Words that are hard to say in American and British English

We’re looking at 9 words that are hard to say in British and American English.
• epitome
• vitamin
• pharaoh
• logically
• twelfth
• literally
• Connecticut
• phlegm
• guarantee

We talk about:
• silent letters
• the tricky English th sound
• syllable and word stress
• British and American differences
• /g/ and /w/ sounds
and lots, lots more.

To see our other videos on how to pronounce difficult words, click here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwrM2Wcy_MsApm3hDJWaGQn7IUb1oFARW

What words do you find hard to pronounce in English?
Today we’re looking at some words our viewers have found difficult.
I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
And helping us today are English students who come from other countries around the world.
English is their second language, or even their third or fourth language.
So we’re going to challenge them today.
We’ll ask them to pronounce some words our viewers sent us.
Let’s get cracking!
Epitome.
Epitome.
Epitome.
Epitome.
That one was really hard.
Yeah they’re all wrong!
The spelling is misleading.
Epitome has four syllables. Epitome.
Epitome.
She got it right!
Epitome.
Epitome.
What does epitome mean?
If something is the epitome of something, it means it’s a perfect example.
It’s quite a formal word.
For example, I am the epitome of a fashionable man. My clothes are the epitome of good taste.
Well, they’re the epitome of 1990’s fashion.
Humph! Say the word with us.
Epitome.
Epitome.
OK, next word.
Vitamin.
Vitamin.
Vitamin.
Vitamin.
They were all correct. Pronounce this word like them.
No they weren’t! They said vitamin. I say vitamin.
It’s a British and American difference.
Vitamin… vitamin.
Vitamin.
Vitamin.
Vitamins are substances in food that keep you healthy.
No, vitamins keep you healthy.
Say it with us.
Vitamin.
Vitamin.
Next word.
OK, lots of people found this hard.
Pharaoh.
Pharaoh, pharaoh.
Pharaoh.
The spelling is very confusing.
What is a Pharaoh?
It’s an ancient Egyptian ruler. The word has two syllables and the stress is on the first syllable.
Pharaoh.
Pharaoh.
Say it with our learners.
Pharaoh.
Pharaoh.
What’s next?
This was another request from our viewers.
Logically.
Logically.
Logically.
Logically.
Logically.
Logical – ly.
OK, there are two things to know about this word. The first one is how to make that g sound. We say ‘dzh’.
Logic – logically.
It’s actually a d and a zh sound together. ‘dzh’.
And what’s the second thing to know?
How many syllables does it have? 3 or 4?
Logically.
Logically.
It has three syllables, not four.
Log-ic-all-ly – that’s wrong. Log-ic-ally – three syllables.
Say it with us.
Logically.
Logically.
OK, this next one is going to get your mouths moving.
It’s good exercise for your mouth muscles.
Twelve.
Twelve.
Twelve.
Nearly.
The thing is, there’s the cardinal number, twelve, and then there’s the ordinal number twelfth.
Twelfth is much more difficult to say.
Oh, what’s that? Twelfth.
Twelfth.
It’s very hard.
So you’re going to make a L. /l/. Then you bring your bottom lip up to touch your top teeth /lf/ . And then you have to bring your tongue forward to make a th sound. Elfth – twelfth
Twelfth.
Twelfth.
Twelfth.
Wow, they did really well!
Really well, because they did it fast and clearly. But when you’re practising, it’s best to do it slowly first so you can think about it.
Twelfth
Twelfth
Is there any way to make this easier?
Yes! There are a couple of ways to cheat. The first one is to drop the /f /and just say th.
Twelth.
Twelth.
We often say it like that when we’re speaking fast.
And what’s the other way to cheat?
In British English, you can drop the th and just say the f sound instead.
Twelf.
In parts of the UK, particularly around London, quite a few people say /f/ instead of /th/ these days.
Twelf.
He sounded great to me!
OK, next word.
Literally.
Literally.
Literally.
Literally.
Literally.
They’re NEARLY right.
Yeah, they just need to change the word stress.
The main stress goes on ‘lit’.
Literally.
Literally.
We said this word a little differently. Did you notice?
For me it has four syllables. Li-te-ra-lly.
And for me it has three. Lite-ral-ly.
Our learners said it both ways.
Literally.
Literally.
Literally.
Literally.
Literally is a useful word and we’ve made another video about it.
I’ll put the link here.
Say it with our learners.
Literally.
Literally.
Literally.
Literally.
Literally.
There’s a lot of regional variation in how we say some of these words in the UK.
That’s true in the US too.
Write and tell us what you say in the comments.
So what’s next?
This one is the name of an American state.
Connecticut.
Connecticut.
Connecticut.
Connecticut.
Ah, good guess, but that second C is silent.
Connecticut.
Connecticut.
They got it right!
It has four syllables. Conn-ect-i-cut
And in American English we flap the t sound in the middle, so it sounds like a fast d sound.
Connecticut.
Say it with us.
Connecticut.
Connecticut.
Where is Connecticut?
It’s in New England, north of New York. And the state song is Yankee Doodle Dandy.
OK, what’s next?
This one’s funny.
Phlegm.
Phlegm.
Good guesses but wrong!
The spelling of this word is confusing.
Yeah. ‘ph’ of often pronounced /f/ in English.
Like the word photo, pharmacy, phone…
And the ‘g’ is silent here. But some of our learners got it.
Phlegm.
Phlegm.
Ph… phlegm.
They sounded unsure but they were right.
So what is phlegm.
It’s a thick substance that forms in our nose and throat when we have a cold.
Say it with us.
Phlegm.
Phlegm.
There are lots of silent letters in English.
Yep. Here’s another one.
Guarantee.
Guarantee.
Guarantee.
Ah no!
This word is particularly tricky for Spanish speakers.
We have two different words: guarantee and warranty. G – guarantee and w – warranty
And they have similar meanings so what’s the difference?
One meaning of guarantee is a promise. Like Jay often arrives late for work and when I complain…
I say ‘I guarantee it won’t happen again.’
It’s a promise he never keeps.
And a warranty is a kind of promise too, but it has a more limited meaning.
A warranty is a written promise. If we buy a new washing machine, they might promise to repair it if it breaks down with a year.
That’s a kind of guarantee.
And the document they give us a a warranty.
Look at our mouth positions when we say the words.
Guarantee. Warranty.
Guarantee. Warranty.
When we say /w/, our lips are more rounded.
Yeah, but there’s another problem that students can have with this word. The spelling is misleading.
Guarantee.
Guarantee.
Guarantee.
They’re not quite right.
The letter U is silent.
Guarantee.
Guarantee.
They got it.
Yeah. Say it with us.
Guarantee.
Guarantee.
OK, that’s it. but do you realize this video is part of a series?
We’ve made videos about other words that are hard to pronounce.
I’ll put a link to the playlist at the end of this video.
But now we’d like to thank all the English learners who helped us teach the words.
They were so nice to give us their time and such fun to work with.
If you’ve enjoyed this video why not share it with a friend?
They might enjoy it too.
Have a great weekend everyone and see you soon.
Bye.
Bye-bye.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.