"A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him."
Many non-native English speakers have trouble pronouncing or confuse certain words. Do you have difficulty with these tricky word pairs and sounds?
A simple word (for native English speakers) like ‘breakfast’ is tough for ESL speakers, who struggle with consonant clusters (2-3 consonants). It is often pronounced as ‘brefas’. The ‘k’ and the final ‘t’ are omitted because they are attached to another consonant. So the correct pronunciation is “Brehk-fest”
The “th” sound on words like “teeth.” is pronounced like a /t/. For this you will need to learn how to produce the voiceless “th” sound.
Many ESL speakers pronounce the /i/ as “ee” which causes a great deal of confusion… so the word “ship” sounds like “sheep”.
The relaxed /I/ sound in “ship” tends to get replaced with a tense “ee” or /i/, making it “sheep”. The Words Speak/spick are also examples of this mix-up. So for the “ee” sound you smile and for the /I/ as in ship you relax your jaw.
Many people have difficulty distinguishing between /u/ or “uh” and /ʊ/ “oo” . For the “oo” as in pool, you round your lips and relax your jaw for the “uh” as in pull.
6. Work and walk
Two simple words that are often confused because of a very similar pronunciation and spelling.
Many people ask me how to pronounce these two words. To launch a new website or to launch a rocket; Open your mouth wide as for the AW sound and elongate the vowel.
To eat lunch – the vowel is a quick “uh”.
“Were” is the past plural of the verb “to be”. “We were here.”
“Where” means at, in or to what place. “Where is the house? “Where are we going?”
The same explanation as for ship/sheep, confusing the short and long /I/ sound. This word creates chaos in a conference room when an accountant needs to discuss the “balance sheet.
10 . bat/bet
Many ESL people substitute the “eh: sound for /ae/ and change the entire meaning of a word
Please let me know if there are other word pairs that are difficult for you or hat you find confusing. I will add it to the list try to help you with it.
My American English Pronunciation software program also deals with all of the above sounds.
Are you repeatedly asked, “What?” or “Can you say that again?”
By Ela Britchkow, Speech and Language Pathologist
©2017 Ela Britchkow