My American Accent

Since I started making videos on YouTube, one of the most common questions has been: how did you learn to speak American English that way? Some people suggested that I must have an American mother or that I simply lived in theUSwhen I was a little kid. Flattered by these suggestions, I decided to share my story with you, hoping that it will inspire other language learners.

I was born and raised in Rome, Italy, in a 100% monolingual household.


The school system and language learning

I started learning English at the age of 10, when I started attending Junior High school (the so-called Scuola media).

The Italian school system is quite decent in general, but in my humble opinion it still teaches languages in the wrong way.


1. The role of the teacher.

It is commonly accepted that teachers should teach kids a language. Languages cannot be taught, they can only be learned. A teacher shouldn’t lecture or patronize kids but give them interesting content, help them understand it, motivate them, and guide them through the process. Essentially, a teacher should teach his/her students how to learn a language and motivate them to do so over a long period of time.

2. Wrong approach towards learning. 

Being able to speak and understand a language is an ability that we acquire by trial and error over a certain period of time. In school, languages are often considered as a subject to study instead of an ability to acquire. This approach generally leads to a harmful fragmentation of the language  into separate categories (grammar, pronunciation, words) that instead should be treated as a unique block and learned as such (a new article and video are coming out soon on this topic). The result is that kids often finish talking about the language instead of learning it directly.

3. Unprepared Italian teachers. 

Let’s face it. A lot of teachers don’t have the necessary preparation to be a teacher.  I don’t think you have to be a native speaker to “teach” a given language, and you don’t need to have a perfect accent, but you need to speak the language well, to have a good overall knowledge of it. Other than that teachers need to be able to “connect” with their students, and to do so, they need to understand their needs, their doubts, their limits and potential. It is not easy to find this combination of abilities in a teacher. Moreover, inItaly they are underpayed and frustrated. Good teachers should receive a much higher salary, because the school, together with our family, plays an important role in forming future generations.

Unfortunately, my teacher was not prepared. Her knowledge of the English language was far from excellent, and she had a very thick Sardinian accent. The books that we were using were boring, and we were constantly doing even more boring grammar exercises. At the end of the third year, I could barely speak, and my pronunciation was terrible. I was 13.

A breakthrough named Susan

My mother decided that it was about time for me to learn proper English. A friend of hers had heard of an American girl named Susan, and hired her to be my private tutor. She is fromChicago. She was kind, supportive, understanding and sensitive to my language needs – all attributes you need to make an incredible teacher.

She brought me interesting articles, corrected my essays, recorded movies for me. She corrected my mistakes in a gentle and encouraging way.  I spent 2 wonderful years learning American English with her. As I have written, she didn’t “teach” me American English, but guided me through the process. I met with her once a week, and apart from our weekly lesson, I was learning new things every day by myself.

Reading is key

Some months after starting the classes with her, I began to read books. The first ones were quite small and simple, and I wanted to try something much longer and challenging. I went to a bookstore with my mother and while browsing there, I came across a huge book by Stephen King’s, IT. “I want it” – I remember having said. The owner took one look at me, a little kid, and told me that the book was too difficult for me. I insisted that I wanted that book and I eventually bought it.

I was happy that I bought it. The book was engaging, a real page-turner, as are most King’s novels. Although I was struggling with the text, constantly searching for the meaning of new words, I kept reading it, and finished it a few months later. After that book, reading had become easier, and it was a real passion. I read hundreds of books and this helped me enormously broaden my vocabulary. Reading makes you connect the dots.

Now, if you are wondering why I learned American English, instead of British, or Australian, I can only offer you the simple answer: it is simply because American English chose me, not the other way around. In general, the Italian society, especially after World War II, has been enormously influenced by the American culture. The symbol of this “collective infatuation” is the famous 1950’ movie “Un americano a Roma”.

Having friends can change your world

I had an American private tutor, watched American movies, read American novelists and writers. In 2003, I met two of my best friends, one from Philadelphia(Garret) and the other one from Chicago (Rachel). I hung out quite a lot with them, and contact with native speakers helps you not only polish up on your pronunciation and active skills, but it also helps you to understand a different mentality. It presents another way of looking at the world and expressing thoughts and feelings. A new world had opened up for me.

