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How SPECIFIC You Have to Be When Learning to Sound Like an American?

Within the confines of this blog I’m learning to sound like an American English speaker and to be more specific – like one speaking with the so-called General American Pronunciation.

I’ve been practicing my American on and off for more than a year now, and to be honest with you, I’m quite pleased with the results!

You’re more than welcome to watch the video above where I’m discussing today’s subject in-depth while putting on the American accent, and you can see for yourself what it sounds like.

Well, you have to bear in mind I haven’t been doing a lot of spoken practice (which is crucial in order to develop one’s accent and also English fluency in general!) during the summer months while refurbishing my new house, so please don’t be too critical of the shortcomings of my American Pronunciation.

The point I’m going to make today, however, isn’t about that.

It’s about the following – when I’m saying I’m learning the General American Pronunciation, how SPECIFIC do I have to be about that?

If the resulting speech is a mix of Californian, Canadian and New York accents – have I failed as far as the accent acquisition is concerned or have I been successful?

The reason I’m asking this question and also why I’m trying to deal with it is the following: a while back I was told by a native speaker that my General American is quite good except for the fact there’s a little bit of New York accent creeping in. It was followed by another comment a short while later saying that there’s some Canadian pronunciation present in my speech – all the while I was trying to sound like someone coming from the Midwest region of the US!

It poses a valid concern to all American accent learners worldwide:

Do we, foreign English speakers, have to be VERY SPECIFIC about accent acquisition and make sure we sound EXACTLY like our target accent speakers?

Now, I guess it goes without saying that it’s almost impossible to achieve a 100% success as far as accent acquisition is concerned; once you’re born a foreigner, you’ll always retain at least that little bit of unique hint of your own accent.

So I guess the question should be rephrased the following way:

If you learn the General American Pronunciation (or any other accent for that matter – British, for example), is it OK if your speech is a mix of different accents and you end up sounding like an Italian being raised in Chicago and having moved to LA in his early twenties?

Here’s a quick answer to this question: YES, it’s totally fine if your speech isn’t the exact match of your target English accent you’re trying to acquire!

Accent learning requires a great deal of speech practicing and constant adjusting of one’s speech, and as you can imagine for someone whose first language isn’t English, all the different variations in pronunciation that are quite obvious to a native speaker might sound all the same!

So I’d say that if you aspire to learn to speak like an American and you go for the General American Pronunciation but end up speaking with your “own American accent”, it’s totally normal!

You can’t be expected to master a perfect neutral accent for the simple reason that it’s not even an easy task for native English speakers to achieve – let alone foreigners!

And now you can watch the video above where I’m discussing all this in a more in-depth way.

All comments as well as constructive criticism are welcome!


Robby 😉

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Hernán

    Hi Robby, I think you’re right. You hit the nail on the head here. I know I have my own American accent… and I’m proud of it!
    It’s just not logical as foreigners pretendig to sound just like a native speaker would sound like..
    Anyway, I’m hooked with your websites (this one and the easyidioms website) so.. thanks for sharing!
    Have a nice week!

    Regards from Madrid

    • accentrobby

      Thanks a lot Hernán for the positive feedback, and I’m so glad my message resonates with other foreigners – thanks for sharing your opinion!

      Regards from Newbridge,