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Lesson Transcript

If I wear the same shirt, no one will ever know that I aged.
Hi, everybody! Welcome back to Top Words.
My name is Alisha, and today, we're going to talk about 10 pairs of words that are essential to pronounce clearly. These are words that people make pronunciation mistakes with and they can really confuse the listener.
So, let's take a look!
1. think/sink
The first pair of words is “think” and “sink.”
The problem here is the T-H sound. T-H sound is not pronounced clearly sometimes, so students mean to say, “I think (blah, blah, blah),” but they don't pronounce the T-H clearly and it sounds like “I sink (blan, blah, blah).” Don't do this, “I think.”
So it might feel strange, but when you're first trying to make the sound accurately, try putting your tongue between your teeth, “I think,” I think. And as you get accustomed, as you get used to doing that, you can make the movement gradually smaller and smaller, so it becomes “I think,” I think. You just push your tongue against the back of your teeth. “I think” becomes “I think,” I think. I don't put my tongue between my teeth now, but when you're beginning, you can try to do that to work on your pronunciation. “I think that pizza is awesome.” I always use pizza in my examples. So like, “I think,” that “think” is an easy word to pronounce.
So, “sink”, sink does not use your tongue against the back of your teeth at all, “sink.” It's just /s/, a simple S sound, “sink.” Your tongue is far back in your mouth. So “think” and “sink,” are quite different.
Some example sentences you can use to help you, let's see…
“I think this is a good thing!”
So, “I think this is a good thing!” That uses the T-H sound a lot.
“I think this is a good thing!” So anything with a T-H, “this, that, these, those, the, these,” I don't know. “This, that, these, the, mother, father, sister, brother.” Oh, sister doesn't, but… anything with a T-H sound, then it can be good for pronunciation practice.
To differentiate, so “I think this is a good thing” and “Wash your hands in the sink.” So there's no /th, the/ there, okay. In “the” sink, perhaps. So, keep that in mind. All right.
2. work/walk
The next pair is “work” and “walk.”
The problem here is the vowel sound. So “work” has a very, like, kind of deep, a deep feeling about it, like in the throat, “work.” It's, it's like making an E-R sound almost, “work,” but your… your mouth isn't opening very wide. Your mouth is still quite narrow, “work,” work, in American English.
“Walk,” however, is very open, /wa/ like your mouth is a bit tall. So “work” and “walk” create very, very different sound. But if you're not clear about your pronunciation, like, “I have to work every day.” It's like hmm, have to, which one? You have to work or you have to walk every day? So, be very clear about your pronunciation of these vowel sounds.
A great practice sentence is:
“I walk to work every day.”
3. travel/trouble
Okay, the next one is “travel” and trouble.”
There are two points of difficulty here. First is the vowel sound, “tra...vel” and “travel” is a very tall “tra… vel” and then it's followed by a V sound, the “tra...vel” so your teeth are touching your lip to make an exaggerated pronunciation, “tra… vel.”
With “trouble” however, the vowel sound first is “trou…” It's a, it's a, it's a U sound, “trou…” So, it's not tall like “travel.” “Tra…vel” is very tall. “Trou…” has like, has a… a U sound and it…. the /a/ in “travel” does not have. So “trouble” is like saying, “uh,” when you're thinking, like uh, uh, uh. If you're trying to think of an idea, it's the same uh sound we use in American English, uh, “trouble.”
And here, the, the uh sound is followed by /b/, the B sound of “trouble.” So there's no, your teeth should not touch your lower lip. So “travel” and “trouble,” so your lips should come together when you pronounce that B sound, “trouble,” trouble. “Travel,” “trouble,” so these are two different words. But if you say, “I don't want to…,” I don't know, “I don't wanna trouble you.” What? Like make sure that you're pronouncing these two words very clearly, so that you don't cause confusion among the people listening, so “travel” and “trouble.”
“I like to travel.”
“He got in trouble.”
4. rice/lice
All right, the next pair is “rice” and “lice.”
Sometimes, people have difficulties making the R and the L sounds very clearly in words such as these, so, “rice,” rice. So when I'm again exaggerating that sound, but “rice,” my whole mouth comes together to make that R sound initially, “rice,” rice.
When I make the L sound for “lice,” lice, my tongue is touching the top of my mouth, “lice,” and my, my tongue is behind my teeth, my, my upper row of teeth. So, “lice” and “rice,” the two make very, very differently these sounds.
So, “rice” is the food we eat. “Lice” however, is a disgusting creature that can live in your body hair. It's awful, awful. So, if you say, “I eat lice with every meal,” horrifying, horrifying! Don't make this pronunciation mistake. “Rice” and “lice,” lice. Think about how to clearly pronounce this.
“Rice is delicious.”
“Lice are disgusting.”
5. grass/glass
So, another pair where the R and L issue might cause trouble is with “grass” and “glass.” So again, as I did with “rice” and “lice,” my whole mouth comes together to make the R sound, “grass,” so my mouth goes like this, essentially, “grass,” grass.
With “glass” however, it's much more open. My tongue is at the top of my mouth, “glass,” glass, so “grass,” “glass.” These two are very, very similar, but again, just try not to mix the two pronunciations, so that you don't create confusion for the person listening. And also, if you, if you confuse it with your pronunciation, I've noticed some people confuse it in writing as well, so it's very important to make these, the distinction between these two words very clearly.
