It’s been a while since we did a podcast on English pronunciation, so today we look at difficult to pronounce English consonants. Depending on what language you are coming to English from, you may or may not find today’s lesson a challenge.
One of the biggest advantages to listening to lots of English language being spoken by native English speakers is learning the correct pronunciation for English words. Today we break down why some English words are more difficult than others to pronounce. Along the way, we explain what consonants and vowels are.
Although we spend a lot of our time talking about listening to English in our podcasts and building your English language comprehension, at some point you are going to need to say these words out loud. Today is one of those days where you might benefit from finding a quiet place to practice saying some of these words out loud.
If you don't know how to pronounce a word, say it loudly. Do not compound mispronunciation with inaudibility.
⭐ Mark Twain
If you have the time, listen to my version of the pronunciation and then record yourself (using your mobile is easiest) and listen to yourself. If you have spoken little English, then you're going to notice that your voice does not do what you want it too initially. You literally have to practice using new muscle positions to achieve the correct sounds.
The good news is you English listening practice with us will help you hear the differences between my pronunciation and your version. Now it’s just a matter of practice makes perfect.
Blacksmith Catchphrase Butterscotch Grandchildren Skyscraper Taskmaster
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Hi and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. If you want to learn English speaking, learn correct pronunciation, then as you know, we at Adept English believe that this is achieved mainly by doing lots of listening. But I think it’s also helpful sometimes for us to focus on elements of pronunciation which English language learners find particularly difficult.
If you like, it’s the ‘Helping Hand of Adept English’ – Rule 6 from the Seven Rules, which means that we give you extra help on the bits of language learning that are difficult. If you want to learn English speaking, then focusing on pronunciation specifically is useful. You’d like to improve English pronunciation? Well how about today, we give it some focus and I’ll give you some English speaking practice too?
So one of the things that can be difficult about English is pronouncing words where there are lots of consonants all together. Let me explain more what I mean here. English, like many other European languages, is made up of individual words. And within the words are letters. So you may have learned the English alphabet – ABCDEFGHI etc. And our letters are either vowels, that’s VOWELS. Vowels are A, E, I, O and U. Or our letters are consonants – that’s the other 21 letters of our 26 letter alphabet. So if you’re unfamiliar, that word again is consonant, CONSONANT – and it means a letter that isn’t a vowel.
So in common with some other European languages, we often have words which contain a lot of consonants together. Take for example the word ‘spread’, that’s SPREAD. ‘To spread’ is a verb of course, and as an example, it’s what you do with butter on your toast or bread – you ‘spread’ it. And the word ‘spread’ may be more difficult to pronounce if you’re not used to saying three consonants all together. You have to make a ‘spr’ sound – ‘spr’, SPR – for ‘spread’.
Happy senior African woman smiling on camera outdoor in the city. English pronunciation practice.
So it depends what your native language is, but if your native language doesn’t have lots of consonants together like this, then your mouth isn’t used to making lots of sounds together like this. So it can be a problem to actually say those consonants all together – words like ‘stringed’, STRINGED or podcasts or tasks. So words where there are a lot of consonants and not many vowels. ‘Stringed’ for example has six consonants, but only two vowels, one of which isn’t even pronounced!
This may need practice – and sometimes English languages learners who struggle with this can end up missing letters out. So instead of saying the word ‘expect’, EXPECT, you might say instead ‘espect’. That would be an error in your pronunciation.
This can also be difficult when you are reading words and then trying to pronounce them. So if you are confronted with a word with lots of consonants and only a few vowels, you may struggle to know how to pronounce it. Try these ones out! I’ll give you answers later on. I’ll spell out some words – you see if you can write them down – and then see if you know how to pronounce them. Here goes.
So that’s six words altogether. I’m aware that might have been quite difficult and another way to do it? Have a look at the transcript – about halfway down...the first bit, after the...mmm third, fourth paragraph, there’s a list of words in capitals. Try and read those – that’s another way to do it. I’ll give you the answers shortly.
So what have all of these words that I’ve just spelt out to you in common? Well, they all have a number of consonants in the middle, which aren’t separated by vowels. So you have to say these consonants as a group and include all of them. Now if your own language is German or a similar language, this may not be difficult for you – because it happens all the time in your own language.
In fact, German probably does this consonant clustering even more than English does. ‘Haben Sie Schwierigkeiten mit der Aussprache Ihrer Konsonantengruppen? Ich denke nicht, wenn Sie Deutsch sprechen können!’ That’s just to amuse our German listeners, in case they’re finding this all too easy!
What these words also have in common is that they’re ‘compound words’. They’re English words which are in fact made up of two separate words joined together. These aren’t the only type of words which have lots of consonants together which can be difficult to pronounce – but compound words commonly have lots of consonants together in the middle.
So one of the words I spelt out for you was CATCHPHRASE – so there you’ve got TCHPHR all together in the middle, which looks very confusing. ‘How on earth do you say that?’ you may ask. That word by the way, is pronounced ‘catchphrase’. But it’s much easier when you realise that this word is two words joined together, so here ‘catch’ and ‘phrase’. And what’s a catchphrase? It’s a saying that a certain character has associated with them.
So Homer Simpson says ‘D’Oh!’ or Spock might say ‘Live long and prosper’. They’re catchphrases – and that’s a compound word and they contain a lot of consonants all together, in the middle.
Just pausing a minute there to remind you of our podcast bundles. If you want to be perfectly spoken, learn English online or even better, go to our website at adeptenglish.com and pay a small charge for 50 of our podcasts, all in one quick download.
We have hundreds of past podcasts that are still really good English language listening practice. And many are no longer available online. So if you’d like even more English language listening – buy an Adept English podcast bundle.
Back to our subject. Lots of consonants together can occur in any word, not just compound words. What about words like syndrome, SYNDROME or worldly, WORLDLY? So there aren’t many vowels in those words to help you out. As you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably getting an idea of whether or not this is a problem for your pronunciation. As I said, it will depend to some extent on what language you’re coming from. So this may be something to focus on – or it may be something that you find easy. Anyway – the pronunciation of those words, which I spelt out for you earlier? Here it is.
- BLACKSMITH is pronounced ‘blacksmith’
- We’ve covered the next one – ‘catchphrase’. I then gave you...
- BUTTERSCOTCH and that’s pronounced ‘butterscotch’
- GRANDCHILDREN is pronounced ‘grandchildren’
- SKYSCRAPER is pronounced ‘skyscraper’ and finally
- TASKMASTER is pronounced ‘taskmaster’
I’ll give you a few more words with lots of consonants and few vowels, so that you can practise. These ones are all past participles – another part of English where consonants cluster up – lots of them together. Try to make sure all the consonants are pronounced – make sure when you say them that you’re not losing any consonants. Try saying these ones after me.
OK. Just out of interest, let us know if you would be interested in a whole course on English pronunciation? Would it be helpful to you, if Adept English released a course, focused entirely on pronunciation? Let us know.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.