I have never been to the US before, but Americawas around me all the time. That’s why I think that attitude is what counts the most in speaking a language fluently. Even if I lived in Rome I was constantly searching for contact with foreigners. That’s why I don’t think it is strictly necessary to leave your own country if you want to learn a language well, and this is even more true in the Internet era.

Communication, not perfection is key to leading a wonderful life

Now I’ve told you my story with American English. I don’t think I speak like a native, like many people suggest. I do make mistakes, both in pronunciation and grammar. I gladly accept my limits. The point in learning a language is not communicating perfectly, but communicating efficiently. Many people use the misleading word “perfection” when they refer to the knowledge of the language. Perfection does not exist. It is not human. The goal of learning a language is communication. Being able to convey a message with elegant simplicity and with a clear sounding accent is what we should all aim for. The rest are details.

I am glad and proud that today I can tell you all of this in another language.

Written by Luca Lampariello

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  • Hey Luca,

    I’m Michael. I’m a big fan of your channel. Actually, to tell the truth, I look towards you for motivation when I get overwhelmed with my language studies. Anyway, my inquiry is the following: Are you able to watch any TV show or movie in any of the languages you know and understand it in entirety? I find that comprehension is the most important part of language learning, but also the most difficult. I can watch an italian sitcom and understand about 85% of it, but ideally I want to understand the whole thing. Is this a crazy goal or an attainable one? I have an Italian girlfriend and wow, what an experience. Having a relationship with someone in another language is quite something. As you know with you French girlfriend, it’s not only communicating but expressing every single feeling and idea that crosses your mind because, after all, relationships are built upon trust ; p Anyway, our conversations don’t touch upon as many spheres of the languages as I would like. We have almost no problem communicating, but I am still not entirely satisfied with my Italian. I find myself sometimes bringing up obscure topics with her just to practice my own Italian. How selfish is that! I guess what I want to know is if you have any tips for really understanding a language in its entirety, meaning being able to watch TV shows and movies without a problem. Thanks


    • Hey Michael

      Being able to understand a foreign language perfectly is like having a 100% native pronunciation all the time. It is an ambitious goal, but it is not very realistic.

      In order to achieve a very solid understanding of a given language, you need to listen to it for years. Radio, TV, native speakers. The fact that you understand 85% of an Italian sitcom is absolutely normal. In general, people often believe they understand a language much better than they actually do.

      The only way to improve your understanding is to listen and read as much as you can. I also strongly suggest to watch tons of movies spoken and dubbed in the given language. Remember: time is on your side


      • Hello Luca,

        I am always amazed when I read about someone who takes on monumental tasks, such as learning foreign languages. You have definitely achieved great results.

        However, in all fairness, I would like to point out several important details that may explain your success. Let’s start with the languages you are fluent in:
        1. Italian (native), French, Spanish, Portuguese – derive from LATIN
        2. English, German, Swedish, Dutch – derive from HIGH GERMAN,
        so, in essence, we are talking about two (2) languages and their variations.

        3. Mandarin Chinese – no question there, this is truly impressive.

        The other factors that helped you learn these languages are:
        – curiosity – reading about interesting people, exotic places, and so on
        – social contact – explore intriguing personalities and cultural traits
        – mindset – you are just open to the experience, no prejudice …

        In summary, here are some practical tips:
        1. Learn Latin and German first.
        2. Expand Latin into Spanish, French, and Portuguese and German into English, Dutch, Swedish, and perhaps, Danish.
        3. Engage actively the cultural side of learning a language; it is not the vocabulary, the sentence structure, and grades at school but rather the journey. Well, to have a journey, pick a life styles and endeavors to support it. Travel far and speak with gusto.

        Please, correct me if I am wrong, but I think I pretty much got it down to an algorithm recipe for success 🙂

  • Luca,

    I love your blog and channels. I’m very interested in languages and linguistics. I have a quick question: I’m trying to enact your strategy for language learning with German. I have been studying for a few months with several different things (Yabla, Rosetta Stone) and now I am putting your translation strategy into the mix using the 3 minute Yabla videos as source material. My question is this: How much do you translate at one time – as in a word count? I seem to get like two small paragraphs or so and then onto another one. Also, I see that you like to wait several days in between translations, therefore I was wondering if you simultaneously translate 3-4 different sources on different days or if you just do something else on the “off days.” Example: I get my source material on day 1 and translate it into English (L1). Then, days two and three what do I do? I then on day four translate it back into German (L2) and check my results??

