Learn to Speak English: Working Towards Clearer Pronunciation

Business professionals and others who speak English as a second language (ESL) know that when speaking, they are likely to be judged by strangers for speaking American English with an accent. Any advantage an ESL speaker can find as they learn to speak English will help in establishing credibility.

Pronunciation is one area that can be significantly refined. Unfortunately, there are many words in the English language that are mispronounced by both native English speakers and foreign English speakers, many times without the individual being aware of the inaccuracy. These mispronunciations have become commonplace, but our blog may be able to help some individuals make some positive changes.

Below you will find a few commonly mispronounced words picked by our clients at Accent Pros. The example is linked to dictionary.com and includes an easy to understand representation of how the word is supposed to be pronounced using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). We also provided a second explanation using a spelling pronunciation guide. If you want to hear how the word is pronounced, simply click on any of the given words and you will be redirected to dictionary.com where an audio version of the correct pronunciation is provided.


Learn to Speak English 1 February

Spelling Pronunciation guide: FEB-yu-we-ri or FEB-roo-we-ri

IPA Pronunciation Guide: /fɛb ruˌɛr i, ˈfɛb yu‐/

Example: February

Definition: The second month of the year. i.e. Valentine’s Day is celebrated in February.

learn to speak EnglishWhy it’s difficult: This word becomes difficult to pronounce for three reasons: first is the presence of an initial /f/ sound which some learners find hard to pronounce, second is the presence of glides for the syllables, and third is the presence of two accepted methods of pronunciation. Usually, learners become confused as to which accepted pronunciation to use, which is why there may be a second’s worth of hesitation when pronouncing this word


Learn to Speak English 2 Hour

Spelling pronunciation guide: AH-wer

IPA pronunciation guide: /aʊər, ˈaʊ ər/

Example: Hour

Definition: A duration of time made up of 60 minutes. i.e. Each hour is precious to workers paid per hour.

Why it’s difficult: For this word, there is a silent initial /h/. It is pronounced with two syllables—never just one unlike “our” which can be pronounced as “ar” or “AH-wer”. This word is pronounced accent reductionsimilarly to “flour.”


Learn to Speak English 3 Often

Pronunciation guide: Aw-fen

IPA pronunciation guide: /ˈɔ fən, ˈɒf ən/

Example: Often

Definition: Many times; frequently. i.e. He often visits the library.

Why it’s difficult: In American English pronunciation, the medial /t/ sound is omitted but in the British English pronunciation, it is pronounced—this is what may lead to the confusion regarding its American English pronunciation especially since there is a “t” in the spelling anyway. It is pronounced similarly to the word “soften.”

Learn to Speak English 4 Frequency

Spelling pronunciation guide: free-kwuhn-see

IPA pronunciation guide: /ˈfri kwən si/

Example: Frequency

Definition: The rate at which a certain action occurs. In science, it is the rate at which vibrations occur to produce a wave. i.e. They’ve been fighting with an increasing frequency since they lived together.

Why it’s difficult: The initial /f/ matched with the /r/ can be hard to pronounce for ESL learners who do not have these phonemes and this particular grapheme or the initial “fr” sound in their native language. The first syllable is pronounced as the word “free”, the second syllable pronounced similarly to “seQUENCE”, and this word rhymes with “decency”

Learn to Speak English 5 Constantly

Spelling pronunciation guide: kon-stuh nt-ly

IPA pronunciation guide: kɒn stənt li/

Example: Constantly

Definition: Continuously, always. i.e. She constantly thought of him.

Why it’s difficult: The presence of the medial “st” sound with an aspirated /t/ and the second /t/ which is not aspirated can be tricky to pronounce and would require a bit of practice. The “ntly” part of the word can be tricky too. This word is pronounced similarly to “persistently.”


Accent Pros Frequently Mispronounced Words Series

This article series focuses on the most commonly mispronounced words in the English language. If you’ve reached the end of the article and are surprised to find words you thought you were pronouncing correctly, don’t worry! There are a number of words in the English language that have had their pronunciation modified throughout the years due to the influence of regional dialects, tradition, and social media to name a few contributing factors. Keeping up with the ever evolving state of the English language has never been more important. Be sure to check out posts from our popular idioms series and stand alone topics. Are you ready for a complimentary accent reduction tutorial or a free foreign accent screening? Our on-line accent reduction courses are available to students with accent reduction goals all over the world. For consistent access to posts in our commonly mispronounced word series and other accent reduction tips, please Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter.