1.Adopt a relaxed oral position. Your face should be mostly at rest when speaking American English. This includes your lips, your jaw, and your tongue. Your tongue, however, should rest in the middle of your mouth behind your front two teeth.
- To verify using proper oral posture, sigh. On the exhale, make an /ə/ (love) sound. This is proper American oral posture.
2.Pronounce vowel sounds laterally. Generally speaking, American vowels are more laterally (side-to-side) wide than they are tall. Rounded vowels, like the /u:/ in boot, the /ɔ:/ in bought, and the /ou/ in boat, are exceptions to this rule.
- Most American vowels are made from the front or central part of your mouth. Only /u:/ (boot), /ɔ:/ (bought), and /ou/ (boat) occur in the back of the mouth.
3.Master the /th/ sound. This sound can be especially difficult if it isn’t in your native language or dialect. Stick your tongue forward in your mouth so it is behind your top front teeth. Exhale air while your tongue is in this position to make the /th/ sound.
- There are two versions of the /th/ sound. One is unvoiced, which means your throat doesn’t vibrate when making it, as in think. The other is voiced and vibrates your throat, like this.
4.Vocalize /r/ sounds. To make the /r/ sound, raise your tongue so it approaches, but does not touch, the upward ridge behind your front teeth. Pull back the tip of your tongue slightly so that it bunches and raises a little at its middle. The front of the tongue should be in the front of your mouth, placed relatively low.
- When making this sound, the corners of your lips should contract slightly, pushing your lips slightly away from your face.
5.Isolate and practice similar sounds you have difficulty with. This is especially important if you’re a non-native speaker of English. For example, you may have difficulty articulating the difference between /ə/ (love) and /u/ (good). Practice any sounds that give you trouble.
- You can practice difficult sounds by noting words that trip you up and making a list of similar sounding words. Say these words side-by-side.
MORE: /Choose which regional dialect you’ll be faking/
Southern American English is distinct from Yooper dialect, which is spoken in the upper peninsula of Michigan. For you to pull off a convincing accent, you’re going to have to choose one specific dialect and stick with it. Common dialects include:
- General American (used in mainstream media, similar to many Midwestern dialects)
- African American Vernacular English (sometimes called “ebonics”)
- Eastern New England
- New York
Familiarize yourself with terms in the dialect. Certain dialects have features that are absent in others. For example, the phrase “you all” is spoken as normal in General American, but contracts to “y’all” (one word) in Southern dialect. When your dialect is decided, find terms like these with a keyword search for “slang in [dialect].”
- Learning slang terms in dialects of American English can also improve your listening skill. Many slang terms, like the “you all” variant of Pittsburghese (“yinz”), are difficult to follow without explanation.
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Note: This article has been adapted from the following source.