American "T"

kp   Monday, December 22, 2003, 18:41 GMT
Hey all,
Well, I have this big difficulty when it comes to the American “T” and how to pronounce it. In addition, I often confuse between when it is at the first, middle, and the end of any sentence. Could any one please help me through this?
Tom   Tuesday, December 23, 2003, 12:16 GMT
Try to pronounce it like "d" when it's followed by an unstressed vowel, e.g. "better", "at all".
Gus gus   Thursday, December 25, 2003, 02:13 GMT
Do you know what an accent is? Just a habit, you're have a habit of speaking the way you do so do what you would normally to break a habit, use any method, such as Tom's posted above, then just speak slowly and get into the habit.

I have the same problem with the german 'R'.
Jim   Monday, January 05, 2004, 07:12 GMT
Why do you want to pronounce it? I assume that you can pronounce an ordinary /t/.
Nick   Friday, January 09, 2004, 00:18 GMT
Tom's advice is good: When it's in the middle of a word Americans soften it to a /d/ sound (better, butter, matter, forty), also when it falls at the end of a word and the next word starts with a vowel (at all, lot of, but if). At the beginning of a word it will always be a hard /t/. BUT it is generally perceived as more "educated" to pronounce the consonants crisply and cleanly. This t/d change is common in a lot of accents around the world - including Australian, and some regional dialects in the UK, the main difference being the rhoticism (pronunciation of /r/), which is common in most American accents.

Americanpoet   Friday, January 16, 2004, 04:46 GMT
Take it from an American- pronounce it lazily. Don't make it hard unless you absolutely HAVE to distinguish it from a "d"! It really makes no difference whether it's at the beginning or end of a word; you'd be surprised how lazy we can get over here. If in doubt, pronounce it like a teenage American -make the "t" hard, but hurry up and put the emphasis on some other syllable in the word that is easier to say. That's what I do, and I don't even have an accent. It comes more naturally to do it that way, trust me.
Jim   Friday, January 16, 2004, 04:57 GMT
Taking poetic licence with "I don't even have an accent." obviously: everyone's got one. Sure, be lazy unless you want to be perceived as more "educated".

Interesting the use of "soft"/"hard" to describe, what in more phonetically accurate terms, is voiced/unvoiced.

A good point was raised: the Americans don't have a monopoly over voicing /t/.
UK 1st year student   Friday, January 16, 2004, 05:39 GMT
I've got a problem when it comes to spelling words containing 't' and/or 'd' over phone. Sometimes I'm saying 't' and being asked whether that was 'd' like in 'delta' and vice versa. How do I work it out?
Jim   Friday, January 16, 2004, 06:49 GMT
You could try "delta" and "tango" as in:

A Alpha N November
B Bravo O Oscar
C Charlie P Papa
D Delta Q Quebec
E Echo R Romeo
F Foxtrot S Sierra
G Golf T Tango
H Hotel U Uniform
I India / Indigo V Victor
J Juliet W Whisky
K Kilo X X-Ray
L Lima Y Yankee
M Mike Z Zulu / Zebra

Though you might sound like a bit of a nerd.
Ryan   Monday, January 19, 2004, 18:42 GMT
The "American T" in a word like "better" sounds like a "d" except one slightly taps the tongue near the roof of the mouth as one speaks it. It's as close to a sound between "t" and "d" as one can get.
Fly   Monday, January 19, 2004, 20:29 GMT
I am interested in the " more educated" part you guys were talking about.

Let me put it in a more extreme case:

If someone pronounces all the "t" as "t" rather than "d",i.e. better for better, rather than bedder, can he/she still possibly sound like American? In the other words, do you guys mean that if someone sounds like american, he won't be considered " more educated"?
mjd   Monday, January 19, 2004, 20:33 GMT
It depends. Like Ryan said, the hard "T" sound is not exactly the same as a "D." If you make the "D" too strong, it could sound weird.
Fly   Monday, January 19, 2004, 21:35 GMT
yeah, I know what.....I spelt kindergarten as kindergarden until I accidentally found out I spelt it wrong for ages in high school.
Ryan   Monday, January 19, 2004, 22:22 GMT
I think you can get away with pronouncing the "t" in "better" as a voiceless consonant as it should be and still sound American. Just don't make the "t" sound too excessive. But it's difficult to sound casual when you talk this way. The whole reason that Americans use the "flap t" and Britons use the glottal stop is because it makes it quicker and easier to speak.
Jim   Monday, January 19, 2004, 23:36 GMT
Yeah, I think you can still sound American whilst pronouncing at the /t/s voiceless. As for "if someone sounds like american, he won't be considered 'more educated' ..." that all depends on who is doing the considering.