Five Words Nigerians Pronounce Wrongly

March 19, 2019

In an environment like ours, it is difficult to harass someone for not being able to pronounce words well. While bad pronunciation should not be encouraged, the fact is that there are some cheap excuses to justify the inadequacy.

Among such is that much of what you hear is the same unhealthy pattern of articulation of expressions. Also, training facilities and opportunities for learning great diction are limited while there is also the issue of Mother Tongue interference. This is so worsened by the complacency that, before you finish correcting someone’s bad pronunciation of a particular element, the guy would fire back, “English na my father’s language?’’

The fact, however, is that there is a reward for speaking not just fluently, but also with phonological finesse. In the midst of inadequacies that color the pronunciation habits of many of us, if your own way of speaking stands out, you are already ahead of others one way or the other because time will eventually reward you for the feat. Besides, there is always room for improvement. So, as much as you try to sharpen your knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary, it is wise to boost your oral power, too.

I often observe that it is not easy to teach speech sounds in a ‘written’ forum like this, but today we will call our attention to the way some commonly used words ought to be pronounced. For instance, how do you pronounce oars, soar, zoology, asthma, Wednesday etc? You are likely to be among those who bungle it and, indeed, ‘slaughter’ the words times without number. Well, many of us inherited poor articulation of the words, and we are ready to pass the legacy on to coming generations. I hope I heard you say, ‘God forbid!’ – not forbids, though.

Pronounce Wednesday

In a bid to do justice to what we think are all the syllables in a word, we, at times, miss the point. This particularly happens when the actual number of syllables in the word is different from what we think. A good example of such is Wednesday. Many of us pronounce it ‘wed-nes-day’, to prove that it has three syllables. But, believe you me, there are only two syllables there – ‘wenz-day’! And that is the correct pronunciation of the term: ‘wenz-day’, not ‘wed-nes-day’. Note that the s in the word is pronounced /z/, not /s/.

soar, oar etc.

A word that is also usually slaughtered is ‘soar’, which many of us pronounce as, ‘so-aa’. So, we wrongly blast, ‘I want to ‘soaa’ like an eagle or ‘He is ‘so-aa-ring’ like an eagle. The correct pronunciation is ‘sooor’, as the sound is like what you have in sore, ore, cord, saw and war.

I saw the eagle so-aa-r. (Wrong)

I saw the eagle sooo. (Correct)

This largely answers why many people also get the pronunciation of oars wrong. It is not ‘o-aa-r; rather, it is ‘ooors’. The letters a and r are, again, not to be pronounced as ‘aa’. They should be rendered as we have in or, moor, store, stall etc. In other words, you probably haven’t correctly pronounced roar correctly all your life!

Before you say NO, pronounce the word and let me hear – at least with my spiritual ears since we are not physically together. Yes, I guessed right: You are wrong and wrong again! The word should be pronounced ‘ro-oorr’; not ‘ro-aa-rr’. The a and r do not sound like the ones in hard or far. They are to be pronounced as what we have established in soar and oar.

The wrestler ro-aa-rred like a lion. (Wrong)

The wrestler ro-oo-red like a lion. (Correct)

Consider the word, asthma, too. Because of the th in it, a lot of people say, ‘as-th-ma’. No, the th has no phonological recognition in the pronunciation. The correct thing is, ‘azma’. I know millions of people have problems with th-syllables, which make them pronounce the likes of with, think, teeth worth and three as wit, teet, tink, wot and tree. That is a different kettle of fish, anyway. For now, just remember that the th in asthma is a toothless dog that doesn’t bite.

Based on the way I am enjoying the lesson, it is likely we build on it next week. I particularly enjoy the way I have been, as Fela would say, yabbing some of us stylishly. Don’t mind me, we all have our areas of challenge. The most important question, however, borders on whether or not we are ready to improve on our level of elocution.

Lastly, note that zoology is not ‘zuology’. The emphasis here is ‘zuo’, which is wrong. The word should be pronounced in a way that shows that it is derived from zoo. So, it is ‘zoo-logy’, not ‘zuo-logy’.

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