The Accent Diet® Intensive American English Accent Reduction and Pronunciation Course is designed for speakers of English as a Second Language who have pronunciation challenges that lead to miscommunication, confusion, or inefficient communication with customers and coworkers.
The Accent Diet® training program provides participants with a simple 3-step process to help them quickly reduce misunderstandings and improve the smoothness of their speech. The Accent Diet® course uses The Accent Diet: A Daily Program for Improving Your American English Pronunciation, a textbook written by the Ovient founders specifically for business professionals, and will include access to Online accent and pronunciation lessons to enhance practice outside of class.
This program can be offered as an online or in-person seminar.
Class size: Up to 20 people
Length: 6 hours
Cost: Contact us for pricing or call 650-294-8450
• Speech rhythm and pausing
• Intonation and word stress
• Syllable stress
• Discrete sounds
American English Pronunciation and Accent Basics
Pronouncing American English involves understanding how to create individual sounds, where to lengthen your sounds, where to pause, what sounds to connect and delete, and where to add stress and intonation in words, phrases, and sentences.
We make sounds by using various combinations of our tongue, lips, teeth, nose, breath and vocal cords. For example, in order to make an “l” sound, a speaker must touch the tip of his tongue to the spot just behind his top front teeth, where the gums and teeth meet. Then, the speaker must hold his tongue there while breathing out and vibrating his vocal cords. A slight change in the position of the tongue or the breath can create a sound that is different enough for a native speaker to misunderstand.
Pausing is a key part of the rhythm of English. Think of English as having a heartbeat or pulse. Pausing helps keep this pulse slow and steady. Speech that has a slow and steady pulse is clear and sounds confident. We use pauses to process new information that the speaker is giving us. If someone speaks without pausing, it is difficult to listen to and think carefully about what is being said.
Stretching the vowels and the endings of words will increase the clarity of a speaker’s words. Many English words are distinguished by the vowels or endings, and so if these are not given enough “time,” listeners may misunderstand the words.
Native English speakers do not read every word in isolation. Instead, they connect words together by blending the sound at the end of one word with the sound of the beginning of the next word. If a speaker reads each word individually without blending the ends and beginnings, his speech will sound “choppy.”
When speaking quickly, native English speakers often delete sounds or change them to roll more smoothly off their tongues. While this is not an essential part of learning to speak with an American accent, it can help advanced speakers learn to speak quickly without compromising clarity.
Word stress is a term that describes the extra stress or power that gets placed on a single word in a sentence. (This is sometimes called “sentence stress.”) Stressed words are a little longer (stretched), and a little higher-pitched and a little louder than the other words in a sentence. The words that get this extra stress are called “content” words. These are the words that contain the essential meaning of the sentence. These might be verbs, nouns, and adjectives. The non-stressed words are typically the “function” words. These are the words that help with the grammar of the sentence, such as “the” and “a” or helping verbs.
Intonation is the rising and falling of the pitch of your voice. It is part of the rhythm of English. It helps to think of intonation like the notes on a musical scale. Just as notes can go up and down, you can use intonation to make your voice go up and down. You can also think of intonation as steps going up or down or as a wave that moves up and down like the ocean. Just remember that when you speak English, your voice should not be flat.
A syllable is made up of one vowel sound. A syllable can also contain consonants, but it does not have to. For example, service has two syllables (ser-vice) because it has two vowel sounds (e, i). The final e is silent. Some people like to think of a syllable as a beat of music. You can feel the “beat” by clapping your hands to the syllables. If you say the word service, you would clap once on ser and once on vice.
Syllable stress is the emphasis we place on one syllable in a word. We create stress by making the syllable a little louder, longer, and higher-pitched. One way to feel the stress on a syllable is to take a rubber band and pull it apart when stressing the sound. If the correct syllables are not stressed, listeners may not understand the word, even if all of the individual sounds are correct.
What is the International Phonetic Alphabet?
The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is a standard set of symbols that represent sounds. For example, the sound that the letters “SH” make is written as /ʃ/ in the IPA. Although the same letter can be pronounced with different sounds in English (“c” can sound like /s/ or /k/), IPA symbols never change sounds. This means that you can use IPA to easily learn how to pronounce any new word. Most dictionaries made for second-language learners use IPA because it is an international standard; however, many dictionaries published in the United States use standard letters to show pronunciation because many Americans do not learn the IPA symbols in school.
Voiced and Unvoiced Sounds
Voiced sounds are made with the vibration of the vocal cords, and unvoiced sounds are not. For example, the s and t sounds are unvoiced, and the z and d sounds are voiced. All vowels are voiced sounds.