Accent Reduction

When you're in Rome, do as the Romans. So as I am in the US, it's about time to work on my accent. Said and done. One of those days in spring I drive to the Adult School in Madison, where two very friendly ladies greet me on the first floor of an old school building.

I approach them saying that I would like to register for a course with the Adult School and if that's the place to to do. As I speak, one of them asks me if I am a native German speaker. That question fits right in and I hand her my registration for the "accent reduction course." We all have to laugh about it.

A couple of weeks later the course begins. The teacher's name is Robbie English. The course turns out to be very interesting, the different lessons teach me more systematically what the various pronounciation patterns are. That's quite hard to put down in writing here, but there are some general rules, of course.

First of all, there are some simple things that I had to learn: there is a silent "l" (ell) in salmon and in Lincoln, as well as in a couple of other words. I didn't know that.

Very interesting is the clear difference between American and British English. Prime examples are words like newspaper: where the British would say something like n-you-se-paper, the Americans would say noosepaper. Other words with the same difference include duty (dyoutee versus doodee) and actually many others that I noticed after I had it pointed out to me.

The rule number one though, according to Robbie English, is that the American mouth is generally wide open. It is also referred to as "jaw-dropping." The word yawning is actually a good practice to let your jaw drop. Typical examples include the "o" sound. The name Bob is pronounced more like "Bawb" and Don is pronounced more like "Dawn." I tried it out on my colleague Jawn Warner and it works - he reacts to "Hi Jawn"!

You could then go shawping in a shawp and drawp a bawdle into your shawping cart. That shawp would in our case prawbablee be in Chaddam (signs there would say "Chatham" though), and one of the biggest grocery stores there is the local Stawp and Shawp.

The best exercise of all it a term that combines all the examples in it: if you are a non-native American English speaker, practice the word "doodee free shawp" three times a day and make sure you ask for it next time you are at an airport in the US.

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