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  • Philip M Russell

Speaking better English - how to cope with words you haven't met before

Updated: May 25, 2021

How to cope with words you haven't met before is a big problem in English because the ways that words are spoken do not always reflect how they are written.

I suppose these words are divided into two categories, those words you can look up in a dictionary and there it will tell you how to pronounce them - the Articulate app will tell you how to say many words. Just add the word you wish to learn to the app in the List of My Words part and the app will teach you to say these words, clearly , easily and precisely.

This is true when we meet a few names. A couple of examples are the girls names Hermione and Siobhan and the boys name Sean. If you have never met the names before then you may have no idea how to say them. Reading the names can cause confusion of how to pronounce them.

Speaking better English - how to cope with words you haven't met before
Speaking better English - how to cope with words you haven't met before

The name Hermione was used in JK Rowling's novels about Harry Potter. Many people from around the world read and enjoyed the books but only when they watched the film did they learn how to say the name correctly.

This is of course also true when you meet some other awkward English words like Mortgage this is said differently to the way you would expect to pronounce it and this can create confusion in non-English speakers. Some place names even give problems to Native English speakers like Southwark in London, Bicester and the capital of Scotland Edinburgh, which is said differently than one would assume it is pronounced from the spelling. There are many examples of this.

The articulate app is particularly good here. The names can be added to my list and the app will say it correctly to you and then you can practise the name until you get it correct. It is so easy just to type in the word into My List and then click on the icon to have the app give you the correct pronunciation.

But sometimes even the app can fail. These are the second type of words. Some names are just said differently. Take the example of reading a book. But the town of Reading is spelt the same but said differently. Context is sometimes the key to knowing how to say a word.

Sometimes however the only way to know how to say a name is to ask. Names of places are particularly difficult. Over centuries some town or village names have changed in how they are said, but often the spellings don't keep up. Sometimes people change the name for other reasons. I have a friend who is quite dyslexic. When he registered his sons birth he wrote down the spelling of the name in a quite different way to which it is normally spelt and pronounced. This child cause problems for his teachers throughout his school life.

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