Common pronunciation mistakes for Indian English speakers

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Common pronunciation mistakes for Indian English speakers

Ever since English has acquired the tag of the global language, it is no longer an additional or second language for us. In fact, it has become an inseparable part of our daily lives, as it is the most spoken and widely understood language in India.

It is the chief medium of instruction in various organisations and is often used for writing mails, sending text messages and even for showing our superiority over others. The reasons may vary but the fact remains that it has quietly crept into our lives and our fondness for this language only continues to grow.

Today, the demand and use of the language is rising but do we realise that we may not be using it correctly? After all, it is not our mother tongue so it does not always come naturally to us. Besides, many words are hard to pronounce as their spelling do not correlate with their pronunciation.

One of the key problems with spoken English is the choice of informal over formal speech. Informal speech relies more on ellipsis, contractions and relative clauses without relative pronouns.  Formal speech uses conventional grammatical rules and is normally used for people we do not know or in writing. Both sound different, for example; “She is my first cousin”, is more formal compared with “She’s my first cousin”, which is more informal.

Secondly, as we are not native English speakers, our English dialect is obviously somewhat different. However, if the words are mispronounced, they sound strange. Look at this simple example: “These women aren’t ready to pay the debt”. The sentence may appear ordinary but it may come as a surprise to know that you may not have pronounced it correctly. The correct pronunciation for the given words is: “ ðiːz wɪmɪn ɑːnt ready to peɪ the dɛt.” Referring to the phonemic chart is a be good way to understand and improve the accuracy of your vowel and consonant sounds.

Another common mistake is the way we pronounce ‘v and w’ and ‘t and d’. Try pronouncing “worst verse”. For us, there may not be much difference in the two but there is a marked difference in the way they should sound. When pronouncing ‘w’, the lips should move forward and be rounded, whereas the pronunciation of ‘v’ requires the lower lip to press against the upper teeth. Now try saying, women, wealth and very. Feel the difference in the sounds. Visit the online Cambridge dictionary and refer to the phonemic spelling for each word or play the sound button for the correct pronunciation.

These are just some of many pronunciation mistakes that we make whilst speaking English on a day-to-day basis. The primary reason for such errors is a lack of basic understanding of the phonic sounds. Besides, it is important to note that syllable and word stress are taken for granted most of the time resulting in a flat tone and habitually mispronounced words. Remember, that English is a stress-timed language. Here the stressed syllables are said at approximately regular interval and the unstressed syllables shorten to fit this rhythm. Therefore, it is important to keep the stress in mind to get the pronunciation right.

Conveying an idea effectively requires a lot more than just having the grammar or the vocabulary right. It also means articulating your thoughts using correct voice modulation. Pronouncing the words correctly is different from trying to sound like someone you are not. It is ok to have an Indian accent but not to mispronounce words, as this will hinder the message that you want to convey.

Correct pronunciation does not require a magic potion. Instead the magic that you need is hard work, perseverance and determination. So, put all these together, mix the rules of the language, let everything seep in and blend, practice and abra-ka-dabra, you will pronounce the words correctly.

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