Hard Words to Pronounce: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for English Language Learners

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Struggling to get your head around how to pronounce certain English words? You’re not alone!

In this blog, explore some of the most common pronunciation challenges and learn how to master a selection of hard words to pronounce.

Common challenges with English pronunciation

Pronunciation can be a tricky part of learning English. Even if you grasp the vocabulary and grammar, the way you say the words can still lead to misunderstandings. Let’s uncover some of the most common pronunciation challenges you might face and explain how to overcome them.

Silent letters: Sneaky, but important

Have you ever come across words with letters that aren’t pronounced when they’re spoken? Welcome to the world of silent letters.

These letters aren’t just for decoration, they have different roles. For instance, they can help you identify commonly mispronounced words that sound the same but have different meanings, like “two” and “to”.

A quick guide to silent letters

Word (The silent letter is bold and underlined) How to pronounce it
Comb Sounds like “kome”.

Think of the word “home” but start it with the letter “k” instead.

Debt Sounds like “det”.

Just like the word “bet,” but start it with a “d” instead.

Ghost Sounds like “most” but start it with the letter “g” instead.

Alternatively, say the word “go” and add a “st” at the end.

Island Sounds like “eye-land”

Say the word “eye” and add “land” to the end.

Vowel sounds

The English language has a variety of vowel sounds, and these can be some of the hardest words to pronounce. Some vowels are said quickly, while others are exaggerated and stretched out. For example:

  1. These words have short vowel sounds: cat, hat, bat.
  2. These words have long vowel sounds: ate, hate, bait.

Consonant clusters

Consonant clusters are groups of two or more consonants with no vowel interruptions, and they can be difficult words to pronounce.

The consonant cluster “ough” is particularly tricky, as it can be pronounced in multiple different ways depending on what word it’s in. For example:

Word How to pronounce it
Cough Rhymes with “off”.
Brought Rhymes with “port”.
Though Rhymes with “blow”.
Thought Rhymes with “court”.

Some other tricky consonant clusters include:

  • “Fl” – fly, flower, flat.
  • “Bl” – Black, blue, block.
  • “Str” – street, strong, strap.

4 Useful tips to help improve your pronunciation skills

Now that we’ve identified some of the trickier aspects of English pronunciation, let’s look at ways you can tackle them!

#1- Tongue twisters

Challenge yourself with phrases that include these difficult sounds. Check out our blog for a list of tongue twisters designed to help you improve your English pronunciation: Tongue Twisters: Your Secret Weapon for Fluent Pronunciation

#2- Daily practice

Consistency is key when it comes to improving your pronunciation. Even 10 minutes of practice every day can make a big difference over time.

#3- Listen and repeat

Listening to native speakers and mimicking their pronunciation can be very helpful. There’s a world of resources out there – including TV shows, films, podcasts and YouTube videos.

#4- Record and listen to yourself

This can be a game-changer! By recording and listening to yourself, you can easily catch your mistakes, make improvements and track your progress.

So, what’s the next chapter in your English adventure?

If you’ve made it this far, you’re clearly serious about navigating the difficulties of pronunciation. Want to keep the momentum going? Our English courses provide the tools you need to master hard words to pronounce as well as the rest of the English language.

Go ahead and explore the courses we have to offer.

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