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Sound More American

Exercise your speech to acquire the American accentSome people want to learn the American Accent so that they will sound better when they speak in English; others are simply interested in the potential benefits that they may reap from having the ability to speak English with an American Accent. Of course, there are also some people who simply want to be able to communicate more effectively in English. No matter what your goal may be, if you wish to learn how to speak English with an American Accent, you need to exercise your speech. Here are some tips for working on your voice:

Consonants

The /θ/ and /ð/ sounds

One of the most difficult consonant sounds for non-native speakers is the “TH”. It has two pronunciation /θ/ sound as in ‘think’ and /ð/ sound as in ‘that’. In order to make this sound the tip of the tongue should touch the edges of the front teeth, and the tip of the tongue vibrates a bit while air flows out through the tongue and upper teeth. It’s also acceptable to just touch the back of the front teeth as long as the air is flowing through. Many Egyptian speakers tend to substitute a /s/ or /z/ for /θ/ and /ð/.

Word Pairs for Practice 

Word Contrasts for /s/ Versus /θ/

/s/

/θ/

mass math
tense tenth
sing thing
sank thank

 

Word Contrasts for /z/ Versus /ð/

/z/

/ð/ 

close clothe
bays bathe
breeze breathe
Zen then

i.e. Make sure that you don’t pronounce the words in each pair the same way

The /s/ Sound

Many Egyptian speakers tend to add a vowel in front of the “s” when it comes in the initial position of the word. Make sure you don’t inadvertently insert an extra vowel sound when you say English words beginning with s. Here are some common words that demonstrate the “s” problem.

Arabic English
e-spanish Spanish
e-study study
e-steven Steven

 

Pronouncing Gerund

Over-pronouncing “ing” is another common mistake for Egyptian speakers. Make sure you don’t release the /g/ sound in words that end with ing, such as going and doing. When you pronounce the /n/ sound as in thin, the tip of the tongue touches the gum ridge, just behind the teeth, but the /ŋ/ sound as in thing the tip of the tongue is down, not touching anywhere. The back of the tongue is up, touching the soft palate which is located in the back of your mouth.

The /r/ Sound

Simply curl the tip of your tongue and pull it back a bit; keep the tongue tense and do not touch anything in your mouth.

Sentences for practice

Erica threw three red rocks
I heard that the alternative procedure was better
For your information, they’re not divorced

 

i.e. The /r/ sound in the American accent is never silent

Vowels

The /eɪ/ Sound
Egyptian speakers tend to pronounce /eɪ/ (as in take) as /ɛ/, here are some examples of words that tend to sound the same when Egyptian speakers pronounce them:

/ɛ/ /eɪ/
tech take
sell sale
test taste
west waste

 

The /ɔ/ Sound
Be careful that your /ɔ/ sound (as in saw) is not influenced by the very different British version of this sound. In British English pause sounds almost like “pose,” but in American English it sounds much more like /pɑz/, and has the same /ɑ/ sound as in father or watch.

Word Contrasts for Practice
Make sure you don’t pronounce the two words in each pair the same way:

/oʊ/ /ɔ/
low law
boat bought
coat caught
woke walk
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The Crazy T

The Crazy T

The Crazy T

Let us start with one of the most distinctly American consonants, the letter t. The letter “t” can be pronounced in several different ways, depending on its position in a word and depending on the other sounds that surround it.

The Strong T

This is the regular, fully pronounced /t/ sound. The tip of the tongue is touching and releasing the gum ridge, which is the upper part of the mouth, right behind the front teeth. It sounds /t/ when it’s in the beginning of a word, or at the beginning of a primary or secondary stressed syllable. For example: Tom, time, table, maintain, photographer, Italian.

The Silent T

When you make the /n/ sound, the tongue goes up and the front of the tongue touches the roof of the mouth. This is the same as the starting position for the ‘t’ sound. So instead of trying to make two separate sounds, just don’t say the T! For example: internet, interface, interview, international, percentage and painter.

There are two different spelling patterns, the -sten pattern, as in the word listen, fasten, moisten and glisten, and the -stle pattern, as in the word whistle, castle, hustle, nestle, rustle, bustle and gristle. Both of those patterns are pronounced with no t sound.

The Held T

let the tongue stay on top, touching the gum ridge, with no air coming out when you say the t. Try to press the vocal cords together to stop the airflow, and then release.

When should I held the T?
The t is held when it is followed by an /n/ sound within a word, for example: certain, mountain, cotton, eaten, forgotten, gotten, lighten, Britain, written, frighten or when the “t” comes in the final position of the word. For example: cat, right, that white, yet, plate, foot, fat and heat.

The Flap T

When a t is between two vowels, it is generally pronounced like a fast /d/ sound. It also sounds the same as the “rolling r” sound of Arabic, when the tip of the tongue touches the upper gum ridge. This sound is also sometimes called a “tapped t” because you quickly tap the tip of the tongue on the gum ridge when pronouncing it. For example: better, little, beautiful, butter. When the t comes after an “r” and a vowel, the t should be tapped. For example: party and forty.

The /tʃr/ Sound:

When a t is followed by an /r/ sound, the t changes and becomes an almost /tʃ/ sound. To create this sound correctly, say /tʃ/ as in chain , but just make the tip of the tongue a bit more tense when it touches the gum ridge, and focus on creating a stop of air. For example: travel, tradition, translate, traffic, turn, Turkey, introduce, interest, extremely and terrific.