When students take on English as a foreign language they are met with an endless list of words that are spelt one way but pronounced completely differently. This obviously creates a mess of pronunciation and understanding. In class, most students seem to think that the most important thing is to translate each and every word. However, when you are speaking English, you need to articulate each word accurately. If you cannot pronounce coherently, you will get all the different looks of confusion but not the responses you are hoping for.
Certificate – /sətɪfɪkət/ The word ‘certificate’ may look easy enough to pronounce. However, most English language learners seem to be under the impression that ‘-cate’ is pronounced as ‘Kate’. Funnily enough, as a student learning English as a foreign language, you should always picture ‘certificate’ as ending with ‘-kit’ – pronounced ‘certifi[kit]’. This is purely for pronunciation fluency – Not Spelling!
Worcestershire – /wʊstərʃər/ This word is as hard to learn how to pronounce as it is good a sauce to add to any recipe, and no, it does not end with ‘-shire’. Indeed, the place Tolkien’s Hobbits call home, does not feature in the pronunciation of this word. If you want to get this word correct, you will need to break it up and picture it differently – For instance, the word can be split up into three syllables: worces-ter-shire, you need to drop the Rs from all syllables. Essentially, you should be pronouncing ‘Wooster-share.’
Rural – /rʊərəl/ When pronouncing the word ‘rural’ it almost sounds like a growl and most students seem unable to twist their tongues to produce the ‘roar.’ What this word boils down to is ‘roo’ and ‘rill’ put together, producing ‘rural’.
Through/Though/Tough – /θru:/ /ðəʊ/ /tʌf/ When you are following an English language course and come across these three nightmarish words, you will mostly come up with questions. Just remember, the ‘th’ in ‘through’ and ‘though’ is followed by /u:/ and /əʊ/ giving each word a low intonation whereas ‘tough’ ends in /ʌf/. You might want to remember the difference between ‘th’ and ‘t’ – when pronouncing a word with ‘th’ your tongue should be placed between your teeth and only air should be let out, not sound. When you are met with words that have ‘t’, the sound is voiced.
Hierarchy – /ˈhʌɪərɑːki/ I have heard so many different versions of this word that sometimes, I am unsure of how to pronounce it. The first syllable is simply ‘higher’ (‘hier-‘) and is followed by ‘-ar’ and ‘-key’ (‘-chy’). Quite simple, once you put it like that.
Sixth – /sɪksθ/ Learning how to pronounce ‘six’ is one thing. Add the ‘th’ and you’ve got yourself a problem. Most English language learners seem to stumble when it comes to adding the ‘th’ to the number ‘six’. After saying ‘sicks’ you place your tongue between your teeth and push air out of your mouth. There is no easy way of saying this but it will all come naturally with practice.
Queue – /kjuː/ No, you are not seeing double and no, there is no misprint, the two middle letters are really repeated. This is the beauty of the English language; words look complicated but they are actually so simple to say. For instance, ‘queue’ is simply pronounced as ‘kjoo’.
Lieutenant – /lɛfˈtɛnənt/ This is one of my favourite words to spell out in class – the word is pronounced completely differently to the way you spell it. Indeed, ‘lieutenant’ is actually pronounced as ‘leftenant’. Growing up, I always thought of lieutenants as being left-handed – that seemed to help me remember the pronunciation.
Subtle – /ˈsʌt(ə)l/ – The only subtle thing about this word is the ‘b’. You cannot pronounce the letter ‘b’ when saying this word.
Foul/ Foal – /faʊl/ /fɔ:ʊl/ – Try repeating ‘the foal smelt foul’ for ten times and you’ve got yourself a tongue-twister. The difference between these two words is the sound of the ‘o’ depending on the following vowel – the ‘o’ in ‘foul’ sounds like an ‘a’ whereas the ‘o’ in ‘foal’ sounds like an ‘o’.
Here at inlingua, our English teachers give strong importance to the pronunciation techniques needed to speak coherently. The inlingua method focuses on practical use of language and, because of this a small portion of the day is dedicated to pronunciation skills.