7 Most Shocking Things About English Pronunciation

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Accent is the combination of intonation (music or rhythm when speaking), liaisons (connecting words) and pronunciation (sounds of vowels and consonants). 

1. English is a horrible mix of languages and dialects

Twenty nine percent (29%) of modern English words have a Latin root; the same percentage applies for French influence and close is Germanic with 26%. The other 16% includes Spanish, Italian, Celtic, Indian, Arabic and Greek. Here are some Foreign Language influences in English. We used the word “horrible” because you can imagine that with all these languages combined; there is no pronunciation rule that works 100% of the time.

2. English has 15 vowel sounds

English has 15 vowels sounds. In Spanish there are only five sounds (a, e, i, o, u).

3. Pronouncing words with one vowel in a syllable (use relative vowels)

If there’s one vowel surrounded by consonants in a syllable it is pronounce with its relative vowel. This is common with short words such as add, set, pin, hop or cut.

4. Pronouncing words with two vowels in a syllable (use alphabet vowels)

When there are two vowels in one syllable, the first one uses the alphabet vowel sound and the second is silent. Some examples are: change, seat, pie, note, rude.

Here is a interesting example that illustrate the usage of 1 vowel (with relative vowel sound) or 2 vowels (with alphabet vowel sound). 

Relative Vowel Alphabet Vowel

rod                          rode

rid                          ride

rat                          rate

bed                       bead

cut                          cute

5. Voiced and un-voiced sounds

Voiced are all the sounds that make your vocal cords vibrate when pronounced. Fortunately, almost every vowel and consonant in English are voiced. There are only 7 exceptions that are know as un-voiced or voiceless: F, K, P, S, T, SH and CH. Why do you need to know this? Well, you will need it to know how to pronounce the verbs in the past tense next.

5. 1. Verbs ending with a T or D sound – Add the extra syllable -ed to the word and pronounce it like –id

need / needid

want / wantid

wait / waitid

construct / constructid

5. 2. Verbs ending with a Voiced sound (vocal cords vibrate) – Add only a D sound at end of the verb to pronounce it in the past.

arrive / arrived

move / moved

play / played

smile / smiled

5. 3. Verbs ending with an un-voiced sound (F, K, P, S, T, SH and CH) – Add a T sound at the end to pronounce it in the past.

work / workt

stop / stopt

ask / askt

miss / misst

6. Three different ways to pronounce the CH

  • ch sounds like tch – the correct CH pronunciation includes a stop sound like TCH. This works about 85% of the time with words such as cheese (tcheese) and much (mutch).
  • ch sounds like sh – in a few occasions the CH sounds like SH such as machine (mashine) or Chicago (Shicago).
  • ch sounds like k – there are some times that it sounds like k such as architect (arkitect), schedule (skedule) or stomach (stomak).

7. Same word with different pronunciations

This is another tricky one. There are 2-syllable words in English that are pronounced differently depending if it’s a noun or verb. The rule is that 2-syllable words have the stress on the first syllable, except for verbs.

Nouns (stress in 1st syllable)     Verbs (stress in 2nd syllable)

permit                                                    permit

address                                                 address

record                                               record

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