The American English Accent:: The "Explosive" T And P Sounds
The "explosive consonants"
Earlier we said that the vowels are an important factor in
hearing a "foreign" accent. But it is not only the vowels. The
consonants also must be mastered.
When we say that English consonants are "explosives", we mean
that they are pronounced with a sudden release of air. It is
this characteristic that marks the accent of an English speaker
when they try to speak your language. You should try to speak
like an American and you will be reaching for the American
English way of pronouncing the consonant. It is the
characteristic explosive nature of the English consonant that is
the basis of so many jokes about the pronunciation of the
English speaker who is learning other languages.
Pronounce the following sentence with the most exaggerated
American accent that you can: "Peter, answer me! Can you talk?"
Did you exaggerate the words Peter, can you talk? If you did,
the sounds that sound bad in your language are correct in
Most of my students are shy and speak with a low voice because
they think that they do not pronounce correctly. In this way,
they will never pronounce correctly because they do not exercise
the pronunciation. They do not hear their mistakes; they do not
feel the effort of reaching for the correct sounds, and worse of
all, they begin to say, "Well, they understand me and that's
Don't be afraid! You have to exaggerate the English sounds now
to be able to pronounce them normally later on in your progress
with the language.
What are the sounds that give away the English speaker? The
explosives. And the mispronunciation of these same sounds is
what makes up the foreign accent.
When you pronounce the words Peter, can you talk? in your
language you probably don't use as much force as in English. For
the "p" of the word Pedro, Pierre, or Piotr, you close your lips
and then you open them for the sound to come out. It is the same
with the "t" of the work talk.
However, in English you have to expel a little blast of air to
make the sound of the "p" and the "t"; that's why they call the
sounds "explosive", because they make a litlle "explosion"!
The teachers of Spanish to English speakers have to teach them
to NOT expel the air for these sounds. They often make them say
words like "pap