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How to recognise an American English accent!

 Can you tell the difference between a British and American accent? Many of my students find it difficult, but with a little bit of help, you can learn how to distinguish them. In this lesson, we’ll show you how to recognise an American English accent. And by the end, you’ll be able to identify the accent easily!

Ready? OK, let’s go!

Varieties!

There are lots of varieties of the American English accent, with differences between the East Coast and West Coast accents, and the northern and southern ones. However, there are some characteristics of the accent that you’ll find everywhere. Here are five key features of the American English accent.

  1. The “r” sound in words

One of the main characteristics of the accent is the “r” sound. This is often heavily pronounced – much more so than with British English. For example: barn, march, bird, bar, heart, shark, fork, pork, cork.

You can hear this in sentences too. For example:

  1. a) There are some sharks near here.
  2. b) There’s a nice bar that isn’t far.
  3. c) There are some birds over there.
  4. The final “r” sound

In British English, a schwa sound (ə) is often used with two-syllable words that end with a vowel + the letter “r”. For example: over, never, clever, bother. However, in American English, the “r” sound is much more distinctive. For example: over, never, clever, bother. You can hear this in sentences too. For example:

  1. a) The film is over.
  2. b) It’s now or never.
  3. c) She’s so clever.

 

  1. The “o” sound

Another big difference is with the “o” sound. In British English, it’s a rounded vowel sound (ɒ). However, in American English it isn’t so rounded. For example: hot, cot, top, box, cod, fox, spot.

You can hear this in sentences too. For example:

a) The food is very hot.

b) It’s on the top.

c) We put it in the box.

  1. The “t” sound

In British English, the “t” sound is often pronounced quite clearly. For example: butter, clutter, metal. However, in American English this letter can sound a bit more like a “d” sound. For example: butter, clutter, metal, capital.

Here are some examples in sentences:

  1. a) We put some butter on the toast.
  2. b) It’s made of metal.
  3. c) She lives in the capital.

  1. Intonation

British English intonation tends to go up and down quite a lot, making it sound a bit sing-songy, with substantial pitch differences. However, American English is much more constant in terms of intonation with fewer changes in pitch. For example:

  1. a) We left at six and then went to the shops.
  2. b) We drove around the city looking for a restaurant.
  3. c) Did you stay there for long?

REMEMBER to watch the video as it’s got a useful exercise and a conversation with people exchanging website addresses!

Our English Unlocked book series cover 6 different levels and will tell you what to learn, and when, meaning you are free to concentrate on improving your English and getting to the next level!

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