In the language learning process most students focus on mastering grammar rules and learning words, while neglecting somewhat the correct pronunciation, thinking it is not crucial for effective communication. Flawless pronunciation has to do with individual aptitude and the age at which one starts learning a language, but it is also a result of hard work and focusing on reproducing the correct sound or sounds. That is obviously not easy, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to recognize a native speaker of French, Italian, German, etc. after only a few words of English.
Although Croats can, at times, be heard ridiculing strong foreign-sounding accents of English and even laughing at their own prime minister’s pronunciation of Croatian, it seems that they disregard the importance of grammar and good pronunciation when learning English. This might be the reason why a lot of people don’t pronounce th correctly in words such as think or that, so that thank and tank basically sound the same. Not only do consonants seem to pose a problem, but groups of vowels too, so when pronounced by foreigners, words such as bought and boat sound the same. They don’t, of course! If you’re one of those people who think thank and tank or bought and boat are pronounced in the same way, perhaps you should continue reading this post…
There are different ways one can learn to pronounce words correctly. If you’re taking a course in English, it’s important that you listen carefully to your teacher when your pronunciation is being corrected, and repeat after the teacher. This is perhaps the most direct, the simplest and fastest pronunciation correction method, because students get immediate feedback and instructions as to what to improve and how to use the speech organs in order to improve the pronunciation. If you’re learning English online, speech recognition engines are available that enable students to record their voice, play it back and compare it to the native speaker’s. In addition, most dictionaries use a loudspeaker symbol that the user can click on to play recorded pronunciation of headwords.
The advice given above is not only to be applied to new vocabulary, but also to words that are well-known to the student. The more doubts you have, the more you begin paying attention to pronunciation, and the better your pronunciation will be. Speaking of familiar words, a lot of Croats mispronounce the word vegetables. Although you can put vegetables on tables, make sure that if you say these two words, they don’t rhyme; vegetables also doesn’t rhyme with cables or stables. It rhymes with rentable, for example.
Another frequently mispronounced word is certificate, which doesn’t rhyme with ate, Kate, fate, etc. It rhymes with delicate and intricate.
An interesting word which is often pronounced incorrectly is hotel, probably because of the existence of the same word in Croatian. The problems aren’t so much the consonants and vowels, but rather the word stress. In Croatian the stress is on the first syllable, and in English it’s on the second syllable. It means that in English hotel does not rhyme with hostel. It rhymes with motel and cartel.
Good pronunciation not only contributes to better understanding; it also helps us to leave a better impression on our interlocutors. It is therefore worthwhile giving it our all.