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April 24, 2012

Use That Word Correctly!

Pronunciation is the first thing anyone hears as we speak. Our vocabulary might be great, and our grammar might be impeccable...

...but our pronunciation will give us away every time.

I live on the West Coast of the United States. Our 'accent' is famous for being 'flat'. That means that we don't have a distinct emphasis expressed by our speech.

Supposedly television news anchors spend time on the West Coast to 'absorb' the even tones of our accent.

But it is possible that we each pick up or even develop our own peculiar ways of saying certain words. One personal example that my students have pointed out is that when I use the word 'always' sometimes I say 'all-ways' and other times I say 'al-ways' ("al" rhymes with "pal" here).

My point here is to speak both correctly and clearly. Watch out for terms like "iced tea" or using terms like "used" (as in "I used to live there") or 'old fashioned'. There's a 'd' at the end of each of those words - be sure to pronounce them - and be sure to use the 'd' when writing those words.

And then there is the word 'pronunciation' – This word is a noun. It comes from the verb pronounce, but it is NOT pronounced like the verb. Say /PRO-NUN-CI-A-TION/, not /pro-nounce-i-a-tion/.

But there are also mispronunciations unique to native speakers. Here is one; the word "interesting" is, at least according to the dictionary, a word of three syllables. Many native speakers pronounce it as if it had two syllables; "intresting".

The best way to sound like a native speaker is to listen to one. Listen as often as you can, and listen closely.

And here is a wonderful word-centered video by the one and only Stephen Fry. Read and listen here for a delightful overview of what words can do - http://vimeo.com/15412319.

As always, send us any words or phrases that make you crazy and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


Also, Morf just might be available to visit your school or agency this coming summer. You can contact him at mmorf@mail.com.

Posted by mmorf at April 24, 2012 10:46 PM


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