Say what you mean! Simple English words that learners often say incorrectly

Hi there. My name is Emma, and in today’s video I am going to teach you how to improve your pronunciation by looking at pronunciation problems. A lot of students confuse words; or sometimes two words, they sound similar, and students confuse the pronunciation of those words. Okay? So in this video we’re going to look at five different sets of words, and I’m going to explain how to pronounce them, and: What are the differences in their pronunciation? So let’s get started. The first word that I want to practice is the difference between “word” and “world”. Okay? I know a lot of students have a lot of difficulty, especially with “world” because you have the “r” and the “l”, which is really challenging for a lot of students. So let’s learn how to pronounce these two different words. With “word”, I’ve written here the International Phonetic Alphabet spelling.

If you know this, great; if you don’t, don’t worry about it. This is just, if you do know this, this is how the word is in the IPA alphabet, the International Phonetic Alphabet. So if you want to pronounce this word, the first thing I want you to do is make an “er” sound. Can you do that? “Er”. “Er”, kind of like: “her”, “er”. Okay? Now what I want you to do is say the word: “were”, “were”, “they were”, okay? Now, if we add a “d” here: “werd”, “werd”. Okay? Can you say that? “Werd”. One thing that can help you sometimes is with rhymes.

If you know something that rhymes with the word it can also help you with the pronunciation. So this is the past tense of “hear”: “I heard”. Can you say the word: “heard”? “Heard”. “I heard the word”. So you see these have the same sound: “word”, “heard”. So the very basic part of this is if you can make the “er” sound, that’s the very basic part of it: “er”, “word”. This is also a kind of short sound: “word”. Now, I want you to compare that to this sound: “world”. Okay? This sound is a little bit longer for this word. “World”. So I have it here in the IPA or the International Phonetic Alphabet. Now, again, these two have the same vowel sound: “er”, so I want you to start with the pronunciation of this word by making this sound: “er”, “er”. Okay? Now, again, I want you to make the sound: “were”, “were”, “they were”. Okay, now here’s where it might get a bit tricky for some of you because of the “l”, I want you to add an “l” to this sound.

“Werl”, “werl”. Okay? And at the very end, your tongue when you make the “l” should be touching the roof of your mouth: “werl”. Okay. Now we’re going to add the “d”: “werld”, “werld”. Okay? So now let’s compare these two. I want you to say after me: “word”, “world”, “word”, “world”. Do you hear the difference? Okay. So this is something you can practice. Again, start with the “er” sound, that will really help you in the pronunciation of this. Now let’s look at some other words that are commonly confused.

Okay, so the next sounds or words that are very commonly confused in their pronunciation are the words: “walk” and “work”. Okay? Many students pronounce these as the same, but they’re quite different. So let’s look at “walk” first. Okay? So, again, I’ve written the International Phonetic Alphabet, if you know it; and if you don’t know it, that’s totally fine, you don’t need to know it for this lesson. This is just if you know it. So, one of the main mistakes people make with the word “walk” is with the “l”. Okay? Some students, they try to pronounce the “l” and they’ll say: “wallk”. The “l” is silent; we do not say the “l” at all. Okay? So, imagine this is the word “walk”… Well, it is the word “walk”. I’m just going to remove that.

So, it looks more like: “w-a-k”, “wak”. Okay, so the first sound I want to practice is the vowel sound because this is where a lot of students have problems, is with the vowel sound. It’s an “aw” sound, okay? So, I want you to remember when you last went to your doctor. Okay? So imagine you’re at the doctor’s and they want to look inside your mouth, you have to make a sound, you say: “Aw”. Right? When you go to the doctor’s you say: “Aw”.

I want you to make that sound: “Aw”, “aw”. Okay? Notice my mouth is very open for this sound. It’s not closed. It’s: “aw”. Okay, so you need to make that sound to make this word. Now I want you to say: “wa”, “wa”. All right? It’s not a relaxed sound. Your mouth is very… It feels like you’re doing work with it: “wa”, “wa”. Okay? Now I want you to add the “k”: “wak”, “wak”. All right. Now, again, your mouth for this… This is my mouth, these are my lips, it’s very open, but it’s not wide, it’s narrow: “walk”. Okay? Again, if you have trouble with these words, it’s sometimes a good idea to practice in front of a mirror. Okay? So, see what your mouth is doing in front of a mirror, that can help you. Now, I want you to compare this with the vowel sound in: “work”.

Okay? Does my mouth open up a lot? “Work”, “walk”. No. There’s a big difference in what my mouth is doing. So, with “work” we need, again, to make this “er” sound: “her”, “er”. Okay? So I want you to make that sound: “er”. Now I want you to say the word: “were”, “were”. So similar to what we just did with “world” and “word”: “were”. Okay. Now I want you to add a “k” to this: “werk”, “werk”. Okay? “Work”. Now let’s try to compare the two sounds. Can you say this one? “Walk”, “walk”, “work”, “work”. Okay, so again, main difference is in what your mouth is doing. In this your mouth is very open, and in this one it’s not really that open.

All right, so now let’s look at some other words that are commonly mispronounced or confused in their pronunciation. Okay, so the next two words that many students make mistakes when they’re pronouncing is: “bird” and “beard”. Okay? So a “beard” is on a man when they have this… Like, hair coming down from their chin. This is a beard. Okay? Whereas a “bird”, you know, there’s different types of birds, they’re a type of animal. So I’ve noticed many students want to say: “bird”, but they say “beard” instead. Okay? So let’s look at the difference in these pronunciations. So let’s start with “bird”. Okay, so to start with this sound I want you to make an “er” sound. Again you’ll notice a lot of these words have the same “er” sound. “Er”. “Ber”, “ber”, “berd”, “berd”. Now, I want you to really look at my mouth. Am I smiling when I say this word? “Bird”.

