The Path to Learn American English – Free Guide and Tips
Want to learn American English?
If you are an international student coming to an American university or an IT professional who works with an American client, speaking and understanding American English is critical.
The reason is American English is quite different from English spoken in other parts of the world.
You might not even understand this till you start speaking with American native speakers.
American English is full of slang and idioms.
Also, American accents have a distinctive rhythm that is very different from British accents.
Learn more about our Spoken English Classes
What is American English?
American English is the variety of English that is spoken mainly in the USA.
Some versions of American English are spoken in Canada, but this is not widespread.
You will sometimes hear people from the Caribbean use certain expressions used in American English.
Also, American English differs regionally.
For example, people is New York speak English differently than people from Texas.
All these subtle nuances make American English difficult to learn, specially if you are coming from a place that taught British English at school.
Let’s quickly recap types of English before we dive deeper.
American English vs British English vs Canadian English vs Australian English
For many people English is English, wherever you live in the world which in part is due to the fact that English is the most widely used language in the world.
Whether you speak American English, British English, Canadian English or Australian English, people will understand what you are saying.
If you are choosing to learn a specific English which English would you like or prefer to learn?
Sometimes this can be decided by where you live.
If you live in Europe, many people choose to learn British English.
If you live nearer America or Canada you might rather learn American or Canadian English or if you live in the Southern Hemisphere it may be easier to learn Australian English.
If you are doing specific business with America, Britain, Canada or Australia or going there to visit or work, you may well choose to learn the specific language of that particular country.
Practice American English
Here is a brief overview of the different types of English:
American English is often perceived to be the easiest to understand. Many Asians and South Americans want to learn American English.
American English spellings are different to British English spellings. Here are some differences in spelling:
American English British English
There are different words for the same meaning between American and British English and here are some examples:
American English British English
Parking lot Car park
French fries Chips
There is different pronunciation between American and British English. Examples include the letter ‘r’ being stronger in American English than in British English, a different ‘a’ sound and the letter ‘t’ in the middle of words can sound more like the letter ‘d’ in American English.
British English is known as “the mother of English” due to its colonization of Australia, America and India.
It has very specific spelling and grammar rules.
The standard British accent is also known as Received Pronunciation (otherwise known as Oxford English). The Standard UK accent is based predominantly on the accent of Southern England. There are different spellings, different word description and different pronunciation between British English and American English – see above.
We wrote a 2000 word free guide on how to learn British English. Check it out if you are a British English student.
The film, The King’s Speech, is well known for defining the correct British accent and pronunciation.
The Best Way to Learn English Speaking
Canadian English contains parts of both British English and American English.
It will include the same vocabulary as American English but combines both American English and British English spellings.
For example, in English used in Canadian they will write colour, flavour or neighbour as in British English but write realize, criticize or specialize as in American English.
Pronunciation of Canadian English is a mixture of British and American English.
Australian English was influenced by the colonization of Australia by the British.
The Gold Rush in Australia in the 1850’s brought settlers from different parts or the world and this largely influenced the change in Australian English.
There are many American English words used in Australian English and Australian English also now includes spellings and usages of American English. A good example is the word “no worries”
The broad Australian accent is well recognized as there are many well-known Australian films, for example Crocodile Dundee and Australia.
There are also other smaller varieties of English like Irish English, South African English and New Zealand English. For the general English language student, these are not very important.
Decide which English you would like to learn and which English would help you the most.
Once you learn one, you will be able to understand the others.
Watch films set in America, Britain, Australia and Canada to help you understand all these accents. Learning English will help you communicate with native speakers worldwide wherever they live.
Back to our main topic…
How to Learn American English like a Champ?
This is true whether you are learning American English or any other type of English.
There are few ways to really immerse in English but we want to touch on 2 specific areas you can get real results from.
Both are fun methods! We don’t believe re-learning boring grammar theory will make any different.
Method 1 – Find an American English Teacher who will act like a Conversation Partner.
You might have a friends who spoke poor English, migrated to the US or UK and started speaking very fluently.
If you ask them how they improved their English speaking skills you will find that they never got any formal English lessons after they migrated.