    I have another question as well. What do you do with your errors? Do you just make a mental note, wait a few days, and translate that transcript again? Or do you do something special, make flashcards, etc? Also, what percentage of listening to stuff you don’t understand (like movies at the early stages) do you do? I find that everyone says “listen listen listen” but if you don’t understand what you are listening, and can’t even hardly pick out the majority of words that are said, is there really a point?

    One thing that helps me is that I speak Spanish fairly fluently – I married a Mexican and our “home language” is 100% Spanish. Therefore, I am completely immersed in it daily and I speak it at a fairly high level. So, I have hit the “E point” before and I know it exists; that keeps me motivated.

    Bueno, nada mas te quise decir que muchas gracias por todo y es muy impresionante lo que haces! Saludos de EEUU y espero tu respuesta! Tambien, hablas muy bien Espanol y obviamente Ingles. Es increible imaginar que hablas asi en todos los lenguajes. Casi no lo puedo creer. Me cuesta trabajo mantener mi Espanol a un nivel arriba de lo normal y basico aunque lo estoy hablando diario con mi Esposa. Llegue a un punto en mis estudios Alemanes donde me di cuenta que no vaya a ser tan facil aprender como Espanol. Pero bueno, lo lograre!

    Otra cosa, das lecciones en los lenguajes que hablas o no? Ya se que tu punto de vista es que nada te puede ensenar un lenguaje, pero pues es mas facil si alguien te esta ayudando!

    Gracias otra vez,

    • Dear Jeff,

      first of all, let me thank you for the nice words

      My strategy.. I don’t count the words, I tend to refer to “unities”. In ASSIMIL a unity(chapter) is a dialog.

      Let us suppose that you have listened and read chapter X a number of times and let us suppose that you wrote it in your L1 (mother tongue). You’ll wait 3-4 days before retranslating it back. During those days, you will work on
      the following chapters (Chapter x+1, Chapterx+2). I haven’t published the full time schedule yet, you will find all the details in my book.

      As for the mistakes, I don’t use flashcards. When you translate it back, you will not remember things and make mistakes. Forgetting words and making mistakes is great for your learning. It helps you remember and give you valuable feedback on where you stand. No need to note your mistakes or omissions, your brain will.

      Listening without understanding makes no sense. We can only learn what we can understand. I always build and develop my capacity of understanding a given language in a progressive way. Try to get hold of podcasts with a text. Then move on to movies with subtitles. Also, read a lot. It helps expanding your vocabulary and will help you understand things better, both oral and written.

      Si, doy clases particulares de idiomas (por Skype y cara a cara). Mi punto de vista queda lo mismo: yo no enseNo el idioma en si, pero encuentro material interesante para mis estudiantes, les ayudo a aprender, a gozar del idioma, y los animo explicandoles las cosas que no entienden. Un profesor tiene que ser, ante todo, un guia y un motivador.

      Un abrazo!


  • Hello, Luca,

    This was a wonderful post. I like what you said: Perfection does not exist. It is not human. The goal of learning a language is communication. Being able to convey a message with elegant simplicity and with a clear sounding accent is what we should all aim for. The rest are details. I feel the same way as you said the American girl did not teach you the language she guide you through the process. Thank you for writing this post. I’m currently a subscriber, I can’t wait for the next informative blog post.


    Joshua Merced

  • Hey there Luca!

    As always, you were able to produce a top-notch blog entry/vlog about language learning and motivation to those who are in the same boat as you. Thank you very much for all the encouragement.

    As I have previously stated in a message I sent you some time ago, I too share the passion for learning different languages and cultures. And I do agree that it is not important to have a 100%-accurate pronunciation all the time (even though I do believe that if one is diligent enough in their language learning, they will eventually acquire the “perfect” accent).

    With that in mind, how would you face and explain to a student of any language this concept? I find several of my students losing their motivation at times due to their lack of “proper” pronunciation. I encourage them to pay attention to the way words are being pronounced and every so often do some pronunciation exercises with them while in class, however that doesn’t seem to be enough, as most people just don’t have the patience to sit down, really listen to the way words are being said, and repeat it until they get it just right.

