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Can You Learn American English by Learning American Phrases & Idioms?

I recorded this video as a response to a comment I received today, and here’s the comment in question:

Hey Robby, can you make a complete list of phrasal verbs, idioms and slang used in American English. I want this because I wanna learn American English.

The question looks simple and straightforward enough, and instead of recording a lengthy video I could have just posted lists of American phrases just like these:

There is another dimension to this question, however, and it’s all got to do with what it actually means to LEARN AMERICAN ENGLISH.

Does It Mean to Use American Slang?

You can learn hundreds upon hundreds of American slang and phraseology, but does that mean you’re going to sound like an American English speaker?

Frankly speaking, I don’t think so, and the reason is simple enough – to SOUND like an American English speaker, you actually have to SOUND like one.

You may possess a massive American vocabulary, however, if you don’t sound like one, I don’t think you’re going to be perceived like an American English speaker.

Bottom line – don’t confuse ACCENT with SLANG!

Are You Telling Me American Phrases Are Useless?!

No, that’s not the point at all!

If you aspire to learn American English, it’s only normal that you’re going to try and expose yourself to all kinds of American content such as websites, fiction, films and so on, and all those means of expression are going to rub off you.

And, of course, if you make conscious effort to acquire all that phraseology, you’re going to succeed even more, so needless to say you need to acquire American accent AND learn phraseology on top of that.

But guess what?

American phrases are actually used worldwide, so if you’ve been improving your overall English fluency for a few years, you’ve already acquired hundreds of American phrases which mightn’t seem that American to you!

Bottom line – if you look after your American accent, the rest will almost take care of itself! 😉

Cheers,

Robby

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Hi Sergio,

    The main point of this article was the following:

    To speak like an American MEANS to speak with American accent.

    I never said that we all have to speak like Americans, and I never said acquiring American pronunciation is super-easy.

    I still hold to my old views – and I’ll never change them!!! – that it’s 100% fine to speak with whatever accent you want, and insofar as you’re understood, it’s totally fine to speak however you want.

    I simply addressed the comment of one of my blog commentators where he asks if I can provide a list of American phrases because he wants to speak like an American, and I’m giving my opinion that learning phrases alone isn’t enough to sound like an American English speaker.

    Best Regards,

    Robby

  • Sergio

    Excuse me, but as American say politely, I beg to differ. For children is not difficult to acquire a foreign accent when living abroad, because they grow up listening to only one accent. For adults, however, is another story, because we have to deal on a dayly basis, with our own accent besides the one we are learning. So, unless we are living in USA for example it is extremely hard to máster an American or British accent.
    That’s because I don’t care much about accent acquisition, unless I can’t make me understood, because of my accent.
    On the other,hand, doesn’t that contradict a little what you said in previous posts when you advise not to search for perfection when learning English?
    Please, dont’t get me wrong with this humble oppinion.
    Thanks for your attention!