English is a complicated language because it has many exceptions to the rules regarding grammar and syntax. American English can be even more difficult to learn, as there are many variations of dialects and pronunciations depending on the region. If you want to sound like an American person, start by identifying the region you want to mimic in terms of language and pronunciation patterns. Once you establish yourself in the area, try to incorporate the intonation, jargon, and diction of the region. It's also helpful to have a notepad handy and jot down unique idioms and phrases. With enough practice, you'll sound like a native speaker in no time.
Method 1 of 3: Use American Vocabulary
Step 1. Embrace the way Americans use articles in everyday speech
In English, the articles are "the", "a", and "an". The way Americans use these items is unique compared to other forms of English, but there are no hard and fast rules on how to use them. In general, the article is only omitted for "church", "college", "class", and a few other nouns. Try repeating a phrase that sounds weird to you, using the new article to get used to it.
- An American would say "go to college" but would also say "go to the university."
- A British or Irish speaker would say "went to hospital", but an American speaker would always say "to the hospital".
- The difference between using "a" and "an" is not the first letter that follows after the article. It is actually whether the sound of the first syllable is a vowel or a consonant. Always use "an" with vowel sounds, and "a" with consonants. Since Americans pronounce "honor" as "on-er," it would be "an honor to meet someone" if you speak American English.
- Using the articles is one of the things that makes learning English difficult. Use them and you will get used to doing it properly over time.
Step 2. Use American terms for everyday objects to blend in
Like Australian, British, and Irish English, there are countless words that are unique to American English. Using a term like "motorway" or "ice lolly" makes it clear that you are not an American English speaker. If you want to integrate, get used to using American terms and work on memorizing them by using them every day.
- It can be difficult to get used to using American terminology if you are not familiar with it. Take your time. You'll get used to it the more you talk to and listen to Americans.
- Watching many American movies and TV shows can give you good judgment for the everyday phrases they use. If you can't figure out the meaning of a word based on context alone, write it down and find its meaning later.
Common American phrases
Use "restroom / bathroom" instead of "toilet / lavatory / loo".
Use "elevator" instead of "lift."
Use "trunk" instead of "boot".
Use "freeway" instead of "motorway."
Use "sweater" instead of "jumper".
Use "pants" instead of "trousers."
Wear "vest" instead of "waistcoat" (the shirt worn under clothing is often called an undershirt).
Use "sneakers" or "tennis shoes" instead of "trainers."
Use "diaper" instead of "nappy."
Use "vacation" instead of "holiday" (holidays usually refer only to national holidays, or the holiday season around Christmas).
Use "bag of chips" instead of "packet of crisps."
Use "gasoline" instead of "petrol", and "gas station" instead of "filling station", or "petrol station".
Use "truck" instead of "lorry."
Step 3. Get used to American idioms by incorporating them into your speech
Americans have many idioms that are culturally recognized phrases that differ from their literal meaning. For example, when someone says "it is raining cats and dogs", it means that it is raining heavily, not that animals are falling from the sky. When you hear an idiom, ask what it means and then try to use it in your daily conversation to get used to it. You will learn many idioms over time trying to use them.
"I could care less" actually means "I'm not interested" in American English. Although this is not technically an idiom, it is a quirky phrase that means something other than what it actually communicates
Common American Idioms
"A cat nap" is a short break.
"A Hancock" is the signature of a person.
If you use "you're barking up the wrong tree", it means looking in the wrong place or accusing the wrong person.
"A far cry" is a huge difference between two things.
If you give someone "the benefit of the doubt", you believe them without proof or evidence.
"See eye to eye with someone" is to fully agree with someone.
"To kill two birds with one stone" is to achieve two things at the same time.
"A last straw" is the final problem that causes something to happen.
If you have "the best of both worlds", then you have all the advantages of two options.
"Hang out" means to relax.
"What’s up?" means "what's up? or" what do you need?
Method 2 of 3: Pronounce American English Dialects
Step 1. Hold the vowels and Rs to reproduce General American English
Although each region of the United States is spoken differently, there is a typical form of American English that serves as a solid point of reference for the dialects of this country. Generally speaking, use strong vowels and R sounds to make them sound more deeply. Other forms of English (such as British, Irish, and Australian) tend to soften vowel and R sounds, while general American English tends to emphasize their pronunciation.
- Including a louder R sound will make words like "card" sound like "kaard" instead of "cawd". Another example would be "other", which may sound like "oth-a" in British English, but it sounds like "uh-ther" in American English.
- Opting for strong vowels over weak vowels makes the word "cut" sound like "khut" in American English, while in British English it can sound like "khat."
Watch American news anchors speak for a perfect example of what general American English sounds like. Even the general American English name for it is "broadcaster's accent" or "television English."
Step 2. Swap the O-, I-, and E- sounds for a southern accent
Although there are several versions of the southern accent, you can create a general southern accent by swapping the vowel sounds. Swap O- sounds for I- and vice versa. I- sounds are usually prolonged to sound like two E's in words like "bill", which makes it sound like "bee-hill". This also happens the other way around with words like "pen", which would sound like "pin".
- Other examples include "feel" which sounds like "fill", and "think" which sounds like "thenk". Note that, in each example, the sounds E and I- are swapped.
