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Lesson Transcript

Gina: I’m your host Gina.
Gabriella: And I’m Gabriella.
Gina: Common Mistakes.
Gabriella: So far we’ve discussed many topics that you need to think about when you're speaking English.
Gina: We’ve covered the pronunciation of consonants and vowels, stress, and regional variations.
Gabriella: In this lesson, we’re going to give you some extra tips on how to avoid mistakes and how to make your English sound more natural.
Gina: Shall we give our listeners our top 5 common mistakes to avoid?
Gabriella: I think 5 is a good number!

Lesson focus

Gina: Okay, what is number 1?
Gabriella: Don’t think that every word is pronounced as it is spelt.
Gina: Ah, yes. English loves to throw in words that are pronounced in strange ways.
Gabriella: Yeah, there are many unvoiced letters in English and you need to be wary of these.
Gina: Take the word “knife”, for example. A knife is a cutting tool used for food and other things and it sounds like it starts with a “n”.
Gabriella: But it actually starts with a “k”, and is spelt K-N-I-F-E. If you were to pronounce the “k” though, you’d probably say…
Gina: “K-nife”. And that isn’t a word and makes no sense.
Gabriella: Exactly. So, if you do come across a word you don’t know, spelling it out to yourself letter-by-letter is a good place to start, but it isn’t always going to be correct.
Gina: Ok, and what is common mistake number 2?
Gabriella: I think this is something that trips up a lot of people when they are learning English. It’s the T-H sound.
Gina: Ah, T-H can be pronounced in two different ways, can’t it?
Gabriella: Yes. There is the harsher “th” sound that you hear in words such as…
Gina: “that” and “there”.
Gabriella: And the softer “th” sound that you hear in words such as…
Gina: “Through” and “thought”. They are easy to get mixed up.
Gabriella: It’s even a common mistake for native English speakers to make when they’re learning as children. You need to practise and become familiar with the words that include the T-H sounds.
Gina: I think the softer “th” can be especially difficult for learners to pronounce sometimes.
Gabriella: Definitely. I agree.
Gina: Let’s move onto the next tip, number 3.
Gabriella: Don’t forget the last syllable!
Gina: It’s easy to become a little lazy when pronouncing words and to drop the last syllable, but you should never do that.
Gabriella: It can change the meaning of the word or just sound wrong. The stress in the word may be on earlier syllables, but that doesn’t mean the last syllable isn’t important.
Gina: Take a word such as “worked”. The stress is at the beginning, but you still need the E-D at the end to be voiced as that tells us the tense.
Gabriella: It’s the same with plural words. Always make sure that S at the end of the word is heard, even though it’s not stressed. “Cats, dogs, tables, pens”. You must sound out the “s”.
Gina: We mentioned in the last lesson about regional accents that sometimes syllables are dropped as part of a glottal stop, but that should only be used by people who are comfortable and natural in those accents.
Gabriella: Yeah, learners should definitely say every syllable.
Gina: What is mistake number 4?
Gabriella: Don’t stress about it!
Gina: We’re staying on the stress theme, I take it?
Gabriella: We are. Perfecting stress on words and in sentences truly is the key to sounding fluent.
Gina: Stress in the wrong place can make a word sound strange, no matter how good your pronunciation of the word is.
Gabriella: It’s also very handy in sentences to convey important information, and draw people’s attention to it.
Gina: Yes, you can do a lot with stress.
Gabriella: Unfortunately I think stress is something that you can only really learn through practice and experience. Listen to as much English as possible and copy what you hear.
Gina: I think that experience is the key. Stress will become natural to you, as after all, it’s natural to native speakers. It wasn’t something we were taught in a classroom, was it?
Gabriella: I don’t remember stress lessons at school!
Gina: Me neither! Ok, so, what is the 5th and last common mistake?
Gabriella: I’m sure that by now, some of our listeners may be feeling slightly overwhelmed. We’ve given them four lessons of pronunciation tips and probably scared them with how many different sounds English has and the importance of stress.
Gina: Yeah… sorry listeners!
Gabriella: So I think the fifth common mistake is the most important of all – don’t be shy!
Gina: Oh, definitely! Don’t be shy and don’t be scared to speak English.
Gabriella: Practice truly is the only way to get better. Don’t worry about making mistakes, as mistakes are how we learn and improve.
Gina: And with so many variations in accents and dialects, even if you do pronounce something incorrectly, it’s likely that a native speaker will still understand you anyway.
Gabriella: Yeah, we’ve become quite good at taking words that don’t sound how we expect them to, and making sense of them!
Gina: It’s a skill!
Gabriella: Speak as much English as possible. Don’t be shy!
Gina: Well, those are our top 5 tips for avoiding common mistakes, so please keep them in mind. English is a difficult but rewarding language to learn.
Gabriella: It’s such a global language that being able to speak it will really open up the world to you.


Gina: Ok, that’s it for this lesson, and for this series. We hope you enjoyed it, and found it useful!
Gabriella: And please don’t forget to check the lesson notes to reinforce what you’ve learnt!
Gina: Thanks for listening, everyone, and we’ll see you in another series. Bye!