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Mastering the American Accent.

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Lisa Mojsin, M.A.
Director, Accurate English, Inc.
Los Angeles, CA

Acknowledgments
This book is dedicated to my accent reduction students who came to the United States
from all parts of the globe. Their drive to excel, passion for learning, amazing work
ethic, and belief in the American dream have inspired me to write this book. In the
words of Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live
the life you have imagined.”
Thanks to all of the supportive and extremely professional people at Barron’s: Dimitry
Popow, my editor; Wayne Barr for seeking me out to write this book; and Veronica
Douglas for her support.
I am enormously grateful to Lou Savage, “The Voice.” His is the beautiful male voice
on the recordings. He was also responsible for all of the expert audio engineering and
audio editing. Thank you, Lou, for being such a perfectionist with the sound and insisting on fixing the audio “mistakes” I couldn’t hear anyway.
I am also grateful for the contributions of Maryam Meghan, Jack Cumming, Katarina
Matolek, Mauricio Sanchez, Sabrina Stoll, Sonya Kahn, Jennie Lo, Yvette Basica,
Marc Basica, and Laura Tien.

© Copyright 2009 by Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in
any form or by any means without the written permission of the copyright owner.
Address all inquiries to:
Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.
250 Wireless Boulevard
Hauppauge, NY 11788
www.barronseduc.com
ISBN-13: 978-0-7641-4185-0 (book only)
ISBN-10: 0-7641-4185-6 (book only)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7641-9582-2 (book & CD package)
ISBN-10: 0-7641-9582-4 (book & CD package)
Library of Congress Control Number 2008938576
Printed in the United States of America
987654321

Contents
Introduction vi
Chapter 1: The Vowel Sounds 1
Main Vowel Sounds of American English 1
Production of Vowels 2
/i/ as in meet 3
/I/ as in sit 3
/eɪ/ as in take 5
/ɛ/ as in get 6
/ae/ as in fat 7
/ɑ/ as in father 8
/ɘ/ as in fun 9
/ɔ/as in saw 10
/oʊ/ as in boat 12
/ʊ/ as in good 13
/u/ as in too 13
/ɘr/ as in bird 15
/aɪ/ as in time 15
/aʊ/ as in house 16
/ɔɪ/ as in boy 17

Chapter 2: Vowels in Detail 18
Review of /I/ and /i/ Sounds 18
Review of /ɛ/ and /æ/ Sounds 19
Review of /ɘ/, /ɑ/, /ɔ/, and /ou/ Sounds 20
The Problematic o 21
The American /ɔ/ Sound 23
Review of /ɛ/, /æ/, /ɑ/, /ɔ/, /ɘ/, and /oʊ/ 25
Review of /ʊ/ and /u/ Sounds 25
Comparing /u/ and /yu/ 26
Review of the /ɘr/ Sound 27
Vowels Followed by the /r/ Sound 27

Chapter 3: Consonants 29
Forming American Consonants 29
Voiceless and Voiced Consonants 30
Vowel Length and Voiced and Voiceless Consonants 31
Stops and Continuants 33

Chapter 4: Problematic Consonants 34
The Various t Sounds of American English 34
The “Fast d” Sound 38
The /tʃr/ Sound: tr 39
The /dʒr/ Sound: dr 39
The /dʒ/ Sound: du and d + y 40
The /tʃ/ Sound: tu and t + y 40
iii

Words Ending in -ed 41
The th Sound 44
The American /r/ 48
The American /l/ 50
Understanding /l/ Versus /r/ 52
The /v/ Sound 54
Understanding /b/ Versus /v/ 55
The /w/ Sound 56
Understanding /v/ Versus /w/ 58
The /s/ and /z/ Sounds 59
The /ŋg/ Sound: Pronouncing ng 62
Consonant Clusters 63

Chapter 5: Syllable Stress 66
Stressed and Reduced Vowels 66
Dangers of Stressing the Wrong Syllable 68
General Rules for Stress Placement 69
Two-Syllable Words 69
Noun and Verb Pairs 70
Words Ending in -tion and -ate 71
-ate Endings of Verbs and Nouns 71
More Stressed Suffixes 72
Rules for Prefixes 72
Syllable Stress Changes 74
Reduced Vowels for Review 76

