‘World’ – the 4th most difficult 1 syllable word in English
What’s the problem?
This word contains a tricky combination of a difficult long vowel sound, three tricky consonants and a sneaky silent letter.
How do I get it right?
It should sound like /wɜ:ɫd/:
1. Consonant Sound /w/
Round the lips, pull the tongue back and keep the teeth well away from the lips.
2. Long Neutral Vowel Sound /ɜ:/
This is the thinking vowel sound. It is like a long schwa /ə/, you literally relax the jaw, lips and tongue – your mouth should not move at all. The sound is full length in this word.
3. Silent /r/
Don’t say the ‘r’ in ‘world’! Not even a tiny bit, it is completely silent as it is followed by a consonant.
4. Dark /ɫ/
The ‘l’ in world is dark because it comes after a vowel sound. Your tongue should raise at the back and the front, it is a very soft sound, not like the clear /l/ you find at the beginning of a word.
5. Voiced Alveolar Plosive /d/
Make sure your tongue touches the alveolar ridge (the gum behind the teeth, NOT the teeth). This sound must be voiced – if it sounds like a ‘t’, then it is wrong.
What happens if I get it wrong?
English students produce all sorts of strange pronunciations of this word, often it becomes confused with ‘word’, ‘ward’ and even ‘wall’:
word /wɜːd/, world /wɜːɫd/
ward /wɔːd/, world /wɜːɫd/
wall /wɔːɫ/, world /wɜːɫd/