If there’s one commonality all non-native speakers could focus on, it’s jaw dropping. Easier said than done. Most languages have more closed mouths and often tighter jaws. Even for Americans, tight jaws can occur (like TMJ) and clients may experience jaw clicking or even pain. Some dentists recommend night guards, and there are even massage techniques that can help. In general, though, a tight closed jaw given a person a stronger accent in American English.
You can hear it!
If you listen, you can hear when someone is not jaw dropping. Instead of extending the lower jaw, many non-native speakers hold the jaw closer, even squeezing the teeth together to make sounds. Not only does this make the jaw tighter, it also makes the sounds more “tense” (American English is “lax”), so the quality can be “speedy” or “harsh.”
To modify this you can do the following:
- Practice dropping the jaw when you’re not saying anything … just drop the jaw slowing and mindfully, and it will get easier.
- Identify which vowels have the greatest drop (*hint* hint* the long /a/ in “not” in one of them), and focus on really opening your mouth and dropping your jaw on those sounds
- Notice which consonants are elongated with jaw dropping in English (commonly the -d, -l, and -n sounds are most notable) and drop consistently on those, elongating those sounds (record so you can monitor how you sound).
Jaw dropping is incredibly important if you desire an American Accent.