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All accents have a point of resonance. This is an area in the mouth.
The standard American accent has the point of resonance in the middle
of the mouth. As an example of why this is important: British English
has the point of resonance in the forward part of the mouth. People who
learned British English as a child often have to practice relaxing the
face so that the sound resonates in the middle of the mouth. Those from
language backgrounds that use the throat more will need to practice
relaxation of the throat.
2. There is a lot of facial movement in American English. If a sound is made with an open jaw, you really want to open the mouth. Sounds made with the lips such as the long E and the W really need that movement of the lips. Do remember that culturally, Americans compensate for this by looking each other in the eye--which means people do not see how the mouth moves unless they're watching TV.
3. Vowel sounds are large--they take slightly more time than consonants. This applies to all the vowels except the 3 vowels that are truly short: the short E, the short I and the short U as in "met," "sit" and "up." Though we teach "short vowels" and "long vowels," the word "short" can be deceptive that way. The different short A sounds and the short O sound as in cat, family and hot are sounds that take a bit of time because the jaw is quite open. In a word with two or more syllables, the stressed vowel is usually the only one that is a large sound, i.e. in the word "marketing," the largest vowel sound is the open A. The vowel sounds can be the most difficult to master because of the many spelling exceptions, but actually making large sounds can help you hear mistakes and improve your pronunciation overall.
4. Vowel sounds need to be clear, but they are not precise. Unlike some languages where each sound has a distinct value, Americans are comfortable moving to a new sound in the middle of a word. This is a very subtle point. However, it may help you to move your face and make large vowel sounds. Generally try to create smooth, large sounds and let them flow together. Learn about linking vowels.
5. The reduced T sounds of American English are very important to the accent. Reducing the T sounds gives the language its softer tone overall.
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