Do you have problems being understood when you talk with American English speaking friends and colleagues? You are not alone! Here are three strategies you can apply to improve your American English pronunciation.
Accent Reduction Strategy 1-Learn to Use Syllable Stress. Americans listen for syllable stress patterns in order to identify words. Therefore, you must learn English syllable stress rules and patterns if you want to improve your English pronunciation and reduce your accent.
When you are pronouncing English words with two or more syllables, one syllable will always receive more stress or emphasis than the others. Here is a common syllable stress pattern: 90% of two syllable English nouns are stressed on the first syllable. That means that the words TEA-cher and STU-dent are pronounced with strong stress on the first syllable. The second syllable in these words is reduced.
A dictionary such as the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language will show you which syllables to stress.
Accent Reduction Strategy 2-Learn How Americans Pronounce Vowel Sounds in Stressed Syllables. In spoken English the vowels in stressed syllables take on a special quality. These vowels are lengthened and pronounced with a high pitch. For example, when you say TEA-cher you need to lengthen the EA and say it with a high pitch. Emphasizing the vowel sounds in stressed syllables is vital to the rhythm of spoken English so you must do this if you want to reduce your accent and improve your pronunciation.
Accent Reduction Strategy 3-Learn to Use the “Schwa” Vowel Sound in Reduced Syllables. In spoken English the vowels in reduced syllables are pronounced using the schwa sound. The schwa is a low pitched sound that sounds like “uh”. So when you say the word STU-dent the e in the second (or reduced) syllable sounds like “uh” and the word sounds like STU-duhnt. Since the schwa is sound is the most frequent sound in spoken English, learning to use it in reduced syllables is one of the best ways to improve your accent.
By studying the three accent reduction strategies that I describe in this article, you can reduce your accent and improve your English pronunciation. Your will begin to enjoy speaking English with American friends and coworkers!