Do you say "I wanna " or "I want to" ?
Is it "gunna" or "going to" ?
The proper pronunciation debate is ancient and not confined to English speakers. It's universal.
All over the world as soon as anyone is old enough to speak, there will be someone guiding their pronunciation in an attempt to make it "right".
The interpretation of "right" or "proper" varies depending on where, who you are, and what is common or accepted practice in your community.
The study of those language preferences, their differences and effects is called sociolinguistics.
So what does this mean for a person who wants to speak "correctly"?
It means developing the understanding that what might be acceptable in one setting may not be in another and having the flexibility, knowledge, willingness, and motivation to change.
Offending your listener's ears is hardly a grievous crime, but it is one that can boomerang. The real victim of your perceived lack of "proper" pronunciation is not your audience but potentially yourself.
For some people, mispronunciation is an irritation that detracts from whatever you are speaking about. Instead of hearing your message, your listeners hear what they interpret as sloppy or poor English. On the basis of that impression they judge you.
In some settings how you pronounce your words matters. Think about a job interview or giving a formal speech and you'll realize the impression you create counts. How you pronounce your words can make a positive difference. So aside from making sure you are saying names and any specialist vocabulary correctly, listen to yourself and really hear how you habitually speak.
Here's a list of commonly mispronounced words and phrases that can quickly close off ears, hearts and minds. Mostly they are the result of habitual speed. Slow down while trying their proper pronunciation (sounding the syllables clearly) out loud.
The ability to speak "proper" English doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to lose your accent or turn into a snob - a person who considers themselves better than others purely because they pronounce their words carefully.
What it will do is give you choice, more control. You can choose your pronunciation and words to fit the setting and that's got to be a good thing.
Here are 3 options for those of you who want to take it further.
1. Check this list of 100 Beastly Mispronunciations from The Big Book Of Beastly Mispronunciations: The Complete Opinionated Guide For The Careful Speaker by Charles Harrington Elster.
You'll find less common examples than the ones I listed above. If you
or somebody you know habitually mispronounces words like "newspaper" or "with" or "diagnosis", then this is essential.
These are weekly lessons in pronunciation from Seattle Learning
Academy especially for non-native English speakers that provide
practical specialist professional advice. You can also read my interview with Mandy Egle, founder of the Seattle Learning Academy, and producer of the popular podcasts (above) talking about American English pronunciation training.
This is a free self-paced course from Natalie
Baker-Shirer (in collaboration with Renee Fisher) who teaches speech and phonetics
at the Carnegie Mellon University.
From the course description:
"The purpose is not to increase your vocabulary, nor to improve your grammar, but to deal with the sounds of the words that you speak. Your message is of primary importance, but it may not be understood if your pronunciation is imprecise, inconsistent, or regional."
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