English Mispronunciation – Which Words Aren’t You Getting Right?

English Mispronunciation

Chances are, if you’re speaking English, it’s not your first language.

That’s right, English has around 400 million native speakers, but a whopping 1.5 billion people speak English as a second language.

English Mispronunciation

Percentage English Speakers by Country. You’re probably not facebook friends with all of them, though.

 

Which means, chances are, if you’re speaking English, there are some words that you may be mispronouncing. And in fact, you probably don’t even notice that you are mispronouncing these words, because you use them dozens of times a day. No, we’re not talking about words like “pusillanimous” or even “Chthonian“.

We’re talking about the most commonly mispronounced words found in the top 100 words in the English language. Here at Confidence Learning Services, we find that most people think that these words are easy, because they’re only 3-5 letters long. But in reality, you may be saying these words incorrectly ten, twenty, even fifty times a day. Let’s take a look.

English Mispronunciation – work

– There’s no /o/ sound in the word, despite the misleading “or” spelling.

-“Work” has the same sound as “were” “sure” “her” or “word” (another one you’re probably mispronouncing).

Pronunciation Tip: Tighten the lips for the /w/ sound, and immediately place your tongue in the high, back position necessary for an /r/ sound. It may be easier to imagine it spelled like, “wrk” since there is nothing between the /w/ and /r/ sounds.

English Mispronunciation – come

– The vowel represented by the letter “o” is actually /ʌ/, usually seen written with an English letter “u” (like the word “up).

– Rhymes with “some” (another tricky word) but not with “home.”

Pronunciation Tip: Keep the tip of the tongue touching the back of the bottom-front teeth, and keep the tongue as flat as possible, even pushing the back of the tongue down into the throat to make it flatter.

English Mispronunciation – other

– The vowel represented by the letter “o” is actually /ʌ/, usually seen written with an English letter “u” (like the word “up).

– The “th”, is voiced /ð/ (meaning that there will be vibration in the throat). Be careful not to replace this sound with a /d/ /v/ or /z/ sound.

Pronunciation Tip: Pronounce a flat /ʌ/ vowel, then place the tongue between the teeth and vibrate continuously to make the /ð/ sound. Last, go right back into that “r” sound, bunching the back of the tongue very high and tight in the back of the mouth.

English Mispronunciation – what

– The /h/ sound in this word is unnecessary. Some American speakers (including me!) include the /h/ sound in “wh-” words, but most do not.

English Mispronunciation

But I’ve been carrying around this extra “h” all day!

– The vowel represented by the letter “a” is actually /ʌ/, usually seen written with an English letter “u” (like the word “up).

Pronunciation Tip: To make the vowel sound correctly, keep the tip of the tongue touching the back of the bottom-front teeth, and keep the tongue as flat as possible, even pushing the back of the tongue down into the throat to make it flatter.

English Mispronunciation – with

– The letter “i” in “with” represents the relaxed /I/ sound in “it” and “if”, not the higher, more tense /i/ sound in “eat” and “sheep”.

– The unvoiced “th” /θ/ sound at the end of this word can be difficult. Practice saying the word in a sentence, like “Come with me” to make sure that you are not replacing this sound with an /s/, /t/, /f/, or removing it entirely.

Pronunciation Tip: The /I/ vowel is one of our most difficult sounds to make in the English language, but you can do it. Start with the tongue high in the mouth, to make the /i/ sound in “eat.” Then, relax the tongue completely and let it drop about half a centimeter to make the more relaxed /I/ sound, before you place the tongue between the teeth to make the /θ/ sound.

English Mispronunciation – this

– The “th”, is voiced /ð/ (meaning that there will be vibration in the throat). Be careful not to replace this sound with a /d/ /v/ or /z/ sound.

– The letter “i” in “this” represents the relaxed /I/ sound in “it” and “if”, not the higher, more tense /i/ sound in “eat” and “sheep”.

Pronunciation tip: Make sure that you voice the “th” sound, which you can check by placing your hand on your neck as you pronounce the word. You should feel vibrations in your neck as you say the /I/ sound. Focus on relaxing the tongue completely and letting it drop about half a centimeter to make the more relaxed /I/ sound.

Last, we have our unvoiced /s/ sound which is usually pretty simple.

English Mispronunciation – was

–  The letter “a” represents the /ʌ/ vowel that is the same as the “u” in “up.”

– The letter “s” represents a voiced /z/ sound.

Pronunciation Tip: It’s better to think of this word as being spelled “wuz,” which is how our grade school students often misspell it! Just like in the word “what,” keep the tip of the tongue touching the back of the bottom-front teeth, and keep the tongue as flat as possible, even pushing the back of the tongue down into the throat to make it flatter to pronounce the /ʌ/ vowel. Check to make sure you are making a voiced /z/ sound by holding your hand against your neck as you say this word.

English Mispronunciation – to

You’ve probably heard that “two” “too” and “to” are all pronounced the same, and it’s true – sort of. The word “to” by itself, or if it is being emphasized in a sentence, is pronounced with the /u/ vowel made by rounding your lips and raising your tongue high in the mouth.

However, most of the time, when this word is used in a sentence, we instead simply say “t” /t/, with very little vowel sound following the /t/ sound. No round lips, no tongue raised in the back.

Pronunciation Tip: Try it in this sentence, “We have to go to the store to pick up some food.” Each time you say the word “to”, your lips should not round- you can check this in the mirror.

English Mispronunciation – of

Probably the word I hear most frequently mispronounced by non-native English speakers! Many people mispronounce this word to sound like the word “off,” but actually:

– The vowel represented by the letter “o” is actually /ʌ/, usually seen written with an English letter “u” (like the word “up).

– The letter “f” represents a voiced /v/ sound.

English Mispronunciation

Don’t risk sounding like this cartoon character when what you mean to say is “of.”

Pronunciation Tip: Think of this word as spelled “uv” instead. Focus on making a flat /ʌ/ vowel, followed by a voiced /v/. You should feel vibration in your neck as you pronounce both sounds.

For more help with English pronunciation, contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 and we will schedule a free pronunciation evaluation for you via Skype – no obligation, and no payment information needed.

Are there any other words that you hear mispronounced, or that you have trouble pronouncing? Let us know in the comments!

by Laura Brewer