Gotta, Wanna, Shoulda, Coulda: How and When to Say Words This Way

American English pronunciation and accent reduction help with American slangGotta = Got to

Wanna = Want to

Shoulda = Should have

Coulda = Could have

Americans have a funny relationship with English. In some circles and circumstances, it would be totally unthinkable to say “wanna” instead of “want to.” For example, you will probably never hear someone in a board meeting say, “We wanna really increase sales this quarter and I think we coulda done better last quarter.”

But in other instances, learning to speak English like an American means you will need to loosen up. For example, many Indian, Chinese, and Arabic native speakers have a hard time letting go of the very formal English when they are in a social and relaxed atmosphere. For example, if you were out at a club with friends, over-pronouncing and using absolutely perfect diction can be seen as uptight, and make you seem as though you can’t loosen up—this means it isn’t entirely bad to engage in the use of gotta, wanna, shoulda, coulda, and other technically misspoken words in certain settings.

This doesn’t mean you should over-use these variations on the correct pronunciation of words in English, and it certainly doesn’t mean you should speak this way immediately. As they say, you must walk before you can run, so having an excellent grasp on English pronunciation and after you feel very confident with the practice of your accent reduction program, you can begin to use the more relaxed versions of words that are so incredibly commonplace.

Before you start feeling brave, discuss with your English pronunciation Speech Pathologist whether or not they feel you are ready to take this step. It is entirely possible that once you have completed a 12-week pronunciation course online, your American pronunciation coach may tell you that it’s okay to start blending in more relaxed versions of common speech.

Either way, chances are, you will know when the time is right. And when you do, try to keep in mind the contexts in which the difference between the two. It takes time and practice, but once you have perfected your American English accent, there’s no reason you can’t blend in with your American counterparts—but only if you wanna :)

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