“Nucular.” No, don’t add a second “u” to this word. It’s ‘noo-cleer.” Too many people mispronounce this word, even though it’s clear that there is no second “u” in it. Even famous political figures have mispronounced it, to their extreme embarrassment. Why do you and others say words wrong? Probably because you’re guessing about the correct pronunciation. As you learn how to pronounce a word, you have to break it down into smaller parts, then quietly sound the word out under your breath until you’re comfortable saying it out loud. Even seemingly easy words can fool you – like “often” or “utmost.” Slow down, read the word carefully, break it down and pronounce it slowly – then speak.
How to Pronounce Correctly
At least two Bush brothers have embarrassed themselves with their incorrect pronunciation of “nuclear.” They may do so because of where they live. One Bush is from Texas, and the other from Florida. Or it may be that they simply never took the time to break the word down and pronounce it correctly.
Can mispronouncing words hurt your reputation? Yes, it can, according to Antimoon. Look at the word “hurt.” As you read it, you see the “u,” but you don’t say “huwrt.” Instead, you pronounce this word as “hert.” The “u” sounds like an “e.” As you are learning how to pronounce words correctly, you need to begin to recognize each English sound. You also need to learn their IPA symbols. This is the International Phonetic Alphabet, says Antimoon. The IPA charts show phonemes or sounds used in the English language, along with special symbols that tell you where the word is stressed, whether a letter is pronounced and even whether a consonant is pronounced as a separate syllable. You should at least be able to recognize the symbols used in the IPA chart – these will help clue you in about word pronunciation.
Once you are familiar with each English sound, become good friends with a dictionary. Check out the pronunciation of new words that you’re not sure of. If you come across a word like “candidate,” read each letter. Try to read it in different ways: cane-i-date (use the short “i”). “Cand-I-date,” using a long “i.” By the way, the correct pronunciation is “cand-i-date,” with a short “i.”
Watch movies, listen to the radio and listen to audiobooks. Make note of the pronunciation of words you don’t recognize.
Practice your pronunciation, either with flashcards or as you are watching television.
Say, “museum.” Where is the word stressed? Mu-SE-um. Listen to others speaking, especially those whose English you trust. Imitate them.
How do You Pronounce Words Others Mispronounce?
Look at these words and phrases:
º Athlete. Ath-leet, not ath-a-leet.
º Nuclear. Nu-clear, not nu-cu-lar.
º Escape. Es-cape, not ex-cape.
º Et cetera. Et-sett-err-uh, not ex-sett-err-uh.
º Prescription. Pre-scrip-shun, not purr-scrip-shun.
º Prerogative. Pre-rogg-a-tiv, not purr-ogg-uh-tive.
º Utmost. Utt-most, not up-most.
º Awry. Uh-rye, not aww-ree.
º Sherbet. Sherr-bet, not sherr-berrt.
º For all intents and purposes. For all intenTS AND purposes, not for all INTENSIVE purposes.
º Often. Off-en (silent “t”), not off-ten.
Even if you hear someone you respect pronounce one of these words incorrectly, you need to learn to pronounce them right, according to Ragan. If you’re in a meeting at school and you come out with, “For all intensive purposes,” you won’t make sense. Why is a purpose intensive? Think about it. Yes, when “intents and” are said one right after the other, they may sound like “intensive,” but the phrase said that way makes no sense.
Learning Good Pronunciation
Let’s face it. English, Language, Arts and grammar aren’t always the most interesting classes in your school day. They’re necessary, especially if you’re going to learn how to write, speak, communicate and be easily understood. Think of the times that you’ve said something that makes perfect sense to you, only to get confused glances from others. It probably didn’t feel very good.
Make a list of the words you’re not sure of. Include the words you know you’ve said incorrectly.
Get a dictionary and download a copy of the IPA. Study them for each word you don’t know how to pronounce correctly.