How to Improve Conversational English Fast?
The only thing they did was have real Conversations with Native English Speakers as part of their daily lives.
This is why having English Conversation Partners is the best way to improve English speaking.
You might ask the question, do I need a native English speaker to practice with?
Speaking in English with anyone is better than not speaking in English at all. Speaking in English with anyone is better than just sitting in English lessons and taking notes.
However, if you can find a Native English Teacher to practice with 2 or 3 times a week, that is the best way to become really fluent in English.
When you practice English with a native speaker, you improve so much faster. Practicing with native speakers is the best way to speak at the right speed with the right pronunciation.
As a leaner, you will develop an accent which is close to “Native” as possible. You will learn idioms and slang used by Native English Speakers – things that are essential when learning American English.
Finding reliable Native English speakers to practice English with you for free is almost impossible. So use a service like Spoken English Practice to find the right speaking partner for you.
Learn more about Spoken English Practice
Some qualities of the right English Conversation Partner:
However good the speaking partner prepares and plans for each lesson. even on a pre-arranged agreed topic, sometimes lessons do not go to plan and the English teacher has to adapt the lessons to the requirements of the student with no notice.
Teachers need to be accessible in case the arranged lessons need to be altered or cancelled in advance by the student.
Good communication either via the chat box for example when using Skype or via email is an excellent way to send messages if needed ahead of arranged lessons to alter the time and/or day of a lesson.
Enthusiasm and patience
A good online English teacher needs plenty of patience and plenty of enthusiasm to encourage each student to fulfill their potential in learning to speak English to the best of their ability. The teacher must be able to communicate well.
Online Spoken English teachers need to be able to give advice and feedback on how the student is doing in each lesson. This can include the correct word order, correct tense to be used, correct pronunciation and suggestions for the student to consider or do after each lesson.
Advice could be suggestions of films to watch in English, radio programs to listen to in English, YouTube clips to watch or books to read in English.
Sign up for Trial English Lesson
Method 2 – Immerse yourself in American English
One of the best ways to learn American English is to watch TV shows that use a high percentage of American English.
Watching high quality, TV shows is a great way to not only enrich your English speaking skills but also increase the number of hours you are engaged in deliberately improving English.
Here is a list of 5 TV shows that every ESL (English as a second language) student should definitely watch if they want to learn American English:
Boston Legal is an American legal dramedy series which is based around the stories of the fictitious law firm Crane, Poole & Schmidt. This TV series gives you opportunity to learn American English and can keep your English vocabulary expanding every time you sit down.
Allen Shore, probably the most articulate lawyer in TV history, and the central character in this series, can be heard using words such as “citizenry” and “schadenfreude” in his closing statements.
Based on the fascinating world of advertising Mad Men takes you back to the style of English speaking in corporate America in the 1960’s. Mad Men is acclaimed for its portrayal of authentic historic events and the writing style. This multi-time Emmy and Golden Globe award winning TV series is a great way for non-native English Speakers improve their English knowledge in a fun, engaging manner.
Big Bang Theory
It is a hugely popular series that belongs to the genre of Sitcom (situation comedy). Based on the chronicles of a group of scientists, the Big Bang Theory will expose you to a ton of new English words and phrases specially if you are keen to learn American English. Also, the fast paced, lively dialogues will help ESL students improve their listening skills.
House of Cards
A Netflix exclusive, this TV show belongs to the category of Drama and political thriller. The witty conversations and pitch perfect delivery of the dialogues make this a must to watch TV program for any non-native English learner.
If you want to get immersed in modern American English in a fun filled, interesting way, give House of Cards a shot and you will not be disappointed.
It belongs to the genre of Sitcom and mockumentary. One of the long running TV shows in America is based on the members of a family that cannot be any more diverse.
Light, funny, witty and full of sarcasm Modern Family is a great doorway of non-native English Speakers who are trying to get from an intermediate level to an advanced level.
As we always emphasize, practicing Spoken English is a process and it starts with finding natural ways to use English more in your life. Watching TV shows where high quality English is spoken is a great way to start this process.