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 Muscle

IPA Pronunciation Guide: /ˈmʌs əl/

Spelling Pronunciation Guide:

[muhsuh l]

Example: Muscle

learn to speak EnglishDefinition: This is the tissue that connects muscles to bones which allow movement with its contracting and relaxing.

Why it is difficult: The word should not be confused with “mussel” [muhsuh l] as it is pronounced exactly the same way. The “mussel” is a type of edible mollusk or shellfish. As with many English words, this word is not pronounced the way it is spelled. The letter “c” is silent in this word.


Learn to speak English 2 Choreograph

IPA Pronunciation Guide: /ˈkɔr i əˌgræf, -ˌgrɑf, ˈkoʊr-/

Spelling Pronunciation Guide: [kohr-ee-uh-graf]

Example: Choreograph

Definition: This word is defined as the practice of moves, typically for dancing.

Why it is difficult: This word is a synonym of a dance routine. It is difficult to learn because of its complex spelling. The “ch” in this word is also pronounced as a “k” and not pronounced like in the word “charm”. It is not to be confused with “phonograph” [foh-nuh-graf, -grahf] which is an old type of music-playing device.

Learn to Speak English 3 Mortgage

IPA Pronunciation Guide: /ˈmɔr gɪdʒ/

Spelling Pronunciation Guide: [mawr-gij]

Example: Mortgage

Definition: This is the legal agreement of one debtor to a creditor to borrow a sum of money and pay the money back in a given time frame.

Why it is difficult: This word is a household term which refers most prominently to real estate. In most cases, mortgage is paid on a monthly basis and comprises many people’s monthly bills. It can be difficult to pronounce at first because the letters “t” and “a” are silent. It sounds a lot like “storage” [stawr-ij] which means a place, space, or room for storing things.

Learn to Speak English 4 Silhouette

IPA Pronunciation Guide: /ˌsɪl uˈɛt/

Spelling Pronunciation Guide: [sil-oo-et]

Example: Silhouette

Definition: The word literally means the outline of something against dim light. learn to speak English

Why it is difficult: This word is tricky to spell and is pronounced differently from how it is spelled. It is similar to a shadow in definition. The word “pirouette” [pir-oo-et] is spelled similarly to silhouette but its definition is a spinning ballet move.


Learn to speak English 5 Thistle

IPA Pronunciation Guide: /ˈθɪs əl/

Spelling Pronunciation Guide: [this-uh l]

Example: Thistle

Definition: It is a member of the daisy family and has a prickly stem and purple flowers.

Why it is difficult: It is very easy to get this word mixed up with the word “whistle” [hwisuh l] which is the high-pitched sound made by forcing air through partially closed lips. The spelling is similar in both words.


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.