Native speakers, How can I get an American accent?

soondor   Monday, January 05, 2004, 20:00 GMT
i think you are all donkeys
Nick   Friday, January 09, 2004, 00:11 GMT
Hi "y'all,"

This is a great forum! Why haven't I found it before? I teach accents and dialects to actors, and the American accent is one of the easiest to teach - mostly because of the proliferation of American culture.

The downside to this proliferation is that every actor and his/her dog assumes that they can do an American accent with ease, when more often than not, they can't. This is a trap American actors also fall into - assuming, for example, that because the US accent is primarily influenced by the Irish accent, that they will have no trouble doing that (see David Boreanaz in "Angel" - shudder).

Similarly, we all think that our own accent is and "neutral", but there is no real neutral accent occuring naturally. A lot of people say the Australian accent is such (that's my accent), but believe me, it's far from neutral. I love each and every accent for its distinctiveness, my favourites being the extremes - the thick Brooklyn, the slurring Californian, the garbled Northern Irish, and the Scottish Brogue, even the ultra-upper-class British. There is also nothing sexier than the slightest hint of regionalism - wait, different forum.

You should be able to learn to speak with an American accent pretty easily, depending on a) where you're from, and b) what your own ear is like. Everyone's ear is different (and I'm not talking physical ears here people - I mean in the sense of "an ear for music"). Some people work by listening, then repeating, others by watching mouth movements, and yet others need to work heavily on the phonetic aspect, using the International Phonetic Alphabet. Some people are born with natural ears - usually those who have a combination of musical skill, and linguistic skill - mathematical skill also helps, but there are no hard and fast rules. I recently taught an Australian model the US accent for an audition. I went in thinking "Model, she'll be terrible" - awful stereotype I know, but it's a fact that all models want to be actors. BUT she had a very good ear, and her acting was raw and untrained, but still very good.

There are books which teach accents, mostly for actors, but I met one woman who had had lessons to flatten her californian sounds because she was a sign language translator, and this works with the mouth movements as well. The Californian sounds can be quite harsh in the mouth, so this would have been quite important.

Anyways, I think I went a bit off topic there, but I'm glad I found this place.

Mostafa   Saturday, January 10, 2004, 08:28 GMT
Just listen to VOA,then try to practice what you have listen to,you will notice that how good your accent is.
dave   Monday, January 12, 2004, 20:52 GMT
For years I owned a store in Hasbrouck Heights NJ. In Teterboro, which was next door, there existed a school for aeronautics which catered to foreign students.

Virtually every one of them found my store. One day I was in a conversation with a Spanish lad and I asked him why I had so many customers from his school. He was very candid. He told me they were learning how to speak English by listening to me. They couldn't understand the other Jersey people as well as they could me.

Having come from an area of the state that wasn't as influenced by New York City as say...Hasbrouck Heights, I realized that I spoke with a more generic accent. Not quite Midwestern, but certainly not Jehsy City with its chimleys (chimneys), terlets (toilets), and beahs (beers).

My advice to foreign speakers-if you actually want to lose your accents, or have to-is to find a generic sounding role model. If possible, latch onto a midwesterner. Most Americans speak some form of Midwestern anyway.
In many cases, however, the foreign accent sounds romantic or exotic to most Americans, so I would be careful fooling with it if you're having success.

As for me, having been surrounded by Mafia wannabes most of my life, the Midwestern accent sounds feminine or as we say, "wussy." But in the modern corporate environment, it may behoove you to sound a little sissified. The British uppercrust have been doing it for centuries and it doesn't seem to have adversely effected their finances. But I show my prejudice, my ancestry were middle class, and came Yorkshire, where everyone is happily unintelligible.
G.I. Joe   Wednesday, January 14, 2004, 01:00 GMT
Just watch every John Wayne movie repeatedly, and recite the lines said by the great Mr. Wayne over and over with him as you watch the films.

