8 Ways To Speak With A North American Accent

Are you learning English and want to speak with a North American accent? In the video below your Teacher Gabby provides 8 great tips for learning how to sound like a North American English speaker.

Syllables

Every word with two syllables or more will have a strong and weak sounding part. The strong part of the word is called the stressed syllable, and when speaking North American English the stressed part of the word will be stretched out; it will be spoken longer, louder and with more punch than the rest of the word. The remainder of the word will sound weaker, be said softer or shorter, and with a more “schwa” sound from the gut. Having a strong and extended stressed syllable matched with a weak syllable (or more), gives balance and rhythm to the spoken word. Practicing this tip will help you develop the correct natural rhythm of North American accent.

Learn Connected speech: Assimilation, Intrusion & Elision

Learning connected speech can feel overwhelming for a beginner, especially with all the rules, but is essential learning for developing a North American accent. Gabby quickly covers the most important rules for you in this video.

T between two vowels = a D sound Butter sounds like budder
T between an N and a vowel = removing T sound International sounds like Innernational
N + T + vowel (sometimes) = a Glottal stop Mountain, it is a word broken with a pause at the T just like Uh-oh, that sounds like you are holding your breath at the back of your throat just long enough to give the feeling of the T sound. Other examples: Button, Manhattan

 

Assimilation, Intrusion and Elision are features of connected speech and when it comes to speaking English like a North American they are necessary to learn. These features will help your English to flow smoothly and sound natural.

Assimilation is when the sound at the end of a word changes to make it easier to link it to the next word.

Example:

“Don’t you just love the food here?” sounds like “Doncha just love the food here?”

Intrusion is when a new sound “intrudes” in between two existing sounds. The ounds that are more likely to do this are /j/ /w/ and /r/.

Example:

“He asked me to do it” sounds like “Heyasked me to do it”

Elision is where a sound is taken away in the middle of two existing sounds. Usually this is with a /t/ or a /d/ sound.

Example:

“She lives Next door” sounds like “She lives Nexdoor

 

Feeling confused or want more information on this topic?

To learn more about connected speech watch this video lesson.

The North American R – “ERrrr” 

Mastering the letter R in North American spoken English is very important. Lots of learners can feel frustrated because the R doesn’t sound like anything in their native language. To add to the confusion, the R can be said differently throughout the USA, depending on where you live. This tip is the most common way to use the R with a North American English accent.

First it is important to be aware of R colored vowels.

Example:

Word sounds like Werrd, rather than pronounced with an O sound

World sounds like Werrld, rather than pronounced with an OR sound  

Second remember that an R at the end of a word will usually be pronouncd strongly in North American English. Just as Gabby said “get out your Pirate hooks”, be prepared as the North American R really does sound like a Pirates “ERrrr”. 

Example:

“I parked my car over there” will sound like “I parked my caERR over thERR”

Use American Phrases

This is an easy way to sound like a North American English speaker. In real day-to-day conversation you will speak differently with close friends or family, then when speaking to a Boss or Police Officer. When speaking with friends our language is more casual, playful and relaxed. Add a couple of North American phrases to your speech to help you sound more like a native English speaker.  

Example:

Instead of “How are you today John?”, try “What’s up John?”

Instead of “John, your sweater is very nice”, try “John that sweater is awesome”

Instead of “John, you look good tonight”, try “John, you are looking sharp my friend”

Speak Louder

North American English speakers are known for speaking louder. It is a language with a lot of action (more about verbs in the next tip) and has the volume to match the movement. It is a language that sounds confident and bold, and so speaking this way will take time and practice. When practicing, it may help to pretend to be an Actor and imagine feeling confident and bold, and then try speaking louder. There is an expression in America “fake it until you make it”. Pretending confidence when practicing will eventually lead to feeling more confident in everyday conversations. Confidence is critical to speaking a little louder and thereby sound more North American.

Use LOTS of Verbs

While speaking use lots of phrasal verbs to sound less textbook-like and more like a native English speaker. North American English speakers use a lot of phrasal verbs in their conversations and therefore you will want to use them to. 

Example:

Instead of “where do I exit?”, try “where do I get out of here?”

Instead of “When did you arrive?”, try “When did you show up?”

Instead of “I don’t like it when you get angry”, try “I don’t like it when you blow up”

Start turning Nouns into Verbs

Another quick and easy way to sound more North American is to use the simple trick of turning a Verb into a Noun (also called nominalization) when forming a sentence.

Example:

Did you use google to search something new on the Internet?

Just say “I googled that book you told me about”

Do you want to tell someone you want to add them on Facebook?

Tell them “I will friend you on Facebook”, or “Friend me on Facebook”

American English Vocabulary vs British English Vocabulary

While multiple Countries have English as the main language, not every English-speaking Country will share the exact same words. Some Countries have their own unique words. Therefore, if you want to sound North American, you will need to use the North American English vocabulary.

Here are some examples:    

             North American  🇺🇸            vs              British     🇬🇧

              Use    Diaper               instead of         Nappy

                         Vacation                                      Holiday

                         Apartment                                   Flat

                         Fall                                                Autumn

   

Now you have 8 helpful tips on how to speak with a North American English accent.

Watch the video below to learn more!

 

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