    Furthermore, I’ve come to observe that several students who develop an advanced knowledge of the language, but still lack as far as pronunciation goes, usually say that they don’t speak the language well, which is not entirely true. To clarify myself, they end up thinking that unless they speak like the “guys on TV” they don’t speak the language.

    Once more, thank you very much for these entries and videos. They are quite appreciated!

    • Hi Mark

      Being able to pronounce a language well is a skill per se, and it has to be developed as far as we are learning the language.

      Some people develop it naturally, some others struggle and have to make some extra efforts.

      You should tell your students that speaking a language well with decent accent is all it counts, the rest are details.

      As far as their motivation is concerned, finding interesting material for students, motivating them, and then having them notice things (both semantically and phonetically) are 3 important steps in their language learning process.

      As a teacher, you have the right and the duty of guiding the to the process, but it is up to them to learn the language. As they say – As they say “You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink”


      • Luca, thank you very much for your reply to my questions.

        When you talk about having them notice things (both semantically and phonetically) I have to say that I couldn’t agree more. I believe that for us, language lovers, these aforementioned steps end up being quite obvious, but a lot of times, the struggle comes with trying to manage students so that they are able to “learn how to learn”. In the future, I would love to see a video on youtube about that, which I find to be of utmost importance.

        I believe that because most “language teaching” methods that we face while children and adolescents are, forgive me for the pretentiousness, wrong, most adults end up with some type of mental block or even phobia, as I have encountered, of learning a foreign language; especially in the type of country I come from, Brazil, where most foreign languages are spoken far away from the big cities and thus people are never really exposed to them.

        Once again, thank you very much for your reply. If you have anything else to add based on the comments above, please, let me know you thoughts.

        Best Regards,


  • Obviously at the beginning you made mistakes and stumbled a lot. What would you do when you did that and how long did you do that until your pronunciation got better? Anyways, nice blog post 🙂

    • My pronunciation got better after a few months. At the end of the first year with Susan, I went to Dublin. I was 15 and after a few days everybody called me “the American”. L

      • I have been learning English for years but my pronunciation is still bad. Probably it is because I rarely practice speaking it but I learnt some English phonetics so that I know how to pronounce sounds correctly because I know the points and the manners of articulation. When it comes to speaking, I am rather doubtful to pronounce them because I think intensely about that articulation. Eventually I think thinking hard of the articulation is not a good method. Instead I use the method of trying and pronounce words as I have heard them pronounced by native speakers for instance movies, news, interviews, videos on Youtube and so forth. Nevertheless it will take more time than months since I hardly speak English. Did your pronunciation get better automatically or did you do it deliberately? ¡Muchísimas gracias!

  • Hi Luca! I’m also a keen language lover! I’d like to learn Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. I speak English and French. Which one of those three languages (Es, It, Pr) should I pick first so that it would be the most helpful when studying the other 2?

    • I think you had better learn Spanish first because if you know Spanish, your Portuguese learning is going to be much easier. Both languages are nearly the same but I recommend you start with Spanish because it is easier than Portuguese in terms of pronunciation. I do not know about Italian but I guess it is also easy if you already know French, Spanish and Portuguese. More or less.

  • Maybe there is no perfection. Or if it exists it must be something quite boring.

    Communication is a multifaceted thing which interests me even more than languages. Why some people are able to voice their thoughts and opinions with quite average foreign language skills while some others hesitate even when they’ve studied hard and learnt a lot? I guess we all know native speakers too who barely can express themselves, being shy or for whatever reason. It can also be said that our skills seem to differ from a situation to another.

    So I guess to learn a language is not The Challenge after all. To contact another person is. And how exciting is that!

    • I agree 100%. Psychology plays a huge role in language learning because languages are a tool for communicating with people. The problem is not accumulating words and phrases, but to use them to convey your ideas and emotions to other human beings, in a live context. That‘s what most people find difficult and are scared of. I think that speaking foreign languages is a wonderful skill to have because the possibilities to get more people increase exponentially. When you get to know a new person, a new world opens up for you, and what a find that is! 🙂 L

  • First of all, wow. I am utterly amazed at your English prowess. I don’t just mean your pronunciation but in the way that you express your thoughts and ideas in English as well. That certain feel of the language that usually only native speakers are fully able to convey without any effort at all. To me this is what I think is most important. Isn’t this the point of learning a language? The ability to communicate? Language after all is a tool of communication.