Okay, in a sentence:
Let's sit on the grass.”
“Be careful of the glass!”
6. arrogant/elegant
The next pair is “arrogant” and “elegant.”
So one more time, we have this R and L issue, “arrogant.” “Arrogant,” an adjective meaning someone who is too confident, who thinks very highly of themselves, “arrogant,” and “elegant,” something which is beautiful, sophisticated, refined, elegant. “Arrogant,” so we start with the tall like the ARR-, a big wide ARR- sound, ARR-. Like air in, like in room, there's air in the room. ARROG-, arrogant, arrogant.
But here with “elegant,” we're starting with a more horizontal sound, EL-, EL-, elegant, like an elephant, right? “Elegant,” “elephant.” Oh, that's a good one, elegant elephant. Oh, I just thought of that, huh-huh! Elegant elephants everywhere! No arrogant elephants. Elegant elephants only! That's a weird thing, I don't know. That's helpful for anybody, but that's a word I just said. Okay.
So “arrogant” has that tall sound. “Elegant” is much more horizontal and again, there's that EL-, EL-, EL- sound to work on there.
So, sentences:
“Don't be arrogant.”
“The design is elegant.”
7. fry/fly
All right, next in our L and R issue is “fry” and “fly.”
So we can fry food or fly in a plane, but we cannot fry to Japan or fry to Thailand. We cannot fly something in a saucepan. So, please be careful. Be very, very clear, like, do you like to eat “flied” rice? No, you like to eat “fried” rice. So please be careful about your L and your R in these words, “fly,” “fry.” So, fry, fry, fry, so mouth together for the R sound, fry, fry, fly. So, another good pair of words to work on; fry, fly, fry, fly. Okay.
“Let's fry some chicken.”
“I'm going to fly to London.”
8. crash/crush/clash
Number eight, the next one is actually three words that sound quite similar.
They are “crash,” “clash,” and “crush,” clash, crash, crush. That's hard to say.
Okay, let's talk about the “clash.” It means like an argument or a fight, “to clash with (someone).” It's a verb or we can also use it as a noun. “There was a clash among like workers yesterday.”
“Crush” is a… is a verb. We can use “crush” as a verb and as a noun. First, let's talk about the verb, like “to crush a can.” To, to make something smaller, we crush it. So “crush,” it has a strong U sound, “crush,” which is different from “clash” which has a wide A sound, “clash.” So “clash” has the L sound followed by that wide A sound, “clash.” And here, the second sound, “crush,” has an R sound followed by, like kind of deep U sound, “crush.”
And then finally, “crash.” “Crash” then has an R sound followed by an A sound, “crash.” So it goes from this closed R sound to an open A sound, “crash,” crash. So we have “clash” and “crush” and “crash.” So, think about what your mouth is doing to make these vowel sounds and consonant sounds together.
So, “crash” then talks about two objects coming together crashing like a car crash, for example. “Crush” is making something smaller and to “clash” is to have an argument, usually, between people, so please be careful. If you see a car crash, make sure to say, car crash, not a car crush, not a car clash, but a car crash. Woah, okay.
In a sentence:
“I saw a car crash!”
“Crush your cans when you throw them away.”
“We clashed at work.”
9. talk/took
All right, so the next pair of words is “talk” and “took.”
This is a vowel point. “Talk” should be a very open A sound, “talk,” talk.
And “took” should be kind of, imagine making like a “too” with your mouth a little bit, “I took,” I took. So it's kind of, you squish your cheeks together, a little bit, “took,” took, so your mouth becomes smaller. “Talk” is much more open.
“I talk every day.”
“I took your money.”
So “talk” and “took” are some words you can use to practice these vowel sounds, “talk,” “took.” Past tense of take, “took.” Okay.
In some sentences:
“I talk to my friends every day.”
“I took the train to work this morning.”
10. staff/stuff
Okay, so the next pair of words is “staff” and “stuff.”
Be careful with “staff” and “stuff.” If you mix up these two, I've noticed, people tend to write “staff” or “stuff” when they mean the opposite. So, to be clear, “staff” refers to people who work at a location, so like, “Please talk to your staff” or “I would like to see a staff member.” A person who works at a location, that is the staff. And also, that's an uncountable noun. We don't say one staff, two staff. Well, I guess we do. We, we say staff members, I suppose, but usually we say “staff” as a group of people.
“Stuff” however, the U sound, “stuff” refers to objects, the things you own or the things in a room, just general “stuff,” general items. That's not, again, not a countable noun. “Stuff” is just objects, just a bunch of things, small things. Any room that has just a lot of objects, we can say, “Oh, there's a lot of stuff in here.” So “stuff,” uncountable noun, “stuff” has U sound, “stu...,” again, that sort of thinking, uh, uh, uh sound, “stuff.” “Staff” has that wide A sound, “staff,” staff. A big like, so your mouth should be kind of big, “staff,” when you make this sound.
So, in sentences:
“I spoke to the staff.”
“Where is my stuff?”
Okay, so those are ten pairs of words that are essential to pronounce clearly. These are some words that I've noticed many people make mistakes with in speaking, yes, but also in writing too, because of a pronunciation problem, so please practice these.
Are there any other words that are difficult for you to pronounce or that, you know, you've noticed that people make mistakes with a lot? So let us know if you find any more or if there are any other things that are difficult for you. Thanks very much for watching this episode of Top Words and I will see you again soon. Bye-bye!