3 Secrets of the Y-Insertion: One Rule to Help you Speak with an American Accent

Why Y-insertions are Important for Sounding American

Y-insertions are important because it transforms your non-native English language pronunciation habits to American English pronunciation habits.  It’s a straightforward concept that is easy to understand.  Applying this rule will prevent future communication breakdown.  It is one American accent tool, that when combined with other accent modification tools, will result in your listeners focusing on WHAT  you’re saying, and not on HOW you’re saying it.  Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker & Lynda Katz-Wilner, authors of Rules for Using Linguistic Elements of Speech: A Resource and Interactive Workbook, provide straightforward information for mastering the Y-insertion.

What is a Y-Insertion?

Secret #1

A Y-Insertion means that you insert the sound that the letter “Y” makes, even when there is no letter “Y”.  When the vowel sound /u/ (pronounced as “oo”) is spelled with the letter “u” or the letters “ew”, a “Y” (or /j/- phonetic symbol) sound is often heard.  Note that there are many exceptions to this rule.

Secret #2

There are exceptions to the Y-Insertion rule.  Not all words that contain the letter “u” are pronounced with the Y-Insertion.  Your accent modification specialist can help you learn words with which you need to use the Y-Insertion rule and words with which you do not use the rule.

Secret #3

The letter “u” can be pronounced in various ways when spoken in American English.  For example, it can be spoken as “uh” or /ʌ / (phonetic symbol) as in “up”, “oo” or /u/ (phonetic symbol) as in “tulip”; “er” or /ɝ/as in “urban”.  For more information on the different pronunciations for the letter “u”, contact your accent reduction specialist.

Examples of Y-Insertions

Here are some words that illustrate the use of Y-Insertions.  Remember, in your own brain, visualize the letter “y” before the letter “u” and pronounce it.


The American English Speaker’s Brain/Hearing Wiring

Learning and practicing the Y-Insertion rule is a good start to appealing to the American English speaker’s brain.  The American English speaker’s brain and hearing are most familiar with and best equipped for hearing the American English accent.  You will avoid numerous communication barriers by using American English Accent concepts and rules.

Turn on your American English communication partners’ comprehension buttons.  Note that the proceeding sentence was a form of figurative language.  In other words, increase the ability for your American English communication partner to understand you.  When you apply this Y-Insertion rule, your American English communication partners will better understand you.

Accent Exercise Practice Challenge

Putting accent modification knowledge into practice is critical for creating sustainable American English accent habits.  What examples of American English words can you think of that fit the Y-Insertion rule?  Write down a list of ten words that have the letter “u”.   If you’re unsure whether the Y-Insertion rule applies to them, ask your accent reduction specialist.  Then practice saying them out loud with the insertion of the “Y”.  First say them in the word alone.  Then add the word into a sentence or question and say it out loud.  Lastly, apply your practice into a real-world situation.


The Y-Insertion rule is important for speaking with an American English accent.  A Y-Insertion means that you insert the sound that the letter “Y” makes, even when there is no letter “Y”.  Note that there are exceptions to the Y-Insertion rule.  To apply your knowledge of the Y-Insertion rule, follow the suggested practice exercises and use the rule in everyday situations with American English speakers.  You will be well on your way to preventing communication barriers and therefore more fully able to express your skills, talents, personality, and spirit with speakers of American English.

Make your Accent Training Fun!

Have fun with your newly acquired accent reduction tool.  Ask an American English speakers if they’ve  heard of the Y-Insertion.  Use it as a topic of conversation.  It will break the ice.  In other words, it will allow you to bring up the topic of your accent with speakers of American English in a fun way.  Let them know you’re practicing American English speech habits and the Y-Insertion is one of them.  By you bringing it up, you will most likely relieve any tension that you or the American English speaker might be experiencing.

Contact Cher

If you’re interested in learning how to systematically change your accent to make it sound more American, contact Cher Gunderson at (920) 362-2359 or email her: cher@masteryouraccent.com. Cher is certified in the Compton P-ESL Approach to accent reduction.

Share your Experiences, Comment, or Ask Questions

We hope this blog was valuable to you.  Click on the comments section at the end of this article, scroll to the bottom, and leave a comment and/or question.  Share your own personal experience with overcoming accent barriers.  Ask any questions about accent reduction.  We’ll be happy to respond.  It is Master Your Accent’s mission to empower international professionals to fully express their skills, talents, personalities, and spirit.

Success in using your Y-insertions!


Source: Marjorie Feinstein-Whittaker & Lynda Katz-Wilner.  Rules for Using Linguistic Elements of Speech. Owings Mills: Successfully Speaking, 2006, 2007, 2nd Edition. Print.


Cazare In BrasovJune 16th, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Oferte Cazare Sibiu

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Cher GundersonJune 29th, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Hello Cazare.
I’m so glad you find the information helpful. What is your native language if you don’t mind my asking?

To your success,

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