English pronunciation test

Learn English pronunicationWhile most of you non-native speakers of English speak English quite well, there is always room for improvement (of course, the same could be said for every person for any subject, but that is another matter). To that end, I’d like to offer you a poem. Once you’ve learned to correctly pronounce every word in this poem, you will be

speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world.

If you find it tough going, do not despair, you are not alone: Multi-national personnel at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters near Paris found English to be an easy language … until they tried to pronounce it. To help them discard an array of accents, the verses below were devised. After trying them, a Frenchman said he’d prefer six months at hard labor to reading six lines aloud.

Try them yourself.

 

English is tough stuff

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation — think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough —

Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?

Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

(Excerpted from The Chaos by Gerard Nolst Trenité.)

 

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This blog was Zoe's way to spread the joy of finding and learning interesting bits about English. Join her and learn something new every time.

11 responses to “English pronunciation test”

  1. Arty Scott says :

    I’m worried about the letter T. Everyone seems to wanna, or is gonna. People go wiv instead of with. They spread buh’er not butter. They go to i’aly instead of Italy. Individuals called Terry or Tanya will soon be called ‘Erry or ‘Anya.

  2. Lloyd says :

    I did the whole thing and it wasn’t easy, in fact it made my stomach a little queasy. Fun tho, even tho I am deaf, deef? Hard of hearing.

  3. FreddyNoel says :

    Great ! Though it would be nice to be able to hear this poem by someone with proper English diction… Is there a link so one can listen to each words with proper pronunciation ?

      • Shadow Girl says :

        Hi, Zoe 🙂
        I saw that you listed Urban Dictionary as one of your favorite online dictionaries – I saw the neatest thing there yesterday! (Yep, I said neatest – haha!) UD usually has the speaker icon like the one above. The speaker on [whatever I was looking at yesterday] didn’t work – when I tapped it, there was a little pop-up box that said… “We’re sorry, there isn’t a pronunciation for ‘____’ yet. Leave your pronunciation on our voicemail, and we may choose yours to post here.’
        I’m not sure what kind of program they use for that, but, it might be fun to check out.

      • JustEnglish.me says :

        Hey Shadow Girl,
        Great to have you here. Thank you for the suggestion for UD, interesting, indeed!

        Best,
        Zoe

      • FreddyNoel says :

        Hi Zoe,
        Many thanks for your earlier reply with the link to this weird guy, Andy’s video. I just found out after getting Asha’s email in my inbox today. Better late than never to say thanks.
        I really enjoy your site.
        Best regards
        Frédéric

      • fipplepop says :

        It’s a terrible attempt. Unfortunately, the kid has no sense of shame. If he had, he would now be wearing a disguise.

      • fipplepop says :

        A really lousy attempt. His only defense is that he’s a teenager.

  4. Asha says :

    This was fun!

  5. Abdus Samad says :

    thats a good way to learn englisth

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