Accents American

The Happy Secret To Developing An Optimal English Accent

The English alphabet is a scam!

I say so because it is non-phonetic meaning the letters will trick you- they will be spelt in another way than you might think. For example take the word about. Instead of əˈbaʊt (UH-BOUT) learners are likely to say æbaʊt (AH-BOUT).

Vowel Chart

So there is a very subtle difference in tongue movement (we are talking about a matter of millimeters). This will make the difference between giving the impression your English is not so proficient and being accepted as a native speaker! So, here is the secret weapon for perfecting your English accent: Enter, vowel chart!

The vowel chart is a cross-section of the inside of your mouth. It will help you to become mindful of tongue movement. Where is your tongue when you say the vowel sound in cheese (IPA symbol of EE is i:)

The tip of your tongue reaches close to the alveolar ridge, a few millimeters before your upper teeth.

Matter of millimeters

How about when you say the vowel sound in moon *(IPA symbol of OO is u:)? The back of the tongue gets bunched and moves back into the mouth, upwards.

You can remember the tongue goes up for the vowel sound i: (cheese, please, seed) with this phrase: reaching for the cheese.

In addition, you can close your eyes and really get mindful of tongue movement. Try say i: + u: (chEESE, mOOn) and feel the tongue shift back and forth.

Get even more mindful of your tongue generating the u: sound by being conscious of how the sides of the back tongue touches the inner molar teeth- very delicate, but I’m telling you these are the sensibilities that must be considered for a flawless accent.

Difficulties for Asian students

Sometimes my Asian and European students have difficulty differentiating between a long vowel and short vowel sound. They would say: spickers instead of speakers. The vowel chart makes you realised, you have to move your tongue tip up ever so slightly, a few millimeters- then the air for lungs can take a ride on your elevate tongue for you to successfully pronounce a long vowel EA sound.

Accents American

How You Can Improve Your English Accent.

Chinese speakers have problems with vowel sounds in English because the modern Chinese alphabet – the Pinyin– is phonetic meaning they should be pronounced the way they look.

As a consequence, instead of əˈbaʊt they are likely to say æbaʊt. That’s AH-bout instead of UH-bout.

Now there is a very subtle difference in tongue movement so, look at the secret weapon for fixing this. Enter, vowel chart!

The vowel chart, also known as the vowel quadrilateral, is a cross-section of the tongue position in the mouth. It shows you the exact coordinates for vowel sounds. For this example, to make the ə sound, it is a central vowel sound meaning your tongue is in the center of your mouth behind the lower teeth. what about the height? Mid height!

If you say æbaʊt (AH-bout) this is WRONG. But it’s equally important to know the vowel chart position for it so you can adjust it to the correct tongue position.

This video was made with ManyCam. It’s a versatile tool for what I call “edutainment”. You can get $10 discount if you click here

Accents American

IPA Front Vowel Chart

The height of the jaw increases as you pronounce the vowel sounds in the words of this GIF:

The jaw height changes depending on the vowel you are articulating. Enter vowel chart, the secret weapon for perfecting your English accent on the condition that your tongue height and position hit the coordinates:

The vowel chart is a cross-section of your vocal tract. In other words, it shows the required height and position of your tongue for producing various vowel sounds. This is the ultimate tool for being mindful of the highly-discarded language learning super tool- the tongue! The vowel chart should be called an instruction manual for the tongue.

The vowel chart should be considered as an instruction manual for the tongue.

Teacher Matthew/Matty, Sorry For My Good English.

If you want to pronounce the /i:/ correctly in ice cream, look at the coordinates on the map, so to speak. Watch the video:

Accents American

Central Vowel Sounds

There are three central vowel sounds to watch out for. ə (sighing sound uh), ʌ(as in pizza hut) s and ɑː (card).

The tongue is more or less in a flat position for pronouncing these central vowel sounds.

You can become mindful of your tongue position by conjuring up an imaginative phrase that contains these central vowel sounds:

ðə ɡʌn əˈlɑːm

Phonetic Translation for “the gun alarm”

Now add some uplifting melody so you can associate it with the tongue position for central vowel sounds:

Check out the video blog version:

Use this rhyme generator so you can create your own central vowel rhyme in the comments section.