    I definitely agree with you that you can’t really study a language. Actually, sometimes in my opinion, others may differ, studying a language actually discourage those from learning a language. About foreign language classes, I had the same problem with you, except instead of English, it was French. With all the grammar and the textbooks and the exercises, you forget to see the face behind the language and how it’s actually used. It becomes just another “thing” that you have to learn because you have to so you can get it over with. Definitely not encouraging.

    As for how hard it is for someone to learn a language, I think that it’s a psychological and motivational issue. I mean when you hear the word foreign, it is a little bit of a put off. Then there’s the part where you are not a native speaker so you will never pronounce it right. This makes you afraid to sound wrong and afraid to make any type of mistake at all that you focus on tiny details that don’t really matter. I mean, without making mistakes, you will never learn. It’s funny though. I was raised in a quasi-bilingual environment, so I can speak English and Vietnamese fluently. Two languages that couldn’t be further apart from each other. And I never knew the language that I spoke at home was “foreign” or even “hard” until I was 13-14 and the concept “foreign language” was introduced.

    And seriously, you’re Italian? I had to do a double take when I heard that. From your accent, I thought you lived on the East Coast: New York, Jersey and etc. Then when I saw your v-logs, I thought you were Italian-American, and Italian was your second language. I must say that and I’m still amazed. I gotta give you props though.

  • I agree, because many of things depend of cultural context and particular situations in nation life.

    So why, for example, Polish emigrants don’t understand Polish comedies made in comunism, because they live abroad, and some specific sense of humour, some situations which are so natural for habitants there aren’t clearly for they, even that they are also Polish natives 🙂

  • Obviously at the beginning you made mistakes and stumbled a lot. What would you do when you did that and how long did you do that until your pronunciation got better? Anyways, nice blog post 🙂

  • Hi Luca! I’m also a keen language lover! I’d like to learn Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. I speak English and French. Which one of those three languages (Es, It, Pr) should I pick first so that it would be the most helpful when studying the other 2?

  • Hi, Luca! My name is Emily and I come from Taiwan. I found your website recently and I thought it’s really excellent. I have learned English for many years, but I still could not speak very well. Several years ago, I hired a private tutor and she is great. She said that English is just a communication tool. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. I think it’s similar with what you shared.
    Anyway, thank you for your valuable sharing.

  • Hello Luca,

    “The goal of learning a language is communication. Being able to convey a message with elegant simplicity and with a clear sounding accent is what we should all aim for. ”

    so true,
    I love learning languages, one day I will start learning Italian.

  • Caro Luca,
    mi chiamo Adriano. Sono al momento in Cina da qualche mese, quarto anno di liceo all’estero. Ovviamente sto imparando il cinese ma il mio commento riguarda qualcos’altro. Parlo inglese con tutti gli straieri con cui mi frequento ma nonostante abbia studiatoo inglese per anni mi sono reso conto che nonostante abbia un ottimo livello gramaticale, sintattico e proprieta’ di lessico a volte l’accento mi causa problemi.. paradossalmente mi sembra molto piu’ facile la pronuncia del cinese rispetto a quella dell’inglese! credo che cio’ sia da imputare al fatto che studio il cinese da quando sono qua ed ho cominciato bene ascoltando la gente parlare mentre ho passato anni con insegnanti che non mi hanno mai corretto e con il loro accento.
    A parte guardare film hai suggerimenti per prendere una pronuncia inglese migliore? Non so se sia il mio cervello impegnato con il cinese a “limitare” la correzione degli errori quando parlo inglese. Mi fanno i complimenti i cinesi per l’accento, me li facevano i russi e i francesi e questa mia mancanza con l’inglese mi turba.
    Saluti e comunque complimenti per le abilita’ linguistiche!
    Adriano Aimar

    • Caro Adriano,

      l’inglese è quella che si definisce una “stressed-timed language” mentre l’italiano è una “syllable-timed language”. Senza entrare nei dettagli (non ne ho il tempo purtroppo), diciamo che sono due sistemi intonativi diversi, per cui il problema è doppio: articolare bene i singoli suoni (pronuncia) e “intonare” la frase in maniera accurata, che è la parte più importante e più sfuggente nella fonetica di ogni lingua. Il sistema fonetico inglese non è facile per noi italiani, ma neanche impossibile.

