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15 words my students HATE to say (and how to pronounce them!)

What are the hardest words to pronounce in English? Don’t take it from me! I asked this question to my students and here’s what they said.
What English word is the hardest for you to pronounce?


Podcast intro:

Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number 377. Today, I’m going to teach you how to pronounce the 15 words my students hate to pronounce the most.

Hey everyone, what is up? So when it comes to pronunciation, especially in a second language, there are words that you actually like to pronounce, that roll off your tongue and are kind of sweet sounding. I like the word ‘cat’. This is why I always use it as an example for the /æ/ sound. I also like the word ‘office’, /ɑ/, because it has that nice rounded, hazelnut flavor /ɑ/ sound.

But sometimes you will come across words that you absolutely hate to pronounce. ‘Rural’ for me is one of them. I just don’t like the sound of it. And there’s, you know, all these Rs and Ls there. And one day I decided to ask my students what they hated to pronounce the most.

And I got a lot of really, really good answers, a lot of good examples of words that people just don’t like to pronounce. Some of them I could anticipate, I knew it ’cause they always ask me about those words. And some words were actually new to me. So I selected the 15 most hated words to pronounce by my students, and I recorded an episode about it.

So I’m going to tell you what those are, and I’m going to teach you how to pronounce them. Okay? So, I hope you don’t feel itchy when you hear the pronunciation of these words. And actually, it’s going to simplify some words that you might find confusing as well.

And when you are done listening, if you enjoy this episode, please consider rating the podcast and subscribing if you haven’t subscribed to my podcast just yet. Because I’m going to start sharing a new corner on my podcast that I think you’re going to really, really like, and I’m only going to talk about it on the podcast. So, make sure you subscribe on whatever platform you listen to the podcast. All right, so if you enjoy this episode, rate and review it. And you can also send me a DM on Instagram, you can find me at @hadar.accentsway and tell me what you think. And tell me if you have any additional words that I haven’t talked about today. All right, my friends, enjoy this episode. Here we go.

Video transcript:

What is a word that you absolutely hate to pronounce? Because today I’m going to share with you 15 words that my students voted as the most hated words to pronounce. So I wonder if you are going to know what those words are. And at the end, I’m also going to share with you what word I used to hate to pronounce when I was studying and practicing English. So stay until the end.

The first word is ‘reporter’. Reporter. And specifically, every word that has the R, flap T or D, and then R. Reporter, order, border, shorter. So let’s start with the word ‘reporter’. You start with an R sound, and then a lax /ɪ/ – ri, ri. Then we have POR, that’s an /ɔɹ/ vowel sound. You drop your jaw, and then you lift the tongue up for the R – ri-POR.

Then, as you pronounce the R, you want to shoot your tongue forward for the flap T: ri-POR-d’, that’s the flap T, and then back to the R. ri-POR-d’r. You have to really release all tension in your mouth to be able to pronounce this correctly. Reporter.

And as a bonus, let’s practice a few more similar words. Order, d’r, even though it’s a D, it sounds exactly the same. Order, border, quarter: yeah, it has the same ending R-d’r, starter, and harder.

All right, the next word is ‘entrepreneur’. Entrepreneur. Here, it’s easier to say it than to write it. I guarantee it’s not that hard. It’s just a long word, but it’s not hard. So, let’s break it down. AAN, like ‘turn it on’. chruh, there is a schwa here, chruh – TR, it actually sounds like a CH sound when you pronounce them together. chruh, AAN-chruh. And then we have ‘pruh’, that’s easy, right? AAN-chruh-pruh. And then N’R – it’s an N to the R, N’R, it’s a ‘stir’ sound.

AAN-chruh-pruh-N’R. The primary stress is on the last syllable. Now, some people might pronounce it as UR, NUR, or even NYUR. So it can either be AAN-chruh-pruh-N’R, I think that’s the easiest way to say it, AAN-chruh-pruh-NUR, or AAN-chruh-pruh-NYUR. Whatever is easier for you, you choose it. I say AAN-chruh-pruh-N’R.

The next hated word is ‘jewelry’. Jewelry. And yes, it is hard. There is like an L and there’s a W in the spelling and it’s like, do you even need to pronounce it? So let’s break it down. The first part is DJUWL. It’s a ‘dj’ sound, then the ‘oo’ as in ‘food’, round your lips, DJUW, and then it’s a dark L. DJUWL.

Some people might even break it down into two parts – DJU-W’L, with a schwa-L. But the easiest way to say it is just DJUWL. And then ree – DJUWL-ree. It’s a dark L, so the L sounds a little hollow. It sounds a little bit like a W. Jewelry. Jewelry. A new piece of jewelry.

The next hated word is ‘strength’, and probably because of the ending. Let’s break it down. S T R – STR, stre, stre, stre. Some people might pronounce this cluster as ‘shtre’, but I recommend to stick to the S – stre, stre, stre. And then, it’s an NG sound, streng, and then TH – strength. NG sound, /ŋ/, and then push the tongue out for the TH: strength, strength.

You can also pronounce it as a K – strenkth, strenkth. And sometimes people would drop all the messy consonants in the back and just say ‘strenth’ – N and TH – ‘strenth’. All of these are valid pronunciation, you would hear people pronouncing it this way. But if you want to be on the safe side, just go with streng – NG, and then a TH. Strength. And as a bonus, let’s add in ‘length’. Length, same thing.

The next word is ‘powerful’. The P and the W and the L and the R. Powerful. You start with PA, and then it’s a W-R – w’r. And then f’l – dark L. PA-w’r’-f’l. She’s so powerful.

