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Doing English

Sometimes the Correct Pronunciation Is Wrong

in The Doing English Blog

Have you ever felt stupid for pronouncing something wrong?

Well, a couple of days ago I felt pretty stupid because I pronounced something CORRECTLY.

The philosophical question here is, which is the correct pronunciation?

In one sense, saying the word using English accent and stress is clearly wrong — that’s just not how the word is pronounced in Japanese. But then again… I wasn’t in Japan.

I was in the Philippines.

When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do, right?

Technically, in this context, the correct pronunciation is actually the incorrect one. You can argue that it’s not… but ultimately, my pronouncing it correctly wasn’t understood making it incorrect.

The point is…

Context is everything when it comes to “correct” English

I go into this in detail in my book Master English FAST (you can read the first chapter for free if you like), to speak English really well, just knowing the language isn’t enough. You’ve got to know how to use your Englis flexibly depending on the context (and the culture) of the person you’re speaking too.

Anyway, hopefully that’s food for thought.

Best,
Julian Northbrook

P.S. A sure sign that someone isn’t very good at English is that they’ll correct people’s English, saying things like…

“Shouldn’t it be blah blah?”

Without understanding that… yes, context is EVERYTHING.

Read the first chapter of my book here.

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