      La miglior soluzione sarebbe prendere dei corsi privati con un coach che ti insegni cosa fare per migliorare l’accento e l’intonazione (io faccio questo ormai come lavoro, ma insegno l’inglese americano), oppure comprare un manuale con CD ed esercizi vari. Ce ne sono vari in giro, a seconda della “versione” dell’inglese che scegli di adottare.


  • Hey Luca,

    I just found your site/channel today and I must say I’m hooked. I am trying to move out of beginner Spanish and had been getting frustrated. I love your approach and must say after reading your posts I feel inspired and ready to get back at learning and be patient. I will definitely be back. Thanks! Btw- I would have thought you were a fellow American if I had heard you speak and didn’t know better.

    • Thanks for the lovely comment Heather, I am glad you find my blog interesting and useful 🙂 L

  • You’re awesome!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing all of your useful experience! A lot of people ask us to pay for it but you do this for free just to help people! Amazing ^____^

  • Hi Luca, I’d like to say you’re inspiring me a lot!
    I saw one video of yours when you said you used this book: American Accent Training by Ann Cook, is it right?
    So I ordered from Amazon, hope it will help me improve!
    Wish you the best!

  • I used to learn British RP accent. I’ve developed it quite far to be honest sometimes confusing a little bit even people from Britain though only for a short while because my grammar and imperfect English would always sell me out if I hadn’t tell them later I’m not from UK. After I’ve read a few comments on the internet about using British accents, asked actually some British people how they feel about foreigners using British accent and met a few foreigners trying hard to speak as the British do, I stopped doing that and switched to american accent. I started to feel like a pretender when trying to speak like British. I still like the accent but I feel like I’m not meant to use it. What do you guys here think about this or did you have a same or similiar situation as me and how did you approached this?

  • Ah, que ça fait du bien de te lire! Ovviamente non ho il tuo talento: per ora sono a 5 lingue (+1), e molto probabilmente non arriverò mai a 11, ma condivido al 100% la tua visione sull’apprendimento delle lingue. Grazie per condividere le tue esperienze in un blog! E complimenti!

  • It’s strange, my boyfriend from Italy, Bologna, has very little accent as well when he speaks English. He sounds totally American, I am learning Spanish and my accent is understandable as the locals say but I will never know. I do not know how my boyfriend does it, his accent fades away and I can’t hear if for long periods of a time and sounds American, most people can not tell he is from Italy. They think he is from the US.

  • Ciao, sono brasiliano e mi piace molto avvere imparato un pò di italiano. Prima avveva imparato il spagnolo, già che in sudamerica gli altre stati parlano. Lo so che mi sbaglio molto quando lo scrivo, però anche lo so che mi faccio capire. Chissà um giono impararè al meno una 4^… Tu sarà mio esemplo. Grazie mille!!!

  • Hey Bro, im Brazillian and I lived in canada for 8 mouths. I ve been learning english for a year and i keep doing it in Brazil (I just came back). It still hard, but its awesome that you ve shared your moments with us. You just inspired me even more, thanks my friend.
    Israel Costa

  • Hi Luca, I have a quick question. I agree with what you said: language is a tool that we use for communication. But what if we are, or in this case, I am not that sociable? I’m not saying I’m critically introverted, or anything. It’s just that I don’t really relish having conversations as much as others do. I like to enjoy, I like to party, but maybe it’s just a lack of topic to talk about that has been hindering me. So, I want to speak, but I don’t know how to tackle this weakness of mine..

  • Hi Luca, I perfectly agree almost all you’ve highlights and advises. However, I’m pretty suprise the way you flattered. Pity your Mom. I would’t if I were you to get inspire other learners as such.

    “Some people suggested that I must have an American mother or that I simply lived in theUSwhen I was a little kid. Flattered by these suggestions, I decided to share my story with you, hoping that it will inspire other language learners.”

  • Sorry but as an American I immediately heard his accent. I thought he was Russian or something. But his English is good.

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