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All accents have a point of resonance. This is an area in the mouth.
The standard American accent has the point of resonance in the middle
of the mouth. British English
has the point of resonance in the forward part of the mouth. A person
learned British English as a child often has to practice relaxing the
face so that the sound resonates in the middle of the mouth.
2. There is a lot of facial movement in formal American English. If a sound is made with an open jaw, you really want to open the mouth. Sounds made with the lips such as the long E and the W really need that movement of the lips.
In casual English--which you will see in many TV dramas and movies--there is less movement, but you will notice that the characters are usually sitting or standing immediately next to each other. Think about the difference between these characters and news reporters--who are filmed several feet from the camera--at a professional distance. Overall, most students benefit from using more facial movement at first and then trying casual English. Remember that Americans will switch from formal to casual without thinking about it.
3. Vowel sounds are large--they take slightly more time than consonants. This applies to all the vowels except the 3 vowels that are truly short: the short E, the short I and the short U as in met, sit and up. Though we teach "short vowels" and "long vowels," the word "short" refers to the spelling, not the sound. Short vowels usually have one-letter spellings and long vowels usually have two-letter spellings. Examples are man and main or hot and boat. The short A sounds and the short O sound as in cat, family, father and hot are sounds that take a bit of time because the jaw is quite open.
In a word with two or more syllables, the stressed vowel is usually the only one that is a large sound. In the word marketing, the largest vowel sound is the open A. The vowel sounds can be the most difficult to master because of the many spelling exceptions, but actually making large sounds can help you hear mistakes and improve your pronunciation.
4. Vowel sounds need to be clear, but they are not precise. Unlike some languages where each sound has a distinct value, Americans are comfortable moving to a new sound in the middle of a word. This is a very subtle point. However, it may help you to move your face and make large vowel sounds. Generally try to create smooth, large sounds and let them flow together. Learn about linking vowels.
5. The reduced T sounds of American English are very important to the accent. Reducing the T sounds gives the language its softer tone overall.
What is Standard American?
Prepare to Speak: Warm-up
Articulation: Speak Clearly
How to Change Your Speech
Chart of English Language Accents
Choosing Your Voice
Milestones in Pronunciation
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