The next hated word is ‘literature’. Literature. You have two ways to pronounce this word. LI-duh – with a flap T, ‘ruh’ – another reduced syllable, and ch’r – with a ‘ch’ sound. LI-duh-ruh-ch’r. But you can also say LIT-ruh-ch’r. So here we don’t have the flap T, because we drop one syllable, LIT-ruh-ch’r. So either LI-duh-ruh-ch’r or LIT-ruh-ch’r.

The next hated word is ‘anesthesia’. Uh, a lot of tricky sounds here. Anesthesia. Anesthesia is a medical process that induces a temporary loss of pain or feeling or consciousness. So, you start with A, then n’s, then TH – THEE, and then it’s a ZH sound – juh. A-n’s-THEE – primary stress, juh – A-n’s-THEE-juh. You got this.

The next hated word is ‘comfortable’. Comfortable. It is very uncomfortable to pronounce the word ‘comfortable’. There are two different pronunciations here. Either KUHM-f’r-tuh-b’l, and the T is flapped in American English, so KUHM-f’r-duh-b’l. Or an easier way to say it is KUHMF-t’r-b’l. KUHM-f’r-duh-b’l – KUHMF-t’r-b’l.

The next hated word is ‘theory’, probably because of the TH. THEE – stick the tongue out, THEE. And then we have a schwa sound – THEE-uh. And when you transition from one vowel to another, especially if the first vowel is a front high vowel, like the ‘ee’ – THEE, what happens is that you get an intrusive sound between those sounds. Listen. THEE-(y)uh – it’s a ‘y’ sound – THEE-(y)uh-ree. Theory. Stick the tongue out, but even if you pronounce it as ‘teory’, probably everyone would understand you. So don’t worry about it.

The next hated word is ‘winery’. Winery. This is exceptionally challenging for people who struggle with pronouncing the W, and may replace it with a V sound. So for the W, round your lips, make sure there is no contact between the lips: WA, WA, WAI-n. So we do have the word ‘wine’ in it. WAI-nuh-ree, so there’s a schwa in the middle. Winery. Winery. We visited a fantastic winery. I just can’t remember much from the visit. Winery.

The next hated word is ‘turtle’. Turtle. You start with a T sound, then it’s the ‘ur’ as in ‘stir’, T’R. And then a flap T-L, which is a tricky transition, and I’m saying it objectively. T’R-d’l. You flip the tongue and you pull it in for the dark L – /ɾəl/. You find it in ‘bottle’ or Seattle, and ‘turtle’. Turtle. Turtle.

The next hated word is actually a group of words, and that’s words with THR at the beginning. For example, three, or throat, or through. So here, you stick the tongue out for the TH, and you pull it in for the R really quickly. And you want to hold the R a little bit – THR. Round your lips, THR, and then you move to the vowel right after the R – THRee, THRee.

So, to practice it, hold out the TH and hold out the R. It’s going to help you – THHHRRRee. Sometimes your tongue is going to want to touch the upper palate – ‘thRee’. That’s okay, it’s actually pronounced like that sometimes, even in the US. But pull it in for the practice. THR, three, throat, through, and we also have thirty. Here it’s a little different, but practice with me. TH’R, TH’R, TH’R-dee.

All right, we have reached the final two most hated words. The first one is ‘fifth’. Fifth, because of the TH and the cluster at the end. So here, when you have a cluster, just be clear about what sound you’re pronouncing. Here we have F, and then the TH. So you stick the tongue out while pronouncing the F.

Fifth. Some people might even drop the F and pronounce it as ‘fith’. But for the sake of practice, practice the transition – Fifth, Fifth. And we also have ‘sixth’. Sixth. Here it’s like a T-TH. I wanted to add that because that was also a runner up. Sixth. Sixth. You say the word ‘six’, then you stick the tongue out for a T, and then release it to a TH. Sixth. Sixth.

And the last hated word is Saturday. Saturday. You start with the syllable SA, that’s the primary stress. Then we have a flap T and a schwa – SA-d’r. End it with an R – SA-d’r, and then ‘dei’, and that’s an easy word. SA-d’r-dei. Say it slowly, break it down syllable by syllable, and you will be fine. SA-d’r-dei. Saturday. It’s a Saturday. I love Saturdays.

So now I’m going to tell you what is a word that I hated to pronounce when I was in acting school. And that word is… Choreography. Choreography. I always got stuck with pronouncing it correctly because of the stress. I used to say choreoGRAphy. And every time I would say it, I would get stuck. So, for ‘choreography’, the primary stress is right before the end – ko-ree-AA-gruh-fee. Now I feel pretty confident pronouncing it.

Okay. What is your most hated word to pronounce? Let me know in the comments below. I hope you found this helpful and fun, and you got to practice some words that you might even struggle with as well.

And that’s it. If you liked this video, please consider sharing it and liking it. Subscribe to my channel to get a notification whenever I release a new episode. And you can also check out my website hadarshemesh.com, where you’ll find a ton of pronunciation lessons, mindset lessons, fluency strategies, and so much more, all absolutely free. So again, check out hadarshemesh.com. That’s hadarshemesh.com.

Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the day, and I will see you next week in the next video.

The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
377. 15 words my students HATE to say (and how to pronounce them!)

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14 Responses

  1. I just hate to pronounce throughout. I think I even don’t know how to pronounce it at all!

  2. Thank you so much for your amazing, helpful, and practical videos.
    My latest word to pronounce is ” lettuce”.

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