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 dictonary.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 Debris

IPA Pronunciation Guide:  /dəˈbri, ˈdeɪ bri or, esp. British, ˈdɛb ri/

Spelling Pronunciation Guide:

[duh-bree] or [dey-bree]

learn to speak English Example: Debris

Definition: Debris are the rubble, leftovers, or scattered remains of anything destroyed or ruined.

Why it is difficult to pronounce: People often mispronounce the word because they’re not aware that the letter [s] at the end shouldn’t be voiced. Another common mistake with this word is enunciating the first syllable as [dee], rather than the [duh] or [dey].



Learn to Speak English 2 Niche

IPA Pronunciation Guide:  /nɪtʃ/

Spelling Pronunciation Guide: nitch

Example: Niche

Definition: Niche is defined as a specific market segment or position of possibility for which one is tailor-made. Niche can also pertain to a decorative recess in a wall. learn to speak English

Why it is difficult to pronounce: Others often pronounce the word as [nitch], while some pronounce it as [neesh]. In a technical standpoint, both pronunciations are now acceptable, but the latter with a soft /sh/ sound in the end is generally used. What’s unacceptable is uttering the last letter of the word. The letter [e] is silent.



Learn to Speak English 3 Queue

IPA Pronunciation Guide:  /kyu/

Spelling Pronunciation Guide: kyoo

Example: Queue

Definition: Queue is defined as a long line of people or objects. It’s also used to describe a waiting list. Queue is another term for a hairstyle for men, either braided or ponytailed and hanging down at the back of the head.

Why it is difficult to pronounce: The four consecutive vowels often throw people off when pronouncing the word. The trick is to disregard all the vowels and make all of them silent. Just say it like the first letter of the word, [q]. It also has the same pronunciation as its homonym, cue.


Learn to Speak English 4 Paradigm

IPA Pronunciation Guide: /ˈpær əˌdaɪm, -dɪm/

Spelling Pronunciation Guide: par-uh-dahym

Example: Paradigm

Definition: Paradigm is akin to a template – a model or pattern. The word also describes a conceptual framework or a vested and deep-rooted thought process.

Why it’s difficult to pronounce: The culprit in the frequent mispronunciation of this word is the second to the last letter [g]. The third syllable can either be pronounced as [dahym] or [dim]. As long as the letter [g] is omitted, either way is acceptable.


Learn to Speak English 5 Gauge

IPA Pronunciation Guide: /geɪdʒ/

Spelling Pronunciation Guide: geyj

Example: Gauge

learn to speak EnglishDefinition: Gauge is an act of measuring, calculating or determining.

Why it is difficult to pronounce: The middle letter [u] of the word is the reason why people often mispronounce the word. When you incorrectly pronounce it with the letter [u], it’ll sound like [gawj]. When you follow the silent letter rule, its correct articulation is [geyj] like engage.



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.