London, Leicester and Lincoln: Pronouncing English place names

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by Liz Walter

Place names are amongst the hardest words in English to pronounce. Even people with English as a first language are often unable to guess the pronunciation of an unfamiliar place. I have restricted myself to major English towns and cities because there simply isn’t enough space in one post to venture more widely, but do let me know if you’d like posts on the pronunciation of other major place names.

I want to start with the capital, London, because many learners of English pronounce the two ‘o’ sounds here to rhyme with the ‘o’ in ‘dog’. However, the correct pronunciation is /ˈlʌn.dən/. The first ‘o’ rhymes with the ‘u’ in ‘fun’ and the second one is almost omitted: if you simply try to pronounce ‘dn’ at the end, it will sound correct. Continue reading “London, Leicester and Lincoln: Pronouncing English place names”

Ghosts, coughs and daughters: how to pronounce ‘gh’ in English.

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by Liz Walter

There are many common words in English that contain the pair of letters ‘gh’. ‘Gh’ can be pronounced /g/ (like ‘goat’), /f/ (like ‘fun’) or it can be silent, but in that case it will affect the vowels that come before it. Unfortunately, many of these pronunciations simply have to be learned. However, there are a few basic rules that can help.

Continue reading “Ghosts, coughs and daughters: how to pronounce ‘gh’ in English.”

Love, work and police: pronouncing the letter ‘o’.

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by Liz Walter

Pronunciation is one of the hardest things to master in English. Today I’m going to look at the letter ‘o’ and concentrate on some common pronunciation errors.

Most students have no problem with the short vowel sound /ɒ/ found in British English in words such as hot, boss and across. (Americans pronounce this as a longer sound /ɑː/.) Students also generally understand how adding an ‘e’ to the end of a word leads to a longer sound /əʊ/ (UK) /oʊ/ (US), for instance hop/hope, not/note.

Continue reading “Love, work and police: pronouncing the letter ‘o’.”

Women and biscuits: common pronunciation errors in English

by Liz Walter
women+biscuits
There’s no getting away from the fact that pronunciation in English is difficult. Unlike many other languages, the relationship between the letters in a word and its sound is often weak, to say the least.

For this reason, there are pronunciation problems with extremely common words which I notice over and over again in my classes, so this blog post will explain how to avoid some of them.

I want to start with one really general issue: the –ed ending on past tenses. This causes a lot of problems for learners but there is in fact a simple rule: it is only pronounced as ‘id’ when the verb ends with a ‘d’ or ‘t’ sound, e.g. folded, painted.

For all other verbs, -ed is pronounced as ‘d’.  After some consonants, it will come out sounding more like ‘t’, but you don’t need to worry about that because it will happen naturally. Continue reading “Women and biscuits: common pronunciation errors in English”