8 Ways to Speak English with an American Accent
How to Speak American English
American English or U.S English is, for the most part, the same English language spoken in many Anglophone countries around the world. Yes, colloquialisms, spelling, and accents can be different in America, and even between different regions of the United States. However, if you speak English already, you shouldn't have too much trouble understanding American English or being understood by Americans.
Learning American English
Learn English.American English is, for the most part, just the same as any other dialect of English. Apart from some phrases, colloquialisms, dialects, and spellings, most of the language is the same as the English spoken in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere around the globe. There are a few significant local differences, which leads some people to say that these groups are "separated by a common language." But in reality, most of the words and phrases are the same. If you know English and understand non-American English speakers, too, for the most part, you will do fine in the United States.
Listen for accents, dialects, and slang.American English is spoken differently in each region of the U.S. Listen closely to pick up local phrases and colloquialisms, especially in social settings. You will begin to notice the difference when you travel from one region to another.
Know some American English phrases.You'll learn as you go, but here is a short list of American English, just to get you acquainted.
- "Awesome" and "cool" are used to describe something great or positive or popular, more so than in other countries, and both words can be used as a positive reaction to something someone tells you, too.
- "What's up?" or "Sup" for short. This phrase is used to ask someone what they're doing, how they are, and as a general greeting. It is not socially acceptable in formal occasions, but it's fine to use casually amongst friends. It's most frequently used by young men.
- "Hanging out" is spending time somewhere or with someone. It can be used in describing or arranging one particular event ("Do you want to hang out?") or more generally to describe a habit ("I hang out at the mall a lot"). It's a phrase often used by young people to describe how they spend their spare time and socialize, often without one particular activity or aim. It can also be used to describe time spent around the house or doing nothing in particular ("What are you up to?" / "Not much; just hanging out").
- "Y'all" is a contraction of "You all", the second person plural mode of directly addressing a group of people. It is used primarily in the Southern states, but is acceptable in other regions.
- Soda, Pop, Cola, Soda pop, Coke, etc. Popular fizzy soft drinks like: Fanta, Coca-Cola, Sierra Mist, and Dr. Pepper, may be referred to using these different names in different parts of America.
Know what English words won't be understood.If you've studied British English in the past, realize that not all of the words and phrases will be identical in the United States. If you use British English words, dialect, or spellings in these situations, you might not be understood. Learn the American versions instead:
- "Restroom/bathroom" instead of "toilet/lavatory/loo/WC"
- "Elevator" instead of "lift"
- "Trunk" instead of "boot"
- "Freeway" instead of "motorway"
- "Sweater" instead of "jumper"
- Pants for trousers, not underwear
- "Vest" instead of "waistcoat" (the one worn under clothing is often just called an undershirt instead)
- "Sneakers" instead of "trainers"
- "Diaper" instead of "nappy"
- "Swimsuit" or "bathing suit" instead of "swimming costume"
- "Vacation" instead of "holiday" (holidays tend to mean national bank holidays only, or the holiday season around Christmas)
- "French fries" or "fries" instead of "chips"
- "Bag of chips" instead of "packet of crisps"
- "Gasoline" instead of "petrol", "gas station" instead of "filling station" or "petrol station"
- "Truck" instead of "lorry"
- "Flashlight" instead of "torch"
- "Color" instead of "colour"
- "Favorite" instead of "favourite"
- "Popsicle" instead of "ice lolly"
- "Tire" instead of "tyre"
- Crib instead of "cot"
- "Hood" instead of "bonnet".
- "Carnival" instead of "funfair".
Interacting with Americans
Make an effort to communicate in English.Don't expect everyone to know or understand your unique dialect. The United States is a nation which was founded by immigrants and has always welcomed newcomers to their country. However, they seldom learn to speak other languages. 95% of Americans will never travel to all fifty states and much less will travel abroad, so if they don't understand you well or speak your language... don't think they are ignorant, they are just practical.
