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What Mispronunciation Means


A political candidate keeps saying "WARshington" in his radio ads, instead of "Washington." It makes him sound stupid, since he's pronouncing an extra letter in a word that's obviously not there.


But he's not stupid. His speech is reflecting the erroneous reading and writing instruction that has become so common in our schools over the last several decades. That instruction ignores the power of our sense of sound, and seeks to teach students how to read and write in silent mode, using their sense of sight and that's about it.


Since they don't "hear" the letters individually, they are more prone to reverse their order, leave letters out, and put letters in that shouldn't be there. Result: pronunciation errors.


The same thing goes when a person says "nu-cu-lar" for "nuclear," "aks" for "ask" or "ree-la-tor" for "realtor." The technical term from linguistics is metathesis, or transposing sounds. It wreaks havocs with everything from your spelling, to your ability to persuade others in meetings and speeches, to other people's opinion of your intellectual ability.


Where does mispronunciation come from? A lack of listening skills caused by the failure to teach children to use sound in language. Coupled with the over-reliance on sight-reading instead of sounding out words, and it's easy to see how mispronunciation can become so habitual.


You can't pronounce what you haven't heard. It's tough to spell a word that you don't "see" clearly in your mind's eye, because it isn't stored accurately in your memory banks. It isn't, because for decades teachers have not been teaching students how to read and write based on sound. Until they do, many people will struggle with mispronunciation.


And that's a . . . durn shame.



By Susan Darst Williams Grammar Granny 037 2006


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