In my personal quest to help improve my fellow Filipinos’ communication skills in English as a Second Language and in carrying out my life mission of educating, equipping, encouraging, engaging, entertaining, empowering, and escorting to success the Filipino people, I’ve decided to write a follow-up to my well-read recent article, ‘Ten Filipino grammar imperfections that need to be corrected’ (Thanks to those who read it and are still reading it, by the way). It was so well-viewed that I’m expecting that publishing a related article like this might be received well just the same.
This time, I want to focus on pronunciation instead of grammar. Pronunciation, just like grammar, is an equally-important aspect of being able to converse in the English language effectively. Truly, when one mispronounces a word, it immediately makes the other person think he/she must have meant something else or worse, it or the entire sentence doesn’t make any sense at all.
Therefore, it’s important that Filipinos, being non-native speakers, know all the acceptable yet correct versions of saying a word, specifically commonly-mispronounced words, in order to facilitate discourses in the English language smoothly. Now, I mentioned ‘all the acceptable versions’ because if one will study the dictionary (I personally prefer Merriam-Webster), it will be noticed that each entry actually offers different ways of saying a word. There could be the primary, the secondary, or the tertiary version. There are even words that are pronounced in more than three different ways. Generally, these varied pronunciations of a given word are the American and British counterparts. Now, it’s kind of wrong to pronounce words in a way that’s not stated in the dictionary because then, it makes them invalid.
So, I came up with a list of ten Filipino mispronunciations below. These aren’t just any commonly-mispronounced words that I know might already being taught in call centers or that most students likely already know in college. I’ve thought of ten Filipino mispronunciations that most people don’t even know they’re wrong about all these years.
Here they are:
1. Request (both verb and noun)
I even hear some AM radio announcers or FM radio DJs pronounce this as REE-kwest where the first syllable is emphasized and the vowel in it is produced with Long e. The correct and only pronunciation should be ri-KWEST where the syllable stress is placed on the second and the first syllable is produced with Short i and nothing else.
Whomever I talk to, I always hear people pronounce this as SKäRS (with an Italian a). The correct and only pronunciation should be SKERS (with a Short e).
Is it i-ne-VI-ta-ble or i-NE-vi-ta-ble? It’s actually the latter. The stress isn’t placed on -VI- or the third syllable. It’s placed on -NE- or the second syllable instead.
If you’re a Filipino like me, you must be guilty of pronouncing this as KREE-EYT. Almost right. However, English pronunciation, particularly American, combines words or syllables by relying on the final sound of the preceding syllable and connecting it to the first sound of the next syllable.
What I mean by this is the first syllable KREE (in cre-), is produced with Long e. This sound, if you listen to it, ends with a ‘y’ sound (listen to yourself). Therefore, you bridge that little ‘y’ sound there to vowel E of the second syllable.
As a result, you get KREEY-EYT or KREEYEYT. This is how you say ‘create’. This also applies to its derivatives like creation, creative, etc.
I know it’s easy to get away with this mispronunciation but trained ears can actually tell if you’re saying this right or not. I hear Filipinos pronounce the first syllable with a Schwa (like uk-TI-vi-ty). Now, you’re gonna go ‘I didn’t know that’ when I tell you that the first syllable is really pronounced with American or Short a. It’s æk-TI-vi-ty. Just don’t prolong the first syllable too much because the stress isn’t there, but on the second syllable -TI- instead.
6. Most words ending in -sion, -sure, and -sual being pronounced with only the ‘SH’ sound
Here’s the rule. Almost all words, except when the syllables or word endings above are preceded by the consonant ‘s’, are pronounced with a ‘ZH’ sound.
Ergo, we never say VI-shun for vision. It’s always VI-zhun. We don’t say YOU-shwul for usual. It’s always YOU-zhwul. Lastly, it’s TRE-zhur for treasure and not TRE-shur. It’s the same with words like collision, decision, pleasure, measure, visual, and a lot more with the same word endings.
Yes. Now, you have to practice your Zs a lot.
7. Pronouncing words starting with either MO- or NO- with Circumflex or Short o (moh- or noh-).
Although it’s not always the case, most words starting with MO- or NO- are pronounced with Long o (like MOW or NOW).
We never say noh-VEM-ber for November. We say now-VEM-ber. The same can be applied to notice. It’s like you’re saying the word ‘No’ when you’re producing the first syllable.
Moreover, we don’t say moh-ti-VATE for motivate. It’s always mow-ti-VATE. We pronounce motive the same way.
The only exception I could think of right now is the word model. Of course, we never say MOW-dul. It’s always been Mä-dul with Italian a (sounds like mop).
8. Pronouncing words with the consonant s in the middle with only the ‘s’ sound.
I’ve also observed that Filipinos only pronounce words with the consonant S in between with a simple ‘S’ sound. Now, you know it’s wrong. We have to make an extra effort.
Here’s another rule in English pronunciation. When the consonant S is positioned between two vowels, the sound usually becomes ‘Z’ and not ‘S’. Remember, English pronunciation is not based on spelling. It’s interestingly based on sounds.
Therefore, words like choose, noisy (y is considered a semi-vowel), noise, poison, arouse, please, and busy are all pronounced with a Z sound.
9. Curriculum Vita or Vitae
I know this is THE word that will surprise you a little bit. Even the most highly-educated professionals in the Philippines mispronounce this.
All along, we’ve thought that the word VITAE is pronounced as vi-TEY. It’s not. The correct and only acceptable pronunciations are VEE-tay (like the Filipino word ‘bitay’) and VEE-TEE (like ‘BT’ with a V).
We don’t even use this word to refer to a singular biographical sketch. If we’re only requiring one CV from an applicant, we use or say Curriculum Vita (which is pronounced VEEH-tuh like cheetah or VAY-tuh like vitamin without the -min).
You didn’t really know this, did you? Now, you do.
I know you’ll agree with me that Filipinos pronounce this as ‘LAYASON’. Now, it’s about time that we correct this. The only standard pronunciations, as per the dictionary, are ‘LEE-ya- ZäN’, ‘lee-YEY-ZäN’, and ‘LE-yuh-ZäN’.
So, the next time you’re gonna say this word, which usually comes with positions like Liaison Officer, you already know how to say it right.
I could’ve mentioned a lot more than ten examples, but it will only make this article too long that it might only end up annoying some. The reality is there are more mispronunciations out there and all we have to do is to make an effort to know them, believe that they’re wrong, unlearn them, and correct them.
We, as Filipinos, are known to be one of the best English-speaking races on the planet despite this foreign language not being our native tongue. Nobody could deny or contest that. Nonetheless, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enhancing that reputation more by being informed and correcting what we realize have been wrong all along with the right pronunciations based on what a reputable reference like Merriam-Webster requires.
Let’s keep in mind that just like grammar, correcting word pronunciation will make it much easier for us to interact with not only native English speakers but with essentially everybody else as well. English is the language of the world. It’s the language of the business. Leveling up our sway of the language by improving our pronunciation will take us to places we want to be.
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