Approach interactions with a sense of humor.If you do not speak good English, don't be offended if an American jokes or laughs when you say something that doesn't make sense to them. For some Americans, laughter can be a way of trying to reduce the frustration with language barriers; it isn't intended disrespectfully. Just laugh too, as it is common and natural for misunderstandings in the beginning.
Don't make assumptions based on one person's behavior.You might meet someone friendly, or someone rude, but that doesn't mean they represent everybody in America. Additionally, attitudes can vary depending on where you are and who you're talking to; the attitude of people in large cities may be somewhat different than the attitude of those living in rural or farming communities. People in major cities tend to do things more briskly and may seem rude to you. Please don't generalize this as a representation of how the people in the United States behave. If three New Yorkers are rude to you, don't go home and tell all your friends, "Americans are rude".
Try to speak a "little" louder when you're talking to someone in America.It's perfectly acceptable over in the US, and it creates an atmosphere of congeniality.
Be polite and considerate.Don't always speak what’s on your mind, if it might sound offensive. That doesn't mean mute all of your thoughts but try to construct them in a way that won't offend your host. Manners matter, and it's important to be gracious, considerate, and kind, especially to an American who's hosting you in their home.
QuestionI watch foreign TV series such as Supernatural, Sherlock, Flash, etc. Will that be helpful for my fluent speaking skills?Top AnswererYes, it can help, especially if you are watching without subtitles in your native language. However, do keep in mind that shows produced and set in the U.K. such as Sherlock use British English rather than American English. It will still help your English overall, but if you want to sound American in particular you may wish to stick to American shows and movies.Thanks!
QuestionWill listening to and singing English songs improve my American accent?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt might help. Go with children's songs or simple songs with a slow pace -- often pronunciation is slurred in music, so singing the wrong kind of songs won't help.Thanks!
QuestionIs American English the same thing as English?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThere are different types of English. Words in American English are pronounced differently than they are in Australian English, for example. Same words, different pronunciations.Thanks!
QuestionIs Indian English different from American English?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIndian English is different from American English in terms rhythm and pronunciation.Thanks!
QuestionI have an Indian accent. Can I have an American accent?Top AnswererYes. Copy native speakers of American English. If you don't know any Americans, there are many Americans speaking online.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I get over an inferiority complex arising from not being able to communicate in English?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo one is perfectly fluent at first, that's nothing to be insecure over, and most Americans (nice ones anyway) are willing to help someone who is a relatively new English speaker if they can't remember a certain word or phrase. It's great that you're learning a new language. As long as you keep practicing, you'll find yourself getting better and better at it.Thanks!
QuestionI have a Spanish accent. Can I have an English accent?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerOf course you can, all you have to do is learn and never give up.Thanks!
QuestionIs it important to know American English?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt may be useful if you're visiting the United States, but if you already fluently speak another English dialect, you'll generally be able to make yourself understood to Americans. Just try to avoid too many colloquialisms when speaking with Americans, and if they do the same, you'll have basically no trouble communicating.Thanks!
QuestionAre there any differences between American and Canadian accents?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. While many people in Canada have accents similar to those of people in New York, they often have a heavy French influence. (In fact, many people in Canada are fluent in French.)Thanks!
QuestionWhy do people try to speak in an American accent?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSome people want to sound like locals.Thanks!
- As always, if you can ask for help with something then most Americans will respond accordingly. Don't think that a normal American is snobbish as they will normally be very helpful.
- When in doubt spell it out. American English, while it differs a great bit, will always hold true to British English though it does vary but most people can understand it.
- English that is sung tends to have a neutral American accent, regardless of the accent of the singer. The way vowels are extended when sung gives them a general American accent.
- Most Americans tend to "swallow" middle double T's, making them sound like D's. For example, "Bottle" becomes "boddle", "little" becomes "liddle", etc. Listen to a native American accent to get a good sense of this.
- If you are in doubt about what you are about to ask or say, then mention this at the beginning of your sentence so that there will be no offense taken by the listener... or any misunderstanding of your intention.
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