Understanding Local American English

Understanding Local American English
For many non-native speakers of English, America offers the cleanest and most understandable version of the language. Most of the country speaks English without too much of an accent, making it fairly easy for visitors to keep up with the conversation. But the US is a big and diverse country, and there are a handful of unique dialects and accents in certain regions that can be tough to deal with.

The American South offers one of the more challenging accents. Known as a Southern Drawl, English here is spoken in a drawn-out fashion with a heavy twang and very soft vowels. Many words get contracted where you don’t expect them, and clear pronunciation isn’t one of its strong suits. This accent is heaviest in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and parts of upper Florida.

Texas has a similar drawl, but they enunciate their words much clearer. There are still a few odd contractions to deal with such as y’all (you all) but in general it is much easier to understand a Texan than someone from New Orleans. The Mid-Atlantic states and Midwest offer a very clean version of English, but heading north into New York and Boston things get tricky again.

New Yorkers are known for their heavy accent, where words tend to get rounded out and thus a bit blurry for listeners not accustomed to their style. Slang also comes into play quite a lot in New York, adding to the confusion that affects even native-born Americans.

But head up to Boston and the accent becomes even more challenging. Bostonians, and others from around this corner of New England, seem to have forgotten about the letter R in their speech. So when they ask you to get into the car what you hear is the ka. It’s not impossible to get a grip on their unique take on English, but for the first few days it will be tricky around Boston and New England.

The Rockies and Pacific Coast have some of the country’s cleanest accents, so few visitors have much trouble communicating in California, Arizona or Oregon. The only other major obstacle to easy communication in English is the use of slang. This mainly occurs in the major cities and is most often used by ethnic groups.

The continuous creation and use of slang in American English is not a bad thing, as it keeps the language relevant and interesting. Learning a few words of slang also helps you integrate in the local society, as each region tends to have its own take on the local vernacular.