If you want to sound like a Californian, there are a few things you have to master: pronunciation and slang. CISL has covered California slang in several articles: check out our articles on Northern California vs. Southern California Slang, California Slang Words, Five Important California Slang Words, and the word Gnarly. These posts provide you with a great basic understand of casual speech in California!
The next step is to master Californian pronunciation. Californians talk differently . . . but how? Here are some things that are unique to the California accent.
How to Sound Like a Californian: California Accent Pronunciation Guide
Californians speak with a more open mouth, often not closing the mouth at the end of a sentence. Try this:
Say the following sentence clearly:
- I can’t believe you did that!
Now, say the same sentence, but leave your mouth open at the end. It sounds more like:
- I can’t believe you did tha!
Some Californians (especially younger ones and those from Los Angeles/Southern California) also tend to raise their voice at the end of a sentence so that the sentence sounds like a question.
- ” I don’t really like seafood.” becomes “I don’t really like seafood?”
Many Californians clearly produce the “r” sound, which is not true of some other parts of the United States. For example, the word “really” stresses the “r” a lot, so it sounds like “rrrreally.”
Californians often do not distinguish from some vowels. For example, look at the following words with the “e” sound:
- wreck, kettle, really
In California English, these words sound more like wrack and kattle and rally.
The same can happen with the “oo” sound. For example, think of the following words:
- book, look, put
These can sound more like buck, luck, and putt.
Vocal fry is when the voice is very low and when the end of a word is pronounced in short, cut sounds. You’ve probably never heard of it. . . but you’ve probably heard it. Here is a great news report of vocal fry, which includes examples. Check out 1:30 in the video for some examples of the California accent as well!
There are many videos of Californian accents on YouTube, but one of our favorites is actress Emilia Clarke, who is famous for playing a main character on Game of Thrones. Watch her British accent change into an excellent (although a little exaggerated) California “Valley Girl” accent. It’s awesome!
Perhaps the best way to understand (and copy) the California accent is to understand how it differs from accents of other English speakers. Amy Walker, who is a famous accent coach with a successful YouTube channel about pronunciation, has an excellent video that shows four of the American accents. Check out minute 3:00 when she starts her California girl impression.
Have you noticed something? All of these California accent impersonations have been women. What about the guys??? The truth is that the California accent is most often attributed to females; however, men of course have an accent as well. They take on many of the traits that are expressed in these videos.
Do all Californians talk as the people in the videos do? Of course not. California, like the rest of America, is a melting pot of people from different places, cultures, and languages. These are just generally accepted traits of the “typical” California accent, and fun to practice if you want to sound like a California native!