- Swapping the O and I makes words like "hot" sound like "hight", and words like "like" sound like "lok".
Step 3. Use "aw" instead of "al" u "o" for a northeast accent
Although New York, Boston, and Philadelphia all have unique accents, they often replace the A- and O- sounds with "aw" or "uh." He uses his palate more than normal and uses "aw" to replace the soft A- and O- sounds for a northeastern accent.
This makes words like "call" and "talk" sound like "kawl" or "tawk", and words like "off" and "love" sound like "awf" and "lawve"
Step 4. Speak as if you are from the Midwest manipulating the O- sounds
Although the Midwest has a variety of accents, most of them replace O-short sounds with A-short sounds. Play with the O- sounds to make them shorter or longer so that you sound like you're from the Midwest.
Manipulating the O- sounds makes words like "hot" sound like "hat." However, long O-sounds are often extended, so that words like "whose" sound more like "hooz" rather than "whues"
Step 5. Emphasize the pronunciation of the K- sounds and soften the T- sounds to sound like Californian
Although there is a bit of variety on the West Coast, Californian speakers often widen their mouths to accentuate K- sounds and soften T- sounds. Also, they use a strong R- when a word ends with that consonant.
The Californian accent makes a phrase like "I like that here" sound like "I lyke tha hear."
Method 3 of 3: Incorporate the jargon and use the correct intonation
Step 1. Use "ya'll" and other southern slang to sound southern
The easiest southern slang to incorporate is to use "ya'll" instead of "you all" or "everyone." Southerners generally say "git" instead of "get". Other common slang terms include "yonder", which means "there", and "fixin", which means "about to do (something)".
- The south has many idioms and phrases like "bless your heart", which means "you are sweet", and "pretty as a peach", which means that something is nice or cute.
- The South is a very religious region of the United States. To speak like a southerner, use the word "bless" frequently. Phrases like "bless your heart" and "God bless you" are common in the south.
Step 2. Adopt the slang of the Northeast to sound like a native of the East Coast
Speakers on the East Coast often say "hey" or "ah" during pauses in their speech. Bostonians use "wicked" instead of "awesome" or "really". They also tend to use "hella" instead of "very". A "hella wicked smaht" person is someone who is "really very smart," for example. New Yorkers are famous for saying "fuggetaboutit," a truncated version of "forget about it." It means that everything is fine.
- Raising your voice a bit isn't necessarily considered badass on the East Coast.
- In Philadelphia, the word "jawn" can stand for any noun and you will have to use context clues to determine what it means. For example, "that jawn" can mean "that girl", "that food", or "that politician" depending on the subject of the discussion. The people of Philadelphia also call submarine sandwiches "hoagies."
- If someone in the Northeast refers to "the City," they are referring to New York City. New York State (outside of New York City) is almost always called "New York State."
Step 3. Use "you guys" and drink "pop" to sound like someone from the Midwest
Always say "you guys" instead of "ya'll", "you all" or "everyone" to sound like a true resident of the Midwest. Also, people in this region often refer to carbonated beverages as "pop" instead of "soda."
- People in the Midwest tend to overuse niceties like "thank you" and "sorry" in their everyday speech. These are often replaced by "ope". It is a combination of "oh" and "whoops", and is used to express regret for having made a small mistake.
- Chicagüenses tend to say "goes" instead of "went" or "go". They also use the word "dip" to refer to "go" or "leave."
Step 4. Speak like you're from California by acting excited and using "dude."
Many Californians use an ascending intonation when speaking. Even just a slight upward intonation creates the impression that they are excited or in high spirits. A key component to sounding Californian is using the word "dude" as well. "Dude" is a specific regional term for a person with whom you are familiar (usually male).
- "Radical" and "sick" are common terms for "great." If someone from California says that you are "a sick dude", they are paying you a compliment.
- Like Bostonians, Californians use "hella." However, they usually pronounce "helluva" and use it as a superlative to describe an event or a person. For example, if a party was "a helluva good time", then it was really a good party.
You can truncate and abbreviate words to sound like a modern West Coast native. Many people say "guac" instead of "guacamole" or "Cali" instead of "California".
- Ask for help with idioms and specific phrases. Most Americans will be happy to help you, and they are kind to people who are trying to learn their language.
- Most Americans tend to "eat" double T- sounds if they are in the middle of a word, and they usually make them sound like D letters. For example, "bottle" becomes "boddle", and "little" becomes "liddle".
- Southern dragging pronunciation is the term for softening and swapping vowels in southern dialects.
- If you've ever heard a French accent in English, combine it with the Southern vowel swap to make a Cajun accent, which is common in the southern region of Louisiana.
- Boston and New York accents often omit the R- sounds and replace them with "ah" or A- sounds. This makes words like "water" sound like "wat-ah" and words like "car" sound like "cah".
- To make a Chicago accent, turn the "th" sounds into "d" sounds. So that words like "there" sound like "dare" and words like "they" sound like "day". Emphasize the shorter "a" than usual to make a generic Midwestern accent, so that words like "catcher" sound like "caytch-er" instead of "ketcher."
- The Valley Girl accent uses an ascending intonation at the end of sentences to make declarative sentences sound like a question.