In English, as in any language, pronunciation is important to making yourself understood. If you’re learning English either while living in the US or hoping to move there at some point in the future, it’s a good idea to learn an American accent, so that people you talk with can understand you more easily. Of course, the accent changes depending on where you go in the US, but actors on most television shows are trained to speak with a “general American” accent, which the large majority of people in the US will understand. Here are ten shows where listening to the actors or narrators can help you learn an American accent:
There are ten seasons (well over 200 episodes) of this half-hour comedy about six friends living in New York City, so you can really get to know how each character speaks and choose one to model your pronunciation on. We’d suggest Rachel, Chandler, Phoebe, or Monica, since Ross is pretty whiny and Joey’s got an Italian-American accent, which is awesome, but unless you’re actually Italian there’s no need to learn it. Bonus: you’ll learn all about ordering coffee and talking about boyfriends/girlfriends.
This medical show follows a group of doctors as they learn to become surgeons and then practice their craft, so lots of medical words pop up, but they do talk a lot to each other about relationships as well. Meredith and McDreamy (Derek) are both fairly clear speakers with general American accents.
This show is set in the 1960s, so some of the slang might be outdated, but there are plenty of long speeches and presentations in this show about advertising, and most of the main characters, like Don and Peggy, speak with not-too-thick New York accents and are easy to understand and mimic.
Singing is a great way to learn and remember how to say words, and there’s plenty of singing in this slightly goofy comedic drama about high school singing groups. Mr. Shuster, Finn, Kurt, Quinn, and Sue all have simple clear accents whether speaking or singing, and you’ll hear some great performances while watching. Overall, a fun way to learn an American accent without paying an expensive Accent reduction specialist.
This show on Home and Garden TV network follows people on their journey to buying a home. It takes place in various cities around the US, so you’ll get to hear a wide variety of accents if you watch regularly. There’s a lot of talking about the various features of a home, with accompanying camera work, so you’ll learn some vocabulary as well as hearing American English spoken.
This mockumentary (fake documentary) show takes place in the fictional office of a paper company in Pennsylvania, a state where most residents have an easy-to-understand general American accent. While most comedies on TV have a laugh track (fake background laughter) or are filmed with an audience in the studio, The Office has neither, so it is easy to hear what characters are saying to one another. The characters also frequently talk “to the camera” as though they were speaking with the documentary filmmaker.
This drama follows police investigations as they proceed into the courtroom where lawyers and judges take over. The actors portraying the police officers, lawyers, judges and other characters have a variety of general American accents and, as you can imagine, they talk (and shout) a lot on this show. The great thing about Law and Order is that there are 456 episodes and there’s always one on TV somewhere if you flip through the channels.
This soap opera has been running since 1963 – no kidding! It revolves around a fictional hospital in the nonexistent town of Port Charles. There are many recurring characters on the show, most of whom speak in a typical American accent and are easy to understand. There’s less medical jargon than a show like Grey’s Anatomy and in general, the level of language appears to be easier to understand, making this ideal for newer English learners who want to learn an American accent.
This educational show is unsurprisingly about how various things (foods, tools, machines, etc.) are created or manufactured. It’s a show with a voice-over, meaning that the narrator is not seen on the screen. Instead, he or she explains what is happening on-screen as it occurs, in extremely simple language with a clear American accent that is easy for anyone to understand. Both children and adults would benefit from watching and listening to this show, especially those who prefer not to be distracted by what actors are doing. Instead, you can simply focus on the sound of the words.
Hearing a language spoken frequently is the best way to pick up an accent. Then you need to practice mimicking that accent – try it out on your American conversation teacher in one of your Skype English Lessons!