Peace & chicken greese.
snoring pumpkin   Wednesday, January 14, 2004, 17:18 GMT
Linguisists declare that it is the rhythm of a language or changes in rhythms that develope dialects and accents. If you want to copy an accent, pay attention to the rhythm: where the intonations are more pronounced and where they fall off. You can practice by playing a tape on low volume, so you can't understand the meaning of the words, and listen to the lilt and candor, or melody, if you will, as though it were music. By copying the rhythm, you are literally training your tongue to move in a certain way, which is what pronounciation is all about. This is how young children first learn language, by listening to and mimicing the rhythm, which is why, when they enter the stage officially categorized as "babbling", they can run off strings of sounds that remarkably resemble complete sentences, even before they begin using distinct words that are meaningful. It also explains why grandmas exaggerate lilt when talking to infants, they instinctively know it encourages the early stages of learning a language. They also use a high-pitched voice, because higher sounds in the mid-range octaves (alto) are easier for the human ear (and many animal ears) to distinguish.
Americanpoet   Friday, January 16, 2004, 05:07 GMT
I'm an American (albiet a polite one, even though I am a teenager), and I can tell you exactly how to sound like you were born in the Land of the Free. All you have to do is fake the best American accent that you can, and simply make it sound a little slower. You know, get lazy with it. Brits, as well as a lot of other people, tend to trip up over our accents because they want to take it too fast. I know that Americans speak fast, but keep in mind the fact that we are used to it! All American "G's", "T's", and "S's" are pronounced how you would call harshly- that doesn't mean that you yell those letters, but it does mean that you don't worry about speaking them in a correct or a "refined" way. Don't soften them up. For example, I pronounce Shakespeare this way: "Buht sahft, whut lite threw yander win-dough brakes! Iht is the (or "thuh", if you prefer) eest, and Jewel-ye-ete is the sun..." (Translation: But soft, what light through yonder window breaks! It is the east, and Juliet is the sun...). When you read through that sentence as quickly as an American would speak it, it doesn't sound as Southern as it looks. One tip: if in doubt about a letter, pronounce it "hard" and put the emphasis on another syllable that's easier to pronounce. Americans are too lazy to to think about pronunciation. Personally, I always "skip" over the thicker syllables. Hope this helps!
mjd   Friday, January 16, 2004, 08:34 GMT
I'd hesitate before taking Poet's advice. Learning an accent is never easy and being "lazy" won't help one in mastering it.

"Americans are too lazy to to think about pronunciation.".......Perhaps some are, but not all. I don't consider my speech lazy. I can adjust my accent depending on what situation I'm in...(On a job interview I'd try to aim for more "Standard American," but when I'm at the bar with friends my Jersey accent probably comes through).
FRKILEY   Friday, January 16, 2004, 14:02 GMT
I think I should make it clear that there is not a "one and true" American accent.There's upper east side(New York),Massachusetttes,New Jersey,Southern,Northwestern,and Southern California accents.So I think it's rather silly for someone to say that an "American" accent bothers them.Don't think I'm saying this because I'm American because I'm not;I'm British.I've just lived in America for 5 years and feel bloody afended because I have many American friends.
Marie   Friday, January 16, 2004, 16:38 GMT
The most common American accent is the mid-west one you hear on the news.Thats considered the standard American Accent
Americanpoet   Friday, January 16, 2004, 19:58 GMT
MJD is right- the directions I gave were definitely for those who want the traditional (somewhat southern) "Orlando, FL" accent! Being lazy never helps an accent, that is correct; but sometimes (only sometimes!) it can help in learning pronunciation. I didn't exactly say that learning it was easy... but being somewhat biased to it myself, I probably implied it :) American accents are great, but they do take some practice. I admit it- our accent isn't quite like anything you've ever heard before! Most of my Brit friends who try to pull American accents have only one short-fall: they pronounce the words too distinctly, like they're trying to sound "hard". It doesn't work! That's all I meant by "get lazy with the accent". Nothing sounds natural if you try to hard to get it right.
Jack   Wednesday, January 21, 2004, 13:47 GMT
I also think that if you want to get this American accent you should "get lazy with the accent" int he sense that you should relax your tongue when speaking so sonunds will come out more naturally
Asif Sheikh   Monday, January 26, 2004, 10:21 GMT
Hi! Everybody,

Would anyone recommend me a software, Book or CD to learn American accent in short time. I am from Pakistan and speaks fluent english though I am 32 years old but I am eager to learn American accent! Thank you in advance.
giani   Monday, January 26, 2004, 15:33 GMT
YOU JUST NEED A BURGER IN THE MOUTH AND that's it! Do not thank me, you are welcome.
american_ladki   Monday, January 26, 2004, 15:53 GMT
ya ya ..... people r so into american accent now a days that i find it quite strange. im originally indian but i've lived in america my entire life. and when i compare the english over here to the 'desi' english in india it makes me laugh, but when i think about it, it is actually them that pronounce all the words right. when they talk u can hear every letter of the word clearly where as over here we talk alot faster so we dont pronounce half the letters in a word. for example : " i want to go...." i would read that as " i wanna go..." u wouldn't be able to hear the 't' sound at all. thats just the way some people talk.