Potent words in English (may the ground swallow me!)


Each language presents its own difficulties when we study it and we can struggle with its unfamiliar ways: German has complex grammar and vocabulary, Chinese has pictograms and unusual sounds, and English has unpredictable pronunciation. Let’s take a look at English: it has no fixed rules on stressing syllables, and it’s often impossible to deduce pronunciation from the spelling. For instance, the double “oo” in “good” and “food” are phonetically quite distinct.

Confusion typically arises with vowels, which have long and short pronunciations, and using the wrong form can lead to some amusing or embarrassing moments.

Question: How do you ask for a piece of paper? It’s correct to say ‘A sheet, please’. How is “sheet” pronounced? With a long Spanish ‘i’, like ‘shiiit’. If you pronounce it with a short ‘i’? Well, that could be entertaining…

Similarly, wishing someone a good night, you might say ‘Sleep well’, with a long ‘i’, but if you use the short ‘i’ you will be wishing them to fall over! That wouldn’t create the right impression on your first day at a new job in a hotel. Everyone, after me: ‘Sliiiip well’.

If no-one has told you yet, here comes another nice tip: in the Canaries, where many English and Germans live, they’ll probably ask you ‘Where’s the party?’ Obviously, you’ll reply in English, not thinking your answer could cause any confusion: “Go to the beach…” (‘biiiich’, preferably with an extra-long ‘i’). If you use the short ‘i’ it will be understood as ‘bitch’.

We wish you some interesting times!

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