Top 4 Course Books for Listening and Speaking Like an American

If you (or your ESL student) are going to the United States for business, studying at an American university, or preparing for the TOEFL, it’s important to get acquainted with the American accent. However, given that most classes and course books for English learners use RP (Received Pronunciation, the standard dialect of England), it can be hard to find high-quality materials for studying the English that’s spoken in the United States. Read on for our top picks in course books for perfecting your (or your students’) American English — with these great books, you’ll both understand and be understood better by Americans, and you’re sure to impress your American friends with your improved accent.

1. Beginner/Children: American English Primary Colors

The American English Primary Colors series consists of interactive, engaging exercises that are designed to capture and maintain young learners’ attention. For this reason, they are excellent for children or absolute beginners to English. The book features ample reading, writing, and pronunciation exercises that will help readers get accustomed to the American English style of writing and speaking. It’s a great place to start for those who want to dive right into American English from the get-go. Full review of American English Primary Colors

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2. Pre-intermediate: Clear Speech

Described as a “North American speaking and listening comprehension guide”, Clear Speech is a good choice for intermediate students who want a thorough, actionable break-down of American English. The book features a comprehensive array of speaking exercises, such as units on intonation, syllable stress, and silent letters. It also serves as a great introduction to IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet), which is useful for advanced pronunciation understanding. Finally, the book comes with several clear audio accompaniments, making it a great introduction for intermediate learners who haven’t had much exposure to American English. Full review of Clear Speech

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3. Upper-intermediate: Speak English Like an American

For those who already have a good grasp of English-language basics, Speak English Like an American is an engaging and innovative way to practice your American accent. The book revolves around a typical American family — the Johnsons — and each lesson deals with events in their everyday lives. In addition to pronunciation drills, Speak English Like an American has a particular emphasis on vocabulary and idioms that are common in the United States. Learning the idioms in Speak English Like an American is a great way to increase your expressive fluency, as well as impress your American friends with your knowledge of their language’s quirks. Full review of Speak English Like an American

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4. Advanced: American Accent Training

If you’re confident in your English and just want to put the finishing touches on your American accent, American Accent Training is the book for you. It’s the most comprehensive review of American pronunciation out there, and it’s full of useful pronunciation tips along with informative illustrations and audio clips. There is an emphasis on colloquial speech, such as the common (and accepted) pronunciation of “Wouldn’t he?” as wooden-ee. To top it off, the book even comes with a referral to a qualified telephone analyst who can assess how convincing your American accent is. Full review of American Accent Training

For beginner and advanced students of American English — and their teachers — this list has a book for everyone. Supplement these with other American English media — such as TV series, movies, and songs — and you’ll be well on your way to a perfect understanding of the complicated American English accent. As you study, make sure to periodically test your skills by taking an online American English listening test. And if you want to learn American English in the fastest, most effective way possible, consider taking a class from a native English speaker in the United States — consult our English course and package options.