern within the word. One syllable will have the main stress. This syllable will have a vowel sound which is held longer, has a higher pitch, and a clear vowel tone. Listen to the examples below. Can you hear which syllable has the stress?
Stress is marked with a small diacritic (a line similar to an apostrophe) before the stressed syllable. For example, on the word together, the stress falls on the second syllable "ge."
It is easiest to listen to the word and repeat, following the stress pattern that you hear. For access to thousands of recordings of common words, technical and business words, and words sorted by sound and stress pattern, consider a subscription to our full online practice site.
One final note on word stress - you are most likely using it correctly for most words. Error patterns are most likely to occur on words that you learned through reading rather than listening, as well as words that have a different stress pattern in the dialect of English that you first learned. For example, many dialects of English including Indian English and English spoken in many parts of Africa and Europe are influenced by British English, which has some differences from American English. For example, British English will stress the first syllable of French loan words, such as ballet and cafe; whereas American English will stress the second syllable, ballet and cafe.
Some languages have consistent stress patterns on words. For example, in Spanish, the last syllable is always stressed, unless the word ends with an s, n, or vowel, in which case the stress in on the second-to-last syllable. If your native language typically stresses the first syllable of a word, you may be likely to have errors on American English words that have syllable stress on the second or third syllables. You can find words sorted by syllable stress for your practice on our full site.
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The American R can be a challenging sound for non-native speakers, even those who speak other English dialects. In some accents, the r sound is rolled or trilled. In others, it sounds more like vowel schwa, or the sound "uh." Did you know that the "r" sound is different depending on where it falls in the word? You may have no trouble saying the "r" in red or really, but struggle with the "r" sounds in bird or forever.
Whatever your difficulty, this may be a sound that needs practice at the phoneme and syllable level. Rather than trying to start by saying words with r, practice the sound by itself and in nonsense syllables. You might find the trouble is not with making this sound, but rather with breaking the habits of your old pronunciation in words. Use the recordings below to try the sound, syllables, and words in a new way.
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One of the most commonly mispronounced sounds in American English is the "th" sound. This is likely due to the fact that the “th” phonemes are rare sounds, not found in most European and Asian languages. When we do not have a sound in our own language, the natural tendency to substitute a similar sound, such as “z,” “d” or “t.” Unfortunately, this has a big impact on accent, because the “th” sound is found in 20% of the 25 words we say the most in English. The most commonly used word, “the,” begins with this sound. So when we mispronounce “th,” it is very noticeable in everyday speech.
Common mispronunciations of this sound involve improper tongue placement. To make the “th” sound, the tip of the tongue needs to rest between the teeth. Try making the “th” sound by itself. First make the “quiet th,” (/θ/), as in the words “think” and “with.” Then add voicing to make voiced “th,” (/ð/), as in “that,” “them” and “those.”
This site contains practice materials for you to improve your pronunciation and intonation in American English. The materials here are a small sample of the materials available on our subscription-based online practice site. Try them out, and if you find them helpful, consider purchasing a subscription to the full site. If you need help knowing what sounds and patterns you need to work on, you can complete a free speech screening here.
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