As you probably know, I’m not an English native speaker but my dad’s from Brazil and my mom is from Germany where I grew up. So how can I tell you how to pronounce something in English?
Well, first of all, I made all of those mistakes but I had to learn consciously how things are pronounced and I realized there was no particular rule to it. If you’re a native speaker, you’re just used to things the way they are pronounced and you probably learned them from your parents and you never gave much thought to them and how they’re pronounced.
Why Is It Important To Pronounce Words Correctly?
Well, people make assumptions about you and they judge you all the time. It starts with what you wear and your clothes, they send a signal and even though people might think they don’t judge subconsciously, they do.
The same is true when you open your mouth, it’s about the volume, what you say, but also how you pronounce it. Pronouncing words properly even as a foreigner will help you to get more respect and people will automatically think of you more highly.
Commonly Mispronounced Words
1. Pronunciation – /prəˌnənsēˈāSH(ə)n/
We say “I pronounce, you pronounce, or mispronouncing”, but it is pronunciation; there is no “noun” in that word.
2. Salmon – /ˈsamən/
There is an L but it’s silent so it’s not SaLman or SaLmon.
3. Niche – /niCH/
This word is French and it’s pronounced niCH. Most Americans still call it NITCH some even call it NISH and all three of them are correct according to Merriam-webster.
4. Mischievous – /ˈmisCHivəs/
It’s not misHchievous, as you might think it sounds if you just read the word.
5. Kibosh – /ˈkīˌbäSH/
It’s not ke-bosch and it’s meant to put a stop or a check on something, like “Put the kibosh on that”.
6. Sherbet – /ˈSHərbət/
Some people say sure-bay because they think about sorbet or other similar things, they are sweet, they are desserts, but this one is different from sorbet.
7. Antarctic – /an(t)ˈärktik/
It’s pronounced the way it’s written with a T, it’s not An-artic.
8. Prestigious – /preˈstējəs,preˈstijəs/
It’s not prestEEgious or anything else.
9. Banal – /bəˈnäl,bəˈnal/
It means as much as boring or interesting and it’s not pronounced bay-nal.
10. Peremptory – /pəˈrem(p)t(ə)rē/
It’s not preemptory.
11. Realtor – /ˈrē(ə)ltər/
This can be a false friend for many foreigners because you see the O and think it’s called real-tor but it’s not.
12. Cache – /kaSH/
We deal with computers or any kind of memory, you’ve probably run into this word.
13. Epitome – /əˈpidəmē/
This means a person or thing that is a perfect example of a particular quality or type.
14. Espresso – /eˈspresˌō/
It’s pronounced the way it’s written; there’s no X in there, so it’s not eXpresso.
15. Etcetera – /et ˈsedərə/
It’s not exsetera. If you’re in Germany, you probably pronounce it, et cetera.
16. Affidavit – /ˌafəˈdāvit/
It’s not avi-david like the name.
17. Cavalry – /ˈkavəlrē/
It’s not caval-ry or shaval-re.
18. Dilate – /dīˈlāt,ˈdīˌlāt/
It’s not de-late or dial-late.
19. GIF – /jif/
If you are taking animated pictures with your phone, it’s called a jiff.
20. Albeit – /ôlˈbēit,alˈbēit/
Another word for although.
21. Coup – /ko͞o/
This one can be different for foreigners. It is read with a silent P.
22. Debris – /dəˈbrē,ˌdāˈbrē/
It’s a silent S.
If you’re ever unsure about how to pronounce a word properly, I suggest going to google, type in the word into the dictionary, and it usually gives you a little sound button so you can specifically listen to how it is pronounced. Some words in the English language can be very difficult. I’m personally a big fan of reading how it’s pronounced. Yes, it can help but actually listening to the way it’s pronounced is much better.