Accents American British

Front Vowel Sounds

Look in a mirror and say the sounds in these words: ” ea”(scream), “i” (flip), “e” (jet), “a” (tan). What do you notice about the jaw? It gets wider and wider for every word.

Look closely at your tongue and you can see for each word the tongue gets more deflated with every word (from scream to tan). The midline of the tongue actually deflates like a beachball on steroids when you transition from an “e” to an “a” sound.

JAW HEIGHT increases as the vowel sounds are made from scrEAm, flIp, jEt, tAn.
Accents American

The first step is to become mindful of your tongue

If you’re have a desire to improve your English accent (American or British) you should focus on one thing at a time. In the context of accent training, focus on one body part at a time. Can you guess which part though? Here are some hints:

  1. It seldom sees the light of day but does on the dentist’s chair-albeit artificial.
  2. It is extremely strong.
  3. It is highly discarded in language learning and communication in general.
  4. It is rather associated with something racy instead of accent prowess.

It’s the tongue. Now let’s identify the default position of it- sort of when a motorboat is in a stationary position in an ocean (of saliva) in your mouth. *Sigh* to park the motorboat in its default position. Sigh through a ‘duh’ sound and feel your lips, jaw and tongue relax. Now your tongue should be somewhat in the middle of the mouth. Close your eyes so you can turn on your tongue GPS. Now that you’ve located the default position of the tongue, what happens to it when you see this and articulate it?

Coffee beans or /ˈkɑː.fi biːnz/

“Coffee beans!”. So from the default DUH position of the tongue, it should move to ea/ee. Does the tongue move forward or backward? Answer: It moves forward to just in front of the lower teeth. Congratulations! You’ve just gained more insight into language learning the most people will because getting to know your tongue will unleash your fluency potential. Below is a video to show you the default tongue position and the new front position it must engage in to generate the /iː/

Accents American

R-colored vowels

Learn how to pronounce the characteristic R (ER) sound in American English by paying attention to your tongue.

To make the ɚ sound roll the tongue tip or bunch the back of the tongue.

Listen to a native recording then to yourself and make adjustments to your oral posture. Look at your lips in the mirror and feel how your tongue moves. Become mindful of the back of the tongue and teeth so you can replicate an amazing American accent!

Accents American

Day 3/30 American

American accent development

Tongue in the middle

So far, I have paid attention to the three oral postures for developing an American accent. Not to get overwhelmed, I focused on one posture so far: the position of the tongue. It should be relaxed and in the middle of the mouth, behind the lower teeth. I should memorise the said phrase ad nauseum so I can own this accent.


Since I am developing awareness day by day I allow myself to implement another tip: the sigh. Because the default position of American is a relaxed jaw, lip and tongue, the physical act of sighing should help to maintain it. I practised a “duh” and “ə” sighing exercise with my student today, at regular intervals in the lesson.

It’s a fact that penguins can waddle as fast as humans can walk.

Student B

Accents British

How to do a RP British accent

Pay attention to the three pillars of oral posture:

  1. Jaw
  2. Lips
  3. Tongue

First of all, let us consider the default anatomical position of the jaw. In RP, the jaw is often raised up and this reflects the poshness and social status of those who practise RP.  So, if possible, try to keep your head up, expose your neck and demonstrate you are scared of absolutely nothing. 

Next, think about the lips. Pay attention to my lips when I say: “Sure”. I will  say it twice. First, with an American accent, the second with a British accent.  Pay attention to my lip corners. Are they stretched apart or do they move forward?  /ʃɔːr/   Clearly, the lip corners stretched back in an American accent.   /ʃʊr/  Here, the lip corners move forward and close together . So, to maintain a RP British accent, be aware of keeping your lips together and not showing so much teeth, as opposed to Americans. 

Lastly, the tongue. Is it in the front or the back of the mouth? Close your eyes  and say Roger lost his dog with an American accent. Now say it with an RP accent.  Do you feel the tongue position changes from the center of the mouth to the front of the mouth?  

Here is another classic example in RP when the tongue is in front of the mouth:   /ʃʊr/  as opposed to   /ʃɔːr/ where the tongue is rolled back in American English.