How to Improve Spoken American English - Sound like a Native Speaker


A lot of people ask me if it's possible to sound like a native speaker if you weren't

born in the US. They want to know how long it will take. That, of course, depends entirely

upon the individual. Really focused pronunciation practice can yield great results. In this

video, I'm going to go over two different ways to study English to perfect your pronunciation.

All you need is the audio or video of a native speaker speaking.

First, we're going to do a Ben Franklin exercise. This is when you write down everything you

can about what you hear: whether or not you hear words being linked, or if you hear something

being reduced, for example. Now, we'll do this together to help you get

an idea of how to listen to and analyze what you hear. "A lot of people ask me if it's

possible to sound like a native speaker-- A lot of people ask me." So the first thing

I notice is that this T is a flap T, it sounds like a D, "a lot of," that's because it's

coming between two vowel sounds. I also notice that I hear these three words as one unit:

"a lot of, a lot of," with the stress happening on the middle word. "A lot of, a lot of people

ask me--" I also notice that this word ends in a consonant, this word begins with a vowel,

there's no punctuation in-between, "a lot of people ask," and I do hear that L as really

linking to the beginning vowel sound: "people ask." Another thing you'll want to note as

you listen is any sounds that you know are difficult for you. For example, many of my

students have problems integrating the AA sound into their speech. They know how to

do it, but they just don't use it in speech. So I would definitely, if was one of them,

mark this AA vowel, so that I'll be sure to note it, and then will hopefully begin to

integrate AA into my speech when I see this word 'ask.' "A lot of people ask me." Let's

keep going. "A lot of people ask me if it's possible to

sound like a native speaker-- if it's possible to sound, if it's possible to sound--" So,

I notice the stress here: possible, first syllable is stressed, "to sound," I notice

that has stress too. "--if it's possible to sound--" The word 'to' is definitely reduced

to the schwa, so I may mark that so I don't forget to reduce it. "Possible to sound."

"If it's, if it's." Here's another case where one word ends in a consonant sound, the next

word begins with a vowel sound, "if it's, if it's," and I do definitely hear those connecting

together. "If it's possible to sound." "A lot of people ask me if it's possible to

sound like a native speaker-- like a native speaker--" I notice my voice goes up at the

end here, "speaker." That's because the sentence isn't over, the next word is "if." I also

notice the stress is big, small, big, small, big, small. "Like a native speaker." DA da

DA da DA da. "Like a native speaker." Also, again here we have ending consonant sound/beginning

vowel sound: like a, like a. I hear the K linking to the schwa. "Like a. Like a native

speaker." Native -- I hear this T as a D because again, it's a T coming between two vowel sounds:

will be a flap T, sounds like a D. "Like a native speaker." In the entire sentence, I

don't hear and gaps or pauses between words. So in some cases, there's a very obvious link,

like when one word ends with a consonant and the next word begins with a vowel. But even

when there's not a very obvious linking sound, there's never a gap between the words.

"A lot of people ask me if it's possible to sound like a native speaker--" We've been

working for several minutes, and here we are only half way through one sentence. This is

just an example of how you might take notes from the audio or video clip of your choice.

After you've listened several times and taken thorough notes, you then put the audio or

video away and, from your notes, try to speak the way the native speaker was speaking. If

you can, record yourself, and then compare this to the native speaker. This is how you

can figure out where you still need to work. And now we'll do an imitation exercise. In

this video, you don't look at the text. You're not concerned with the actual words because

you do already have ideas about how words should be pronounced. So in this exercise

you're just listening. And I loop things three times in an imitation exercise so that you

begin to think about the pitch changes and the musicality of the speech, rather than

the individual words themselves. Repeat it back exactly as you hear it, even if you're

not sure of the individual words. It's ok, that's not what we're going for in this particular

exercise. A lot of people ask me [x3]

A lot of people ask me if it's possible to sound like a native speaker [3x]

if it's possible to sound like a native speaker

if you weren't born in the US. [x3]

Because of the internet, there really is an

endless supply of audio and video where English is being spoken by native speakers. I know

looping something over and over, as in the imitation exercise, can be more of a hassle

on your own. That's why, on my website, I do have both Ben Franklin and imitation exercises

ready for you. So I encourage you to take a look at these, or any other audio or video

clip that interests you, and turn it into a pronunciation exercise: study it this way.

It will really take you far in your practice. That's it, and thanks so much for using Rachel's English.