Can Americans understand your English when you speak?

Who really understands all the accents, in a country that keeps attracting people from all parts of the world? But don’t be fooled, people do listen to the way you speak, and, unless you have taken some American accent reduction classes and have mastered sounds hard for you to pronounce, they also judge you by the way you sound.

International English speakers are often misunderstood, their message gets lost, or at best, it is not taken seriously. Here are some things you can watch out for to help listeners understand you better (especially if you’ve already taken classes in accent reduction).

Speak Slowly [but only in presentations and on the phone]

This is the easiest and fastest [sic] way to make sure people can follow what you are saying. It gives them time to focus on your accent and to become comfortable with the way you speak. And, it improves your communication by about 90% without you changing much else. However, once you can enunciate all the sounds and say all the consonants well, you can speed up again and speak at your normal pace.

Avoid Idioms and Slang

If you think “a dog-eat-dog world” or a “cat-call” refers to animals, stick to plain English, (i.e., stay away from expressions you don’t really understand). Sloppy diction, i.e., saying “goin” rather than “going” or “ged oudda he” unfortunately sounds uneducated [or strange if you have an accent]; also, watch out where you live – speech patterns that are linked to geographical areas – “cah” for “car” sound great in Boston and in the Kennedy household, but maybe not in California – and especially not if it comes from someone with English as a second Language (ESL).

Speak Clearly

Enunciate e-v-e-r-y consonant, in the middle and at the end of a word; you will be amazed at the difference this will make for your listeners. For example, “pielie” becomes “pipeline.”

British or American?

Decide if you want to use a British accent or use an American version of the word. It is confusing to follow someone saying half a sentence in one accent, and the rest in another.

Check your Germanese or Frenglish

Even though you might have learned different sounds: German or French speakers especially, watch out because:

Village isn’t “willage”

Yosemite isn’t “Josemight”

Lake Tahoe is not Lake Tahoo

Germany is not pronounced Chermany

Los Angeles has a short /a/ as in /cat/ not as in /angels/

It isn’t “how you do that?” but “how did you do that?”

And avoid “he didn’t came” (he didn’t come)

It is devElop, not DEvelop, and anAlysis, not analYSIS

“shi deed ire mi” is in fact “she did hire me”

And, “cool” is cool only for high school and college students (not necessarily for adult Germans).

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