No, I’m not smiling. Okay? So you do not smile when you say the word “bird”. You have a very small mouth, in fact: “bird”. And it’s kind of serious looking: “er”, “bird”. The sound is also very short. We’re not saying: “biird”, no, no, no. It’s short: “bird”. Now compare this to: “beard”. Okay? In this word we do smile, and that’s one of the big differences. You do not smile with the word “bird”, but you smile with the word “beard”. Okay? So, to start with I want you to make an “e” sound: “ee”.

This is usually the sound we make when we’re having our picture taken. Sometimes we say: “Cheese”, “ee”. Okay? “Ee”, now I want you to say: “bee”, “bee”. “Beer”, “beer”. “Beerd”, “beerd”. Okay? And you’ll also notice this sound is a lot longer than this sound. “Bird”, “beard”. Okay? This sound kind of makes your mouth feel a little bit tired after because it’s very tense. Your mouth is not relaxed. “Beard”. Okay? So I’m really using my muscles, whereas for this sound: “ber”, no, your mouth is very small, you’re not really using so many muscles.

Okay? So, this is something a lot of students should really practice, especially if you have trouble with your… This sound: “er”, with “ee”. Okay? So now let’s look at some other words to pronounce. Okay, so our next word is: “man” and “men”. Many students confuse these two things. “Man” is one person, “men” there’s more than one; you can have two men, three men, four men. So, they mean the same thing, but the difference is this means multiple people… Okay? So I’ll show multiple men, versus one. Okay, so now let’s look at the pronunciation of these two words. “Man”. To start with I want you to practice the name: “Anne”. Okay? And notice my mouth, it’s big: “Anne”. It’s almost like I’m eating a hamburger or something. “Anne”. Okay? My mouth is very wide and also very tall: “Anne”. Now what I want you to do now is just add an “M” to the name “Anne”: “Manne”. Okay? “Manne”. And, again, it’s great to practice this in front of a mirror.

“Manne”. Now, I want you to compare this sound to: “men”. Is my mouth really big for this one? “Men”. “Man”, “men”, no, there’s a big difference. For “man” I have a very big mouth, for “men” my mouth is quite small. So, to start with the pronunciation of this sound, I want you to say the letter “n”, “n”. What letter is this? This is an “n”. “N”. Now, I want you to add an “m”, so this becomes “men”. “N”, “men”. “Men”. If you have a lot of trouble with this and you can never remember: “Oh, which one do I have the big mouth for, which one do I have the little mouth for? I’m so confused.” If you can say this word, the number “ten”, you can say this: “men”. You can remember: There are ten men. Okay? And that makes sense, because “men” is plural. Ten men. They rhyme, so that can help. So again, this one is a smaller mouth.

So let’s quickly say the two words and just, you know, practice the pronunciation. “Man”, “men”. Okay? So now let’s look at our last pronunciation problem. Okay, so our last words are: “woman” and “women”. A lot of students make mistakes with these two words. A lot of students will actually say: “Whoa man”, which is not correct. So, a lot of students they don’t even know they’re making this mistake, but it is a very common mistake students make. So let’s learn: What are the correct pronunciations of these words? So let’s get started with “woman”. So I’ve drawn here a woman and I’ve drawn here women so you can remember this is for one person, and this is for multiple people. Okay? So, I have, again, the IPA written. So I guess to begin let’s talk about this “o” sound. A lot of students think that when they pronounce this they should make an “o” with their mouth: “o”.

You do not make this sound with this word. You do not say: “whoa”. Okay? What you actually do is it’s a kind of smaller sound. I want you to think of the word “book”, “uh”, “book”. Or: “cook”. Now, notice my mouth. It’s not as big as “o”. Mm-mm. “Uh”, “book”, “cook”. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you can also remember the sound if you think about the character Wookie, Wook, Wookie. Okay? So same sound that’s in “woman”. Okay, so I want you to say: “uh”, “book”, “uh”. “Wuh”, “wuh”. Okay. Now, if we look at the word “min”, like “minute”, that’s for… We don’t say “man”. It’s more a softer sound, like “in”, “min”. “Wuh min”, “wuhmin”. Okay? So I want you to repeat after me: “wuhmin”. And again, make sure you’re not making an “o”.

You should not make an “o”. “Woman”. Now, I want you to compare this with: “women”. Okay? So there’s a difference here. For this sound I want you to start with the word “in”, “in”. “Im”, “im”. Okay? Now you can say: “wim”, “wim”. Okay? And notice my lips, they’re not rounded. Okay? They’re kind of: “im”, so they kind of look like… Not the greatest artist, but this is my mouth. Actually it’s smaller than this: “im”, “im”, “wim”. Okay? You can also think of the word “win”. “I win”, “wim”, very similar sounds. So now I want you to say: “wim”, “wim in”, “wimin”. Okay? All right, so now let’s compare these two sounds. “Women”, “women”, “woman”, “woman”. Okay? Now, if you’re not getting this right away, that’s okay. Number one thing: Try not to say: “Whoa man” because that sounds really strange.

So: “woman”, they’re softer pronunciations, and “women”. This is really good to practice in front of a mirror and to actually watch what your mouth is doing to make sure you’re not… You know, you don’t have a giant… Like, a very widely-opened mouth. It’s good to check in a mirror to make sure you’re doing the pronunciation correctly. I also recommend visiting our website at There, you can actually take a quiz to practice the different pronunciations we’ve learned today, so I highly recommend you visiting our website and taking that quiz. Until next time, take care..

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