American English Pronunciation Rules

American English Pronunciation Rules

Mastering the English language is incredibly difficult. Not only do you have to learn proper grammar as well as a whole new vocabulary, but you also have to learn exactly how to pronounce your words correctly to minimize your foreign accents and sound more like a native American English speaker. When you learn a foreign language, you must keep in mind that pronunciation is very important if you want the listener to get a clear understanding of what you are trying to say.AmericanEnglishPronunciationRules

Even though learning English is difficult, we have identified some helpful American English pronunciation rules that will help you.

  • There are certain sounds that might give some people more of a challenge than others.  It mostly depends from where the speaker comes from. In this case, it is a good idea to focus on these sounds first.  For example, take a look at a native Chinese speaker, the sounds that seem to give them the most trouble are “r”, “Id”, or “I”. For a Spanish speaker, there seems to be a particular problem with pronouncing words that include “y”, “j”, and “th.”
  • Another useful tip is to slow down your speaking pace. It might seem odd to speak slowly, but doing so will enable you to listen and make note of how you are pronouncing your words. If you know exactly what sounds are most problematic for you, you will think twice before you say them and adjust your American English pronunciation accordingly.
  • English, like all other languages, has a unique rhythm. Pay particular attention to the rhythm in American English. Listen for the “rise” and “fall” in words.
  • Ask your American friends or family to watch out for your mispronunciations and point them out to you. If they see that you are really trying to master American English, they will probably be more than glad to help you without feeling awkward about it.
  • Get your hands on a copy of the International Phonetic Alphabet. This is a very useful tool to become acquainted with and we will write more about it in later lessons. Although it might be confusing upon first reading, this document contains all the proper ways to pronounce words.

Here are some additional detailed American English pronunciation rules and ideas to help you tackle some of the more difficult American English sounds.

  • Understand the differences between words like cane and can. Or rod and rode. Pay attention to how the silent “e” at the end changes the sound of the vowel.
  • Familiarize yourself with words that have common endings so that you can group them and master the pronounciations more efficiently.
  • Look out for similarites in vowel combinations, especially homonyms.  These can get confusing especially because some combinations like “oar” and “ore” have the same sound but are spelled differently.
  • While you are learning proper American pronounciation techniques, always keep in mind that in the case of some sounds, like “r”  you have to use your tongue to make the correct sound. This applies to other sounds and letters as well, like “la.”  These seem to be the most challenging sounds because some languages, like French, do not require any sounds in which you put your tongue between your teeth, like “th.”

As in all endeavors, the right dedication and persistance can help you accomplish any goal. If you keep some of these basic rules and tips in mind at all times, you are well on your way to speaking American English clearly and successfully.

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Ms Jennings is an instructor at American English University. She has worked with students from all across the world and specializes in English pronunciation, accent reduction, and American accent training.