Understanding others and being understood

Part of improving your ear for the American accent is learning how to speak in that accent yourself. But don’t worry: we won’t change how you normally talk if you don’t want to. I just give you the tools to communicate with Americans when you need to. For instance, if you know how to produce the flat, Chicago “a,” you’ll have a better chance of understanding others when they talk like that. The rest of the time you can talk in your natural way.

Another example is the way Americans make three words sounds like one, such as the way “I’m going to” sometimes turns into “ah-mun-nah” or even “ah-muh.” Your ability to understand such speech improves as you practice listening to it as well as practice pronouncing things the way Americans do.

The emphasis that goes on certain syllables is another important part of understanding others and being understood. In other countries the word development is pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable, while in the U.S. we pronounce it with the emphasis on the second. If you’re still learning the ways Americans stress words like opportunity, complete and participation, a good tip is to slow down your speech. When someone indicates that they don’t know what you’re saying, repeat it more slowly. Slower speech helps when the speaker’s accent is different from the listener’s.

If you feel like people don’t always understand you, please contact me so we can start making your communication clearer!