Learning to pronounce sounds in English can be problematic for some learners. Therefore, mistakes are bound to happen. Although mispronouncing will not create misunderstanding in communication, the mistake will make us sound strange and definitely not English-like. Many learners use their own ‘instinct’ to pronounce unknown words or use their mother-tongue methods in pronouncing sounds (letters) in the word. Rarely do they consult a proper dictionary (for example Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster dictionary, and many others) to check whether they have correctly pronounced the word.
Now try to pronounce these common mispronounced English words: vegetable, debt, children, event, pronunciation, and plumber. Do you think you have pronounced them correctly? Let’s check the correct pronunciation of these six words:
(NOTE: ‘ǝ’ sound is pronounced as we pronounce the vowel sound in the word ‘sir’àsǝr, while ‘é’ sound is pronounced as we pronounce the vowel sound in the word ‘yes’àyés)
- WORD: VEGETABLE
Some people pronounce the ‘ǝ’ sound in the second syllable (‘ge’) whereas it should not be pronounced or omitted. Vowel sounds in English words are not always pronounced.
- WORD: DEBT
Some people pronounce the ‘b’ sound whereas it is a silent ‘b’ or should not be pronounced. Sometimes, there are silent consonant sounds in English words.
- WORD: CHILDREN
Some people pronounce the letter ‘i’ as ‘ai’ sound in the first syllable (‘chil’) whereas it should be pronounced ‘i’ not ‘ai’. Many times in English, the sound of pronouncing a single letter in the alphabet is not necessarily the same as pronouncing it in a word.
- WORD: EVENT
Some people pronounce the ‘ǝ’ sound in the second syllable (‘vent’) whereas it should be pronounced ‘é’. People often mistook ‘event’ (i-vént) for ‘even’ (i-vǝn). These two words do not have the same sound or the same meaning.
- WORD: PLUMBER
This is another case of a silent consonant sound. The ‘b’ sound in the second syllable (‘ber’) should not be pronounced or is silent.
- WORD: PRONUNCIATION
A number of speakers often pronounce this word incorrectly. They take the first two syllables of the word pronunciation (‘pro-nun’) as having the same sound like the word “pronoun”, and some people even think that the two words are related. However, the two words do not relate at all and they have an entirely different meaning.
Those are just a few examples of commonly mispronounced English words. So, what can we do to avoid incorrect pronunciation? One of the most effective methods of learning English is by watching and listening to a movie with a lot of native English speakers in it. By watching the person, we will know how to move our lips (and maybe tongue) to produce the sound we are listening to. Next, we can practice our pronunciation by reading out loud (if you’re a shy person, you can do this while nobody is around) and consulting a dictionary anytime you have a doubt on a word or if you’ve never heard the word before. Do not try to use your instinct unless you’re an advanced learner (even an advanced learner check on a dictionary from time to time). Lastly, intensive practicing will never fail us. If your goal is to speak fluently (and to pronounce correctly, of course), being lazy should not be in your to-do list. Train your lips, tongue, and memory, so that your brain will be accustomed to correct pronunciation only.
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