American Accent Drills for British and Australian Speakers
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American Accent Drills for British and Australian Speakers

Amanda Quaid

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eBook - ePub

American Accent Drills for British and Australian Speakers

Amanda Quaid

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American Accent Drills for British and Australian Speakers provides a comprehensive guide to learning a "General American" accent, made specifically for native English speakers.

Unlike most American accent guides, which are geared toward ESL learners, this handbook covers only the shifts that English speakers need to make – nothing more, nothing less. In addition to vowel and consonant drills, it covers the finer points of American intonation and elision, features that often elude English speakers of other dialects. Finally, it provides exercises for "owning" the dialect, finding authenticity and making it work for each individual actor in their own way.

This is an excellent resource for students of speech and dialects, actors from the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, and advanced ESL learners who need to use an American accent on screen or on stage.

American Accent Drills for British and Australian Speakers also includes access to downloadable audio files of the practice drills featured in the book, to help students practice and perfect their American accent.

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Vowels and Diphthongs


Before we launch into our first sound, let’s explore the parts of your anatomy you use to make speech, your articulators. You have many articulators, but these are the ones we’ll reference in this book.

Immovable Articulators

Teeth: the upper teeth are used for the consonant sounds [θ] as in three, [ð] as in them, [f] as in five, and [v] as in vine. The lower serve as an anchor point for the tongue when it shapes vowel sounds.
Gum ridge: the bump behind your upper teeth (also called the alveolar ridge). Used for articulating [t] as in time, [d] as in dime, [n] as in no, [l] as in love, and as a reference area for the GenAm R sound (also see Chapter 3).
Hard palate: the “roof of your mouth.”

Moveable Articulators

Lips: can be rounded, neutral, or retracted. Lip corners can protrude, stay neutral or pull back.
Tongue: cups down or arches up in the front, middle, and back for vowel shaping. To feel the movement of the tongue, try saying “ee—aw—ee—aw” without moving your jaw. You should feel an undulation, front to back. The tongue also articulates various consonant sounds.
Tip of tongue: the very front point, used to articulate [t], [d], [n], [l], [θ], [ð], and the GenAm R sound.
Blade of tongue: the area right behind the tip of the tongue.
Soft palate: behind the hard palate, the soft palate raises when you yawn and lowers when you say a word like “sing.” (Also called the velum.)
Jaw: raises up and lowers down for vowel shaping.
Glottis: the open space between your vocal folds. When the folds come together to close the glottis, as when you cough, you’ll experience a little “pop” in your airflow. To feel it at work, say “uh oh!”
Figure 1.1 Articulators

[æ] as in Trap and Bath

This is a sound I like to start with because it requires some boldness. It’s that brassy, sometimes nasal sound Brits and Aussies tend to dislike in American speech. Jump in and go for it, using the audio as a guide. If you go too far at first, it’s easy to pull back.


Tongue: tip touches the lower front teeth, and front of tongue cups down.
Lips: retracted (slight smile).
Jaw: released and may be ever-so-slightly lowered.


  1. apple cap gap lap map nap perhaps tap cab crab fabulous bat cat fat rat sat Saturday bad dad glad mad sad sadly back Jack lack pack quack rack sack vacuum bag tag flag gag Africa traffic avenue average lavender savage Al pal athlete Katherine math fascinate passenger gas ash cash crash dash mash rash trash badge imagine pack lack lad gladly status
  2. after bath path ask disaster grass pass class fast cast last giraffe master laugh basket blasted craft nasty mask pasture pass raspberry half
  3. (note: these might sound a bit more nasal—see the upcoming Special Topic) advantage answer can’t chance dance enhance France plant example reprimand command grant
  4. (note: the stress falls on the second syllable) caffeine café


  1. sad, glad or mad?
  2. trash bag
  3. fascinating class
  4. relaxing bath
  5. Katherine’s passions
  6. vacuum bag
  7. fat cat
  8. Jack’s values
  9. pass the basket
  10. bad traffic
  11. Madison Avenue
  12. last laugh


  1. The actress gave a class on craft.
  2. Jack chatted out back with Katherine.
  3. The giraffes in Africa were commanding.
  4. I’m asking Alice to answer, not Al.
  5. Their nasty laughter made dad sad.
  6. Matt had a relaxing bath on Saturday.

Special Topic: [æ] + [n], [m], [ŋ]

Before the nasal consonants [n] as in can, [m] as in ham, and [ŋ] as in hang, the vowel may become diphthongized (drawn out) and nasalized (given a quality of nasality). Note that the vowel before [n] and [m] is the same, but different before [ŋ].
[ɛ̃ən] [ɛ̃əm] [ẽıŋ]
can’t camera canker
ban bam bank
Anna amber angle
Dan damp dangle
fan family fang
began gamma gang
can camp kangaroo
pan Pamela pancreatic
hand ham hang
January jam jangle
land lamb Lang
ran Rambo rang
channel champion Chang
tan tambourine tank
mannequin mammogram mango
piano ammo anxiety

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