How to Speak American English

Two Parts:Learning American EnglishInteracting with Americans

American English is, for the most part, the same English spoken in many countries around the world. Yes, colloquialisms, spelling, and accents can be different in America, and even between different regions of the US. However, if you know English already, you shouldn't have too much trouble understanding American English or being understood by Americans.

Part 1
Learning American English

  1. 1
    Learn English. American English is, for the most part, just the same as any other English. Apart from some phrases, colloquialisms, dialects, and spellings, most of the language is the same as the English spoken in Britain, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere around the globe. There are a few significant local differences, which leads some people to say that these groups are "separated by a common language." But in reality, most of the words and phrases are the same. If you know English and understand non-American English speakers, too, for the most part, you will do fine in America.
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    Listen out for accents, dialects, and slang. American-English is spoken differently in each of the regions in the states. Listen closely to other people to pick up local phrases and colloquialisms, especially in social settings. You will begin to notice the difference when you travel outside of that region.
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    Know some American English phrases. You'll learn as you go, but here is a short list of American-English, just to get you acquainted.
    • "Awesome" and "cool" are used to describe something great or positive or popular, more so than in other countries, and both words can be used as a positive reaction to something someone tells you, too.
    • "What's up?" or "Sup" for short. This phrase is used to ask someone what they're doing, or how they are, and as a general greeting. It is not socially acceptable in formal occasions, but it's fine to use casually with friends. It's most often used by young men.
    • "Hanging out" is spending time somewhere or with someone. It can be used in describing or arranging one particular event ("Do you want to hang out?") or more generally to describe a habit ("I hang out at the mall a lot"). It's a phrase often used by teenagers to describe how they pass time and socialize, often without one particular activity or aim. It can also be used to describe time spent around the house or doing nothing in particular ("What are you up to?" / "Not much; just hanging out").
    • "Y'all" is a contraction of "You all", the second person plural mode of directly addressing a group of people. It is used primarily in the Southern States, but is acceptable in other regions.
    • Soda, Pop, Cola, Sodapop, Coke, etc. Fizzy sweetened beverages like Fanta, Coca-Cola, Sierra Mist, and Dr. Pepper, may be referred to using these different names in different areas of the states.
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    Know what English words won't be understood. If you've studied British English in the past, realize that not all of the words and phrases will be identical in the US. If you use British English words, phrases, or spellings in these situations, you might not be understood. Learn the American versions instead:
    • Restroom/bathroom instead of Toilet/Lavatory
    • Elevator instead of Lift
    • Trunk instead of Boot
    • Freeway instead of motorway
    • Sweater instead of jumper
    • Pants for trousers, not underwear
    • Vest for waistcoat (the underwear version is often just called an undershirt instead)
    • Sneakers instead of Trainers
    • Diaper instead of nappy
    • Bathing suit instead of swimming costume
    • Vacation instead of holiday (holidays tend to mean national bank holidays only)
    • French fries instead of chips
    • Chips instead of crisps
    • Gasoline instead of Petrol
    • Truck instead of Lorry
    • Flashlight instead of Torch
    • Color instead of colour
    • Favorite instead of Favourite
    • Popsicle instead of Ice Lolly
    • Tire instead of Tyre
    • Napkins are used to wipe your face at dinnertime, not know..

Part 2
Interacting with Americans

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    Make an effort to communicate in English. Don't expect everyone to know or understand your unique dialect. The US is an immigrant nation and has always welcomed new comers to their country. However, they seldom learn to speak other languages. 95% of Americans will never travel to all 50 of the united states much less travel abroad, so if they don't understand you well or speak your language... don't think they are ignorant, they are just practical.
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    Approach interactions with a sense of humor. If you do not speak good English, don't be offended if an American jokes or laughs when you say something that doesn't make sense to them. For some Americans, laughter can be a way of trying to reduce the frustration with language barriers; it isn't intended disrespectfully. Just laugh too, as it is common and natural for misunderstandings in the beginning.
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    Don't make assumptions based on one person's behavior. You might meet someone friendly, or someone rude, but that doesn't mean they represent all Americans. Additionally, attitudes can vary depending on where you are and who you're talking to; the attitude of people in large cities may be somewhat different than the attitude of those living in rural or farming communities. People in major cities tend to do things more briskly and may seem rude to you. Please don't generalize this as a representation of how the USA acts. If three New Yorkers are rude to you, don't go home and tell all your friends, "Americans are rude."
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    Try to speak a 'little' louder when you're talking to someone in America. It's perfectly acceptable over in the States, and it creates an atmosphere of congeniality.
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    Be polite and considerate. Don't always speak what’s on your mind, if it might sound offensive. That doesn't mean mute all of your thoughts but try to construct them in a way that won't offend your host. Manners matter, and it's important to be gracious, considerate, and kind, especially to an American who's hosting you in their home.


  • When in doubt spell it out. The American English while it differs a great bit will always hold true to British English though it does vary but most can understand it.
  • As always, if you can ask for help with something then most Americans will respond accordingly. Don't think that a normal American is snobbish as they will normally be very helpful.


  • If you are in doubt about what you are about to ask or say, then mention this at the beginning of your sentence so that there will be no offense taken by the listener... or any misunderstanding of your intention.

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Categories: World Languages