Hard words to pronounce in British and American English

We’re looking at more words that English learners find tricky to pronounce and comparing how we say them in British and American English.

In this video we look at how we pronounce these tricky words in English:
• colonel
• youths
• gauge (and gouge)
• oesophagus
• debut
• rural
• disease
• anemone

We talk about:
• syllables
• the tricky English th sound
• confusing vowel sounds
• British and American differences
• different R sounds
and lots, lots more.

We’re back with some more tricky words.
They’re words our viewers have told us they find hard to say.
So get ready to test your English pronunciation.
I’m Jay and I’m American.
And I’m Vicki and I’m British.
But everyone else you’ll see speaks English as a second language.
Or third or fourth language. They’re all very smart.
But English spellings are crazy.
So here’s the first word.
Colonel, no, colonel. Ah, I don’t know.
Erm, colonel.
Colonel.
This word’s really tricky!
It looks like it has three syllables but there are only two.
Colonel.
Colonel.
Colonel.
Colonel.
They were good.
So what is a colonel?
It’s someone with a high rank in the army.
Or in the US airforce or marines.
Say it with our learners.
Colonel.
Colonel.
Colonel.
OK, next one.
Youth-s
Youth…sss, Youth-s. Yous. Ah, it’s kind of difficult this one.
Yeah, it IS difficult.
What does it mean?
A youth is a young person and the plural is youths.
We often say youths when we disapprove, so we might complain about a gang of youths who started a fight or something.
Oh my god. Youths.
Youths.
They pronounced it very well.
This word is like work out for your mouth. It gets your face muscles moving.
You start with ‘you’ and then ‘th’ but then you have to move your tongue back quickly to say ‘z’. youths.
Practice saying it slowly first and then speed up.
Youths.
Youths.
Is there a way to cheat at this?
Well you could try saying yous, without the ‘th’.
Yous.
Yous.
I’d understand that.
Yes, it’s better than saying two syllables. Youth-is – that doesn’t work. It needs to be just one syllable.
Say it with us.
Youths
Youths
The next word’s interesting.
Gouge.
Gauge.
Gouge.
Gauge.
Gouge – gauge.
So is it a gauge or a gouge?
And what does it mean?
We say ‘gauge’ and it’s an instrument for measuring something.
Like a temperature gauge, or a pressure gauge.
Or a petrol gauge
She means a gas gauge.
Gauge.
Gauge.
But there’s another word that looks similar: gouge.
Gauge – gouge – notice the vowel sound is different
Gouge means something completely different. It’s when you cut into something.
So it’s often a violent act. The lion’s claw gouged into the man’s skin.
Say the two words with us.
Gauge. Gouge.
Gauge. Gouge.
OK, next word.
This one is a medical term.
Oesophagus.
Oesophagus. Oh my god.
No!
It’s very hard.
Oh. Oesophagus.
Oesophagus.
They’re not quite right, but they’re close.
Did you show them the British or American spelling?
The British spelling.
The American spelling is easier.
But some learners managed to work it out.
Oesophagus.
Yes!
Oesophagus.
They got it! Good job!
So what does it oesophagus mean?
It’s a tube in our bodies which our food goes down.
The oesphagus goes from our mouth to our stomach.
Oesophagus
Esophagus.
So the main stress is on the second syllable. OeSOphagus.
Say it with us.
Oesophagus
Esophagus
What’s next?
This was another request from our viewers.
Debut, debut.
Debut.
Debut.
They’re sensible guesses, but they’re all wrong!
The t is silent – debut.
Jay and I say this word a little differently. I can say it two ways in British English.
Debut or debut.
Debut.
Did you hear the difference? I stressed the first syllable.
And I stressed the second.
Debut.
Debut.
That sometimes happens with words that come from French. You stress the first syllable and I stress the second one.
Yes, like I say BAllet.
And I say ballET.
And GArage.
GarAGE.
To me it sounds like your trying to sound posh and say things the French way.
Well, I am posh.
OK, what does ‘debut’ mean?
You mean debut.
If someone makes their first public appearance then they make their debut.
An actor can make their debut on Broadway.
Or a bands first album is their debut album. Say it with us:
Debut or debut.
Debut.
Next word.
Rural.
Err, rural.
Good job!
Rural.
Rural.
They did well.
Yeah. I think this word is hard because of American English.
Oh, so it’s my fault?
Yes.
Why?
You pronounce your R sounds so strongly.
Rural.
Rural.
Did you hear the difference? Jay’s R sounds were very strong.
In some words, Vicki doesn’t pronounce R sounds at all.
But I do in this word. Rural. R – They’re very clear. For me, American English isn’t clear.
What do you mean?
It seems like the strong R sounds make the vowel sounds disappear: rural.
Rural.
Now what about Asian languages?
Oh yes.
For Asian learners this word is extra difficult because of the R and L sounds.
Rural.
With the L sound your tongue is going to press the back of your top teeth. /l/, /l/. But with the R sounds, your tongue doesn’t touch anything. It’s your lips that will move. /r/, /r/. So let’s start at the back of the word and go forward. /l/ /ral/ /rural/ – /l/ /ral/ /rural/
/l/ /ral/ /rural/
Great. Try saying this with our learners.
Rural.
Rural.
Rural.
Good job.
There are regional differences in the UK with how we say this.
And in the US too.
Write and tell us what you say in the comments.
And if you say other words differently too.
OK, Next word.
Disease.
Disease.
Ah, no. This word has two vowel sounds that a lot of students find hard.
Disease. /ɪ/ and /i:/.
It’s a good word for practicing these sounds.
Disease.
Disease.
The first vowel sound is /ɪ/ – and it’s a short sound. /ɪ/
And the second vowel is /i:/. You pull your mouth wider so there’s more tension at the corners- /ɪ/ – /i:/ and /i:/ is a longer sound.
So what’s a disease?
It’s an illness. You could have heart disease.
Or a blood disease.
Say it with our learners.
Disease.
Disease.
Disease.
Disease.
Disease.
Let’s have a really hard one now.
OK. Here’s one that lots of our learners didn’t know.
Anemone.
Anemone.
Anemone.
Anemone.
Oh my. Anemone.
Anemone.
Anemone.
Anemone.
Wow, anemone.
Ah dear! They’re all wrong!
English spelling is so confusing!
We say anemone – and it’s a kind of flower.
Anemone.
Anemone.
So the main stress is on the second syllable.
And it has four syllables. aNEMone.
Say it with us.
Anemone.
Anemone.
It’s time to say a big thank you to all the English learners who let us video them.
They were so nice to stop and let us record them.
And they were such good fun.
If you’ve enjoyed this video, please give it a thumbs up and share it with a friend.
And we have more videos with other tricky words for you to check out.
I’ll put the link at the end of the video, and make sure you subscribe to our channel.
Bye-bye.
Bye!

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