As an accent reduction coach in New Jersey and in New York City, I hear a variety of speaking problems. Here is a list of the top three problems I encounter, and their solutions:
1) Misplaced or Missing Articles – This is a common mistake, often made by Slavic speakers of English. Virtually every noun in American English (except for some proper nouns) has an article before it. The articles we use in English are “a”, “an”, and “the”. Many accent reduction students don’t realize that there are rules about which article is most appropriate in a sentence.
“A” and “an” are used with singular, non-specific nouns. For ex. a dog, a cat, an elephant, an apple.
“The” is used with specific singular or plural nouns. For ex. the neighbor’s dog, the largest elephant, the delicious apple.
2.) Dropping the “th” sound – The “th” sound is unique to English. There are two types of “th” sounds; voiced “th” sounds, and voiceless “th” sounds.
Voiced “th” – than, those, these
Voiceless “th” – think, thought, with
To make the “th” sound, place the tip of your tongue on your front teeth and blow air through your teeth. You should see your tongue on your teeth as you make the sound.
3.) Wrong melody – the most important word in a phrase is called the focus word, and it gets a rise in inflection on the stressed syllable in American English. In a sentence, every new idea is generally the focus word.
I lost my HAT.
Which KIND of hat?
The RED hat.