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Top 5 Mispronounced Holiday-Themed Words

Here is another American English thematic blog post for you centered around Christmas vocabulary. These words may not seem to be extremely specific to Christmas-time, but that is the beauty of the list… These words come up over and over again in regular conversation, but even more so throughout December. For each word there is a very brief explanation of a common pronunciation pitfall for non-native speakers of American English.  Please follow the included links to read more, and follow/subscribe to the blog to get new posts delivered to you directly.

1. Christmas

Did you know that you don’t pronounce the “t” in “Christmas”?

2. Holiday

The “o” in “holiday” is actually pronounced as /ɑ/ or “ah,” not as an /o/ or “oh.” Read more about the “ah” sound and common pronunciation pitfalls in this tutorial.

3. Dinner

The “i” is pronounced with a relaxed tongue, with the same relaxed /I/ vowel sound as in the word “sit.” Read more about the difference between this sound and the tense /i/ or “ee” sound in this blog post.

4. Family

The “a” is pronounced as /æ/, the same as the vowel in “cat.” Contrast this sound with the “ah” sound in “caught.” Read more about this sound here.

The ending “y” is pronounced as a tense /i/ sound, as in the word “seat.” When making this sound, your tongue will push up and glide forward slightly on the roof of your mouth.  Read more about the difference between this sound and the relaxed /I/ sound here.

5. Cookies

Last, but definitely not least, the word “cookies.” This one may be the most difficult out of the whole list.

When you see the spelling “oo,” you may immediately think of the tense /u/ sound found in words like “do” and “boot.”  Unfortunately, the “oo” spelling pattern is used for the tense /u/ (e.g. “pool”) AND the relaxed /ʊ/ sound (e.g.”pull”).  The “oo” in “cookies” should be pronounced with very slightly rounded, but relaxed, lips. If you feel that your lips are tense or moving forward during this sound, your lips are doing too much work.  Your lips should be very slightly rounded, but relaxed and still.  This vowel should be the same as in words like “push” and “could.”

The “-ies” should be pronounced with the tense /i/ sound, as in the word “seat.” Read more about the difference between this sound and the relaxed /I/ sound (e.g. “sit”) in this blog post.

Try to incorporate your new and improved pronunciation of these commonly used words throughout the rest of the month.  Listen for these same sounds in other words as well!  The more you listen, the more you learn.

I hope all of you have a restful and enjoyable holiday season.

About the Author: Jane Rupp is the owner of Voices of the World Speech Therapy, a business in Austin, Texas which specializes in foreign accent reduction.