Learn How to Pronounce Words

If you have a scheduled meeting with someone, it’s always smart to do a bit of stalking beforehand. Use this time to figure out how to pronounce his or her name. The first stop’s always YouTube, in hopes of finding footage from a panel, speech, or interview. But to be honest, that’s usually not a success. Next step: Scroll through social media to see if he provides a phonetic spelling of his name (naga4d).

Another option’s going to a site like Pronounce Names or How to Pronounce. They’ll both let you search the name and offer recordings and phonetic spellings in various languages, helping you to narrow down your options.If you’ve met and spoken with this person several times already and you’re still not sure, you probably don’t want to embarrass yourself by getting it wrong.I come across this issue a lot. I’m so focused on the conversation—especially when I’m nervous in interviews—that I’m never focused enough to take in the pronunciation. If you’re one-on-one with the person, it’s pretty easy (and more natural) not to address the person by his or her name.While this is the most obvious option, so many people skip it. But here’s the thing: Many people with unique names know it. So they’re unlikely to get offended if you straight up ask how to pronounce it.With that said, an uncommon name to you may be very common to someone else, so make sure you’re approaching this correctly.That means you don’t start with, “I’ve never seen this name before” or “Whoa, not even going to try to say your name.”Instead be open and honest and try these:

  • “I want to make sure I get your name right—how do you say it?”“Can you tell me how to properly pronounce your name?”“Would you mind saying your name again? I missed it the first time because I was distracted by [interesting thing the person was saying].”“Sorry, I’m the worst, do you mind repeating your name?”

It’s less likely someone will get upset if he or she knows you’re trying to get it right, and not trying to be rude.Regardless of which approach you choose, know that the longer you wait to find out, the more uncomfortable the situation becomes. Because at some point, you’ll reach a certain level point that not knowing it could damage your relationship and reputation. So if you find yourself getting close to that point, address it. It’ll be much easier to recover from the awkwardness of talking about it now than a huge slip-up later on.Consonants are speech sounds that are created when you stop air from flowing easily through the mouth. Some are made by closing your lips and others by touching your tongue to your teeth or the roof of your mouth. ESL learners can have difficulty mastering some consonants, such as ‘p’, ‘t’, and ‘k’, which are sounds that not all languages contain. Further complicating things, some consonant combinations, such as ‘ch’, ‘sh’, and ‘th’, create unique sounds.The International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA — more widely used in Europe than in America — was created in the late 19th century in an attempt to standardize how spoken language was represented in print. Learning the International Phonetic Alphabet has shown to be useful in mastery of these more difficult pronunciations, which is why it’s taught in ESL classes. Our downloadable consonant board game requires 2 or more players, a single die, and place markers, such as coins or buttons, for every player. On each player’s turn, the die is rolled and the player advances the number of spaces shown on the die.The player will first pronounce the consonant blend, then come up with a word that uses that blend. For example, if you land on /d/, you would pronounce “d,” and then say a word, such as “dog.” The first player to make it to the end of the board wins. 

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