9 Words My Students Often Mispronounce [And How To Pronounce Them Correctly]

9 Words My Students Often Mispronounce [And How To Pronounce Them Correctly]

Currently, I mostly work with Russian Elementary and Intermediate students. I noticed some common pronunciation mistakes and decided to collect them all in one article to help both my students and other English learners who may struggle with the same issues.

Here’s the list:

1. Answer

W is silent in this word. So instead of ‘answer’ it’s pronounced as ‘ans’r’.

Here’s the IPA transcription: ˈænsər 
As you can see there’s no ‘w’ sound and also there’s a schwa sound between ‘s’ and ‘r’, that’s why it’s not ‘ser’ but ‘s’r’.

🇺🇸 In American English, the word starts with ‘a’ as in ‘cat’ vowel: 

🇬🇧 In British English it starts with ‘a’ as in father: 

2. Company

The ‘o’ letter in this word is often perceived as an ‘o’ sound by many English learners, not only Russians.

It’s an international word that sounds similar in many other languages, so we tend to copy our native tongue patterns when we speak English.

🇷🇺 In Russian ‘company’ is written with the ‘o’: компания but we pronounce it with the ‘a’ sound ‘kampania’. 

🇺🇸 In English, this ‘a’ in the ‘ka’ is actually a short ‘ʌ’ sound which is also called ‘cup’ sound. It’s a more subtle ‘a’ that you make with your mouth barely open. 

The next tricky part is that there’s no ‘a’ sound in ‘pany’ part of the world. There’s the schwa again, so you basically need to switch from ‘p’ to ’n’ to make it right. 

The word ends with the ‘i’ sound that you can also hear in the word ‘see’.

So it’s not ‘kampani’ but ‘k-ʌ-m’p-nee’.
IPA transcription: ˈkʌm.pə.ni 

3. Hotel
Hotel is another international word that looks easy but it’s actually not that easy.
In Russian, we have отель which is pronounced as ‘otel’ so that’s why when Russians say ‘hotel’ they pronounce it with the ‘o’ sound.
But it’s actually ‘ou’ as in ‘go’ sound, so it’s ‘hout’l’.
Plus there’s a schwa sound in the second part of the word, so it’s as ‘t-l’ not ‘tel’.
Finally, the stress is on the second syllable: it’s not hOtel but hotEl.
IPA transcription: hoʊˈtel 

4. Said/says
Though the word ‘say’ is pronounced with an ‘ei’ sound like ‘day’, its variations ‘said’ and ‘says’ don’t have this sound.

Said is pronounced as ‘sed’, ‘says’ is pronounced as ‘ses’.

5. Worked
Most students pronounce ‘ed’ at the end of the verbs as ‘eed’ or ‘eet’. So, ‘worked’ sounds like ‘workeet’.

‘Worked’ is pronounced as ‘w’rkt’ because there’s no T or D before -ED and there’s a voiceless K before ED.

In this post, you can find a short explanation of how to pronounce the ED ending of all verbs and test your knowledge with the quiz.

6. Comfortable
This is one of the trickiest international words for most English learners as it sounds similar in many languages.

In Russian we say ‘komfortabelniyi’, so we often pronounce ‘comfortable’ as ‘komfortabel’.

In English most of the letters aren’t pronounced, it’s ‘kʌm.f.t.bl’. 
Let’s break it down:
1. It starts with ʌ as in ‘cap’ sound (‘a’ that you pronounce with the mouth barely open)
2. The rest syllables are connected by the schwa (you basically connect those sounds without making vowels).
3. The stress is on the first syllable.

This tutorial can also help: 

7. Clothes
This is not a word but a nightmare!
There are two ways to pronounce it.
1. The easy way – as ‘close’ – ‘clouz’.
2. The hard way – as ‘clouthz’.

Watch the tutorial:  


8. Schedule
This word is tricky because of many consonants at the beginning and also different pronunciations in American and British English.

In the US, it’s pronounced ‘skedjul’, while in the UK, it’s pronounced ‘shedjul’.
Watch the tutorial: 


9. Debt

‘Debt’ is tricky because of its silent ‘b’. So it’s ‘det’.
Similar words are thumb, palm, calm etc. 

You can learn so much more about common pronunciation patterns of Russian speakers in this tutorial.

Hope it helps. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Need some extra help with your English speaking skills? Sign up for 1:1 classes here.

Additional resources:

9 Common Mistakes My Intermediate Students Make When They Speak English [and How to Fix Them]
How My English Changed in 2020
5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Learning English

Posts created 125

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top