Do you sometimes feel that native English speakers can’t understand you? When we start learning a new language, and start to become comfortable speaking it, one of the most important things we must focus on is making sure we sound right.
Your pronunciation, or the words you choose to use, might be hindering your ability to be understood! 😮 Keep reading if you want to learn how to correct these mistakes, and start being understood by native English speakers.
DON’T BE OFFENDED!
We want you to always feel comfortable and confident learning with us at Go Natural English. We also hope you know that lessons like this one are meant to encourage you to continue progressing in your English studies, and never to dissuade you or embarrass you!
One of our biggest beliefs is that making mistakes is an amazing learning tool! And when we (or anyone else) points out a mistake, it’s because we want you to succeed, we want you to be understood, and we want you to feel empowered to improve your skills every single day.
We’ve all been there! Even when we speak another language very well, we can slip up and find ourselves in situations where a native speaker of that language can’t understand us. There are many reasons why others might not be able to understand you, and many errors that you might be making, and, luckily, they are all easy to fix!
False cognates, also known as false friends, are words in different languages that appear to be similar, but do not actually mean the same thing. One really common example between Spanish and English is the word embarrassed. If you’re an English speaker, and want to tell someone that you’re embarrassed in Spanish, you might think that embarazada is the right word to use. However, you’ll instead be telling that person that you are pregnant🤰! Which might be extra embarrassing if you’re not a woman 😂!
In the video lesson below, Gabby tells us about a mistake she made in Brazil while trying to ask for cilantro in Portuguese. Since she had studied Spanish before, and she knew that there are many similar words in both Spanish and Portuguese thanks to their Latin roots, she thought that the word for cilantro in Spanish would probably be the same in Portuguese. But, it isn’t! 😅 And I’ll bet that Gabby will never ask for cilantro again in Brazil, and she will instead always ask for coentro. These are the types of mistakes we can easily learn from and, although embarrassing in the moment, they make use better speakers in the end!
A lack of correct syllable stress is also a super common reason why native speakers might not understand you. A stressed syllable is when one syllable within a word is emphasized (or stressed). You might already be familiar with this term if you use accents or diacritic marks in your native language. This emphasis is usually caused by things like increased loudness and vowel length, full articulation of the vowel, and changes in pitch. Stress is more important than focusing only on individual letter sounds.
If you’re not using the correct vowel sounds, it will definitely be hard for others to know what you’re saying! In English, we use both long and short vowel sounds, and each sound requires a different pronunciation. If you don’t pay attention, you might tell someone that you live in misery, instead of Missouri — and then they might become worried!
If you’re in the United States and you start using British English, you might confuse a few people, and some might not understand you at all! Every region has it’s own common phrases, colloquial expressions, and native words. If you’re using overly complicated words, grammar structures, or industry-specific language outside of work/school, you will have a hard time finding people who understand you. Keep it clear and simple!
ON THE LISTENER
When you travel, you might meet people who have never left their city or town, who have never studied another language, and who are not used to other accents or people from outside the area they’re from. It’s not your fault, and it’s something you might very well experience at least once in the U.S. Be patient, try explaining yourself in different words (use that vocabulary 😃), and be curious about what they can teach you, and what you can teach them!
Click here to hear all about these types of common mistakes, some more examples, and the easiest ways you can correct your English: