It’s a myth that your accent defines your intelligence. Your career skills should matter more than your accent. But those skills must be paired with good communication. When people understand you clearly, they have more confidence in the work you do. This is why many people work to acquire the General American accent with American...
American Accent TrainingWhat Is The General American Accent?
It’s a myth that your accent defines your intelligence. Your career skills should matter more than your accent. But those skills must be paired with good communication. When people understand you clearly, they have more confidence in the work you do. This is why many people work to acquire the General American accent with American accent training.
What is GenAm?
GenAm is how people refer to the General American accent used on national news broadcasts and most media outlets. You will also hear it in business meetings and within professional circles. Anyone who works in an area that requires clear communication usually aims for a GenAm accent. Accent reduction classes and American accent training usually focus on it too.
Is GenAm the same as a Midwest accent?
When someone speaks with GenAm, it is unmarked. That means it’s almost impossible to guess which part of the country they are from. Many people point to the Midwest as an example of an area where the GenAm accent is spoken. But even there, you can find regional pronunciation patterns that are unique to the area.
For example, the Long O in words like “don’t” and “know” usually have less lip movement and more tension in the Midwest compared with the standard pronunciation of the same vowel. Also, people in that region sometimes pronounce the Short A found in words like “and” or “have” higher up in the mouth, or sometimes even nasal.
Is there a place in the US where everyone uses GenAm?
Usually, if someone speaks with this standard American accent, they have learned it through diction and American accent training. True, there are some people for whom it comes naturally. But that typically happens only when their family and close associates all have high standards of proper pronunciation. Most Americans must unlearn their regional accent when entering the professional arena.
How can I get the GenAm accent?
Even though we see plenty of people on TV with perfect pronunciation, it isn’t as easy as it looks. To achieve that goal of standardizing your pronunciation, there are several things you can do. The first involves your mindset.
1- Don’t feel ashamed of your current accent
GenAm isn’t a better accent, it’s simply easier for most Americans to understand. You have to rid yourself of the idea that this is a discussion of good English vs. bad English. As long as your speech is grammatically correct, there is nothing inherently wrong with speaking with an accent. The slight variations in pronunciation that earmark your accent as regional or foreign are not incorrect. They are simply different.
That said, many people have a biased perception of those who speak with a non-standard accent. This is sad but true. Working with the bias of others is a real challenge in today’s world. As the old saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them”. Don’t let their prejudice hold you back. Show the world your true value!
Of course, you don’t want to become biased yourself. But you can become aware of the incorrect assumptions that people tend to make. This way, you can adjust your speech patterns to avoid being the brunt of their scorn. You can still hold onto your cultural and individual identity while working to acquire the General American accent. But, you are probably thinking, “What exactly do I need to change to get the GenAm accent?”
2- Watch out for vowels
Vowels sounds are the most significant variable within accents. One thing you will learn about in American accent training is that we divide English vowels into two groups: long and short. Long vowels have movement and short vowels don’t. So, that means when you say the word “main” with a Long A, your tongue should move the sound from the throat toward the front of the mouth. Without that movement, it may sound like the word “men”, which has a Short E.
Another factor to pay attention to with the vowel sounds is tension. If your tongue goes up high close to the top of your mouth, or backward close to the back of your throat, the vowel sounds more tense. The Short A in “man”, for example, has that tension. If the mouth and throat are too loose and open, then it might sound more like “men”.
3- Consider the consonants
In general, consonants are the sounds made when you close your mouth in some way. Most consonant sounds are made at a point of contact. The important distinction though, is what happens with the airflow at that spot. Does it stop completely or does it flow through? If it stops completely, you are making a plosive sound. If the air flows through with only a little obstruction, that’s a fricative sound.
Why does this matter? Consider the words “tin” and “thin”. The points of contact for T and TH are different. But the main variable is the airflow. If you stop the air completely, it will sound like “tin” even if your tongue is between your teeth. To say the TH clearly, it must be fricative, with air flowing non-stop between the tongue and teeth. The same thing must happen for words with a voiced TH, like “this”. If you apply too much pressure and stop the airflow completely, it will sound more like “dis”.
General American accent training
Athletes need to train regularly to form good habits that give them an edge in their sport. It works the same way with your accent and diction. American accent training can help you learn those little things that will give you an edge in your career.
Long vowels, short vowels, fricatives, and plosives — that all might sound a little too nerdy for your tastes. But get a skilled accent coach that helps you understand what it takes and what to do. Then all your language and communication barriers will become more like hurdles in your race to success. With the right training, you can scale any obstacle! You can master the GenAm accent!