Sound the new words out, using the correct pronunciation. Keep practicing them until you are confident you can say them properly in front of others. Unveil your new word knowledge in front of friends and classmates.
How do You Say – Learning to Say New Words Correctly
Think about how your parents taught your younger siblings how to say new words: “Say ‘ma-ma. Say da-da.’” They broke the words down into simpler units your sibling could understand. Over time, they began to say new words, making them more recognizable. Your parents added new words, like “milk, bowl, potty, ball,” and other words. Your sibling’s vocabulary grew and soon they were able to communicate in short sentences. Your parents have other methods to teach your sibling how to speak and say words correctly:
º Holding conversations. Your sibling is a great mimic and a little sponge for learning. They will begin to learn good sentence structure just by talking with your parents.
º Reading. When your parents sit with your sibling and read with them, they begin to understand how words and letters connect with each other. If your parents read slowly enough, your sibling learns to focus on how each word is said, according to Everyday Life.
º Correction. Your parents take the time to correct your sibling if they say a word wrong. One of your parents may say, “No, say ‘grrrass.’” Your sibling will imitate your parent and pay more attention to pronouncing the “r” right.
Steps in Learning How to Pronounce New Words
º Use a dictionary. Look at the word you’re learning and notice where it’s broken into syllables. Look for the stress marks. If the word has more than one stress mark, put more stress on the part that is bolded. Make note of the spelling of the word in parenthesis, suggests Askville. This shows the phonetic pronunciation of the word.
ºLearn new words by becoming familiar with their phonetic pronunciation.You can’t go wrong with this method.
º Look at words with “f” or “ph” in them. These sounds are said in the same way. English doesn’t always make very much sense, especially when you see different letter combinations used to pronounce a letter sound that goes with a different letter. Again, the dictionary will be your biggest help here.
º Practice, practice, practice! Not all English words are easy and it takes time to learn to pronounce them correctly. If English isn’t your first language, you should take the time to practice them even more.
Learn How to Pronounce Words When You Don’t Speak the Language
If another language is your first language, you’ll need to start from the beginning, by learning how to say each letter of the alphabet, according to English Club. Look at the word “alphabet.” The “ph” combination is said with an “f” sound. That alone should tell you that English comes with its own rules.
Next, you need to know when to put more stress on certain parts of words. Do you stress the first, second or third part? Look at “automobile.” The stress goes like this: “AUTO-mo-bile.”
Some English words sound just the same, but mean something completely different. Look at this set of words: “to/too/two.” These are homophones, which sound identical, but have different meanings.
How to Pronounce a Name
Let’s talk about how to pronounce names. Look at these names: Smith. Jones. Carey. Alicia. Barbara. Joseph. Annette. How do you pronounce them? Some are easy, but you may wonder if you should include letter sounds in some of them.
Smith: The “i” is a short I, so pronounce as though you are saying, “it.”
Jones: The “o” is long (say “oh”). The “e” is quiet: Jon-s.
Carey: This is pronounced as it looks: The “a” is long and the “ey” sound blends together.
Alicia: The “i” sounds like an “e” and the “c” is soft. Al-e-c-ia.
Barbara: This name is common to several countries. Use a short “a” sound for each “a” in this name.
Joseph: Here is that “ph” combination again. This is the Anglicized spelling of “Josef.”
Annette: The “a” is short: “ah”. The first “e” is short: “eh.” The second “e” is quiet: Ah-neht.
Why You May Mispronounce – and Learning to Pronounce a Word
Can you hear individual sounds in each word? If so, you can easily learn to pronounce new words. If you can’t pick up each letter sound, it’s harder for you to do so. “Pear” and “bear” sound the same, but have different beginning sounds.
Go back to the most basic sounds of each letter. Carefully sound them out. These sounds are called “phonemes.” (Bat, bad, pad, pat.) All of these words mean something different, but sound similar, according to Teaching English Games. Work with someone who can coach you to position your tongue and teeth correctly as you learn to say each word. Practice every day.