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Pronunciation – Say it Right

Pronunciation is the act or way of saying a word. It is important to point out the definition does not include the word “correctly” (i.e. you can pronounce a word correctly or incorrectly). Properly pronouncing words accurately helps a child spell most words correctly, except for irregular words.

I was never aware of my Philadelphia dialect until I moved to the Washington D.C. area. It was common every day words that I did not pronounce correctly –orange (R-ange) or icing (ic-Ning). I am proud to write that I do pronounce water correctly unlike many of my fellow Philadelphians who say wa-Der.

One thing (actually two) will motivate me to break my old habits – my children. I want both of them to speak clearly and to properly pronounce their words.

Pronunciation of Words

Parents and teachers can help children by over exaggerating the pronunciation or pronouncing each syllable in a word so a child can hear the components of a word. I found the following pronunciation tips helpful.

  • Look for and practice correctly saying words that can be easily confused. These words have similar sounds, e.g., latter and ladder, finally and finely.

  • Do not add syllables to a word. Sometimes we incorrectly add a vowel to a word when we pronounce it. For example, some say ath-e-lete, instead of athlete. If you say it wrong, you most likely will spell it wrong.

  • Do not ignore syllables or letter sounds. Sometimes we inadvertently remove parts of a word. For example, some say probly, instead of probably or goverment, instead of government .

  • Do not mix up letters. Some pronounce preform, instead of perform.

  • Look out for the SCHWA. Understandably, the SCHWA is responsible for many spelling errors, since it changes the vowel sound to a short u. The following words illustrate this point:

    soda panda bacon seven about

Believe it or not. Sometimes it is helpful to incorrectly pronounce a word – to put a picture of it in your mind. For spelling purposes, pronounce Wednesday as Wed-nes-day. I’m going to date myself here, but I remember that hors d’oeuvre begins with the letter “h” because when I was a child the chef on the Muppets consistently mispronounced it, he said, “ hor-d-vour.” Decades later (literally) I still remember this Muppet and how he mispronounced hors d’oeuvre – talk about leaving an impression.

Take the time to verbally review spelling words with ESL (English as a Second Language) children to ensure they are properly pronouncing words. Learning how to spell has its own challenges given the complexity of the English language, try not to make it any more complicated by improperly pronouncing words.

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