Chapter 6: Word Stress 78
Compound Nouns 78
Proper Stress with Adjectives 80
Phrasal Verbs 81
Noun Forms of Phrasal Verbs 82
Abbreviations and Numbers 83
Names of Places and People 83
Word Stress Within a Sentence 84
Lengthening the Main Vowel in Stressed Words 84
Which Words Should I Stress? 85
Content Words 85
Content Words in Detail: Verbs 86
Stress Nouns but Not Pronouns 87
Content Words in Detail: Adjectives 87
Reducing Vowels in Unstressed Words 88
Weak Forms 89
Strong Forms 90
Thought Groups and Focus Words 91
Contrastive Stress 92

Chapter 7: Intonation 95
Falling Intonation 95
Statements 95
Questions 95
iv

Rising Intonation 96
Non-Final Intonation 97
Unfinished Thoughts 97
Introductory Words 98
Series of Words 98
Expressing Choices 98
Wavering Intonation 99

Chapter 8: Sound Like a True Native Speaker 101
Linking Words for Smoother Speech Flow 101
Rules for Linking 102
Linking Consonant to Vowel 102
Linking Consonant to Same Consonant 103
Final Stop Between Consonants 104
Linking Vowel to Vowel 104
Linking Vowels Within a Word 105
Reducing Pronouns 107
Contractions 108
Commonly Contracted Words 109
Conditional Tense and Contractions 113
Casual Versus Formal Speech 115
Rules and Patterns of Casual Speech 116
Commonly Confused Words 118

Chapter 9: Memorizing the Exceptions 119
Same Spelling, Different Pronunciation 119
Two Correct Pronunciations 120
Especially Difficult Words 121
Words with Dropped Syllables 123
Words with Silent Letters 124
Homophones 125

Native Language Guide 127
Chinese 127
Farsi 135
Filipino Languages 138
French 141
German 146
Indian Languages 150
Indonesian 154
Japanese 158
Korean 162
Portuguese 166
Russian 170
Spanish 174
Vietnamese 179

Index 184
v

CD 1
Track
1

Introduction
This book will help non-native speakers of English learn to speak with an American accent.

Which American Accent Will This Book Teach Me?
You will learn to produce the standard American accent. Some people also call it “broadcaster English.” It’s the kind of standard, neutral speech that you hear on CNN and in educated circles. It’s a non-regional American accent, meaning that people do not associate the
dialect with any particular part of the United States. It is the accent most commonly associated with educated people in the American East, Midwest, and West.

How Should I Practice?
Listen to the recorded material over and over. You will hear words and sentences pronounced
followed by a pause for you to repeat after the speaker. You may want to record yourself
repeating so that you can compare your accent to the accents of the speakers on this audio.
Then practice the new sounds in real-life situations.
There are numerous study tips throughout the book, both from the writer and from her
many successful students who have greatly improved their American accent. For an individual professional analysis of your accent which will help you to study accent reduction
more efficiently and tell you which sections of this book you should focus on most, please
contact us at 1-800-871-1317 or visit our website at: masteringtheamericanaccent.com.

vi

Mastering the American Accent

CD 1
Track
2

Chapter One

THE VOWEL SOUNDS
In this chapter you will learn how to accurately pronounce all of the main American English
vowel sounds. The English alphabet has five vowels, a, e, i, o and u, but it has about 15 main
vowel sounds. For some learners this is one of the most difficult aspects of American English to
master. Speakers of languages with fewer vowel sounds are likely to speak English using only
the same number of sounds that exist in their native language. Sometimes they do not even
hear the distinction between certain sounds in English. Consequently, non-native speakers
might pronounce “hill” and “heal” the same way. Similarly, the words sell and sale, or cup, cop,
and cap may also sound the same when spoken by a non-native speaker.
Because there is not always a direct relationship between how a word is spelled and how it
is pronounced, you should become familiar with the phonetic symbols that represent the
sounds that you are learning. This way, you will be able to use your dictionary when you
come across a word that contains a vowel sound that you don’t know how to pronounce.
Make sure you also become familiar with the phonetic symbols of your dictionary as they
may be a bit different from the symbols that this book uses.

