Some of the most common English pronunciation mistakes are also the most embarrassing.

Today’s blog looks at those areas of speech where a simple error can cause the listener to break into laughter……

1. ‘sheets’

Example: “Pass me those sheets.”

What’s the problem?
The /i:/ vowel in this word needs to be front close and not too long. If the vowel is too open or too central, you will not be asking your colleague for paper.

How do you avoid it?
When you make the /i:/ vowel, put your tongue as far forward as possible.

Are there any similar problems?
There are numerous examples: ‘What a lovely beach!’, ‘War and Peace’.

2. ‘can’t’

Example: “No, you can’t”

What’s the problem?
The vowel – if it’s not open enough it can sound like a very rude word indeed!
How do I avoid it?
Open your mouth, imagine you are at the dentist, really open the mouth and say /ɑ:/ – ‘can’t’ rhymes with ‘far’ and ‘park’, so imagine it is spelled with an ‘r’: ‘carn’t’.

3. ‘rice’

Example: ‘I’ll have chicken & rice’.

What’s the problem?
If your first language is East Asian, you may replace the /r/ in ‘rice’ with an /l/ as in ‘lice’. You may be in for a surprise if that turns up on your plate in your local restaurant.

How do you avoid it?
Make sure your tongue does not touch the mouth when you pronounce /r/ and make sure it does touch the mouth on the alveolar ridge when you pronounce /l/.

Are there any similar problems?
Any pairs of words with r/l like ‘rake/lake’, ‘rock/lock’ etc.

4. ‘ankle’

Example: ‘I’ve hurt my ankle’

What’s the problem?
The /æ/ in ‘ankle’ needs to be front and open – many 2nd language speakers replace it with the /a/ from their language, sounding more like the /ʌ/ in ‘uncle’.

How do you avoid it?
Push your tongue forward and open your mouth fully when pronouncing /æ/, relax the mouth when pronouncing /ʌ/. You should hear a clear difference between: ‘mad/mud’, ‘cat/cut’, ‘match/much’.

Are there any similarly embarrassing examples?
‘Look at the facts!’ (silent /t/), ‘Where did I leave my bag?’

5. ‘think’

Example: ‘Wait, I’m thinking.’

What’s the problem?
The /θ/ in ‘thinking’ is made dentally, the tongue should touch the teeth. A lot of 2nd language speakers replace this sound with ‘s’, which would produce ‘sinking’. The problem is explored in this hilarious video.

How do you avoid it?
Put your tongue between your teeth for ‘th’.

Are there any similarly embarrassing examples?
Similar problem: ‘It’s very thick!’

6. ‘crab’

Example: ‘For me the crab soup.’

What’s the problem?
The voiced sound /b/ may be devoiced and become a /p/, which would be an entirely different kind of dish.

How do you avoid it?
Make sure the consonant sounds /b d g ð z ʒ v dʒ/ are voiced at the end of syllables.

Send us your examples to info@pronunciationstudio.com, we’ll give a free 1 hour online class for any great entries that make us laugh.

 

By | 2017-01-23T11:20:04+00:00 May 13th, 2014|Pronunciation|0 Comments

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