Monday, April 24, 2017


How you use the lips when speaking American English plays a big part in being easily understood by your listeners and giving your accent a more native sound. For American English, the lips should be relaxed but change shape a lot.

Look into a mirror and exaggerate the degree to which you move your lips when you talk. This is likely to feel extreme, even silly at first, but American listeners will understand you more readily.

Make a habit of observing clear speakers, such as actors, news broadcasters or some teachers. Notice how much their lips move and how this movement contributes significantly to easy-to-understand speech. Watch them privately on TV, YouTube, or otherwise stream them in full view, and practice imitating what you see. Exaggerate as you push your lips forward and back. Imagine they are made of flexible rubber, move them wildly(!), and open your mouth more. In time, your outer mouth movements will adjust to the feeling of this pattern, and you will become more comfortable and secure.

Enunciating with your lips achieves three goals. First, it will help you say key consonant sounds clearly –for example, when contrasting V and B (important for Spanish), F and P (for Korean), and W against V (for many northern, eastern and western European languages, for Russian, and for South Asian languages). Second, your lips will give your listener a clear visual clue about what you’re saying. And finally, it will slow you down around difficult words –which is always a good thing for greater clarity.

Next time, we’ll talk about another tip for adjusting your “mouth shape” –by properly positioning the Tongue. How tensely you hold it and exactly where you place all parts of it are also key to speaking with a more native and natural style.