Main Vowel Sounds of
American English

CD 1
Track
3

1. /i/

read, heat, meet, seat, seen, feet

Please eat the meat and the cheese before
you leave.

2. /ɪ/

in, bit, this, give, sister, will, city

My sister Linda will live in the big city.

3. /eɪ/

late, gate, bait, fail, main, braid, wait

Jane’s face looks great for her age of
eighty-eight.

4. /ɛ/

let, get, end, any, fell, bread, men, said

I went to Texas for my friend’s wedding.

5. /æ/

last, apple, add, can, answer, class

The handsome man lost his baggage after
his travels.

6. /ɑ/

stop, lock, farm, want, army, possible,
got

John is positive that his car was parked in
that lot.

7. /ɘ/

come, up, jump, but, does, love, money,
about

Your younger brother doesn’t trust us, does
he?

Chapter One: THE VOWEL SOUNDS

1

CD 1
Track
4

8. /ɔ/

all, fall, author, also, applaud, thought,
fought

Paula was doing laundry all day long.

9. /oʊ/

go, slow, so, those, post, moment, drove

Oh, no! Don’t open the window, it’s cold.

10. /ʊ/

look, took, put, foot, full, wolf, cookie

He would read the good book if he could.

11. /u/

cool, soup, moon, boot, tooth, move,
true

Sue knew about the food in the room.

12. /ɘr/

her, work, sure, first, early, were, earn,
occur

What were the first words that girl learned?

13. /aɪ/

time, nine, dry, high, style, five, China

I advise you to ride a bicycle in China.

14. /aʊ/

south, house, cow, found, down, town

He went out of the house for about an hour.

15. /ɔɪ/

oil, choice, moist, enjoy, avoid, voice

Let’s avoid the annoying noise.

Production of Vowels
We categorize vowels as front, middle, or back depending on which part of the tongue is
used to produce the sound. For example, /i/ is a front vowel because the front part of the
tongue goes up in the front of the mouth, and /u/ is a back vowel because the back of the
tongue goes up in the back of the mouth. We also categorize vowels as high or low. In high
vowels, the tongue is pushed up high near the roof of the mouth as in /i/, and in low vowels, the tongue is flat down at the bottom of the mouth, as in /ae/.
Diphthongs consist of two different vowel sounds that are closely joined together and treated
as one vowel. They are represented by two phonetic symbols. To create this sound, move your
tongue smoothly from one vowel position to another. The following vowels are diphthongs:
/eɪ/ as in take, /oʊ/ as in boat, /aɪ/ as in time, /aʊ/ as in house, and /ɔɪ/ as in boy.
You will now learn how to correctly pronounce each type of vowel. Refer to the diagrams
below to help you better understand the correct tongue and lip positions for these various
vowel sounds.

i

I

ei

ε

´r
æ

front
2

Mastering the American Accent

u

´

u

α

a

middle

back

c

/i/ AS IN MEET

CD 1
Track
5

A thief believes everybody steals.
E.W. Howe
Lips: Slightly smiling, tense, not rounded.
Tongue: Tense, high and far forward near the roof of the mouth.

Common Spelling Patterns for /i/
1. ee
2. ea
3. ie and ei
4. final e
5. e + consonant + e
6. final y
7. endings with ique

meet, feel, see, free
team, reach, mean, sea
belief, piece, neither, receive
me, we, she, he
these, Chinese, Peter
city, duty, country, ability
unique, boutique, critique

CD 1
Track
6

Word Pairs for Practice
1. deep sea
2. beans and cheese
3. severe heat
4. breathe deep
5. three meals

6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

green leaves
extremely easy
sweet dreams
peaches and cream
speak Chinese
CD 1
Track
7

Practice Sentences
1. The employees agreed to meet at eight fifteen.
2. Don’t keep the TV near the heater.
3. It’s extremely easy to cheat when the teacher isn’t here.
4. Please speak to Peter about the employee meeting.
5. Steve will reread the email before he leaves.

CD 1
Track
8

/I/ AS IN SIT
In the middle of a difficulty lies opportunity.
Albert Einstein
Lips: Slightly parted, relaxed.
Tongue: Relaxed, high, but not as high as for /i/. Sides of the tongue touch
upper back teeth.

Chapter One: THE VOWEL SOUNDS

3