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The incident of ‘laughing out of tears’ when using English

If you do not master the nuances of words, mispronounce or stress incorrectly… you can make yourself a laughing stock when using English.

Ms. Thoai Giang – graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in business administration from Victoria University, now living and working in Melbourne, Australia – shared the errors that people who are not fluent in English may encounter when communicating. with native speakers.

Talk one way, listen another

When I first came to Australia with wet feet, I studied during the day and worked at a restaurant at night. At first, I had no experience, so when a customer asked: “Can I have a cork please?”, I brought out a can of Coca-Cola. The guest did not have time to react, I opened it. Then I found out that he hadn’t finished the bottle of wine, so I asked for a cork to bring the bottle back. These two words are actually pronounced differently cork [kɔːk] (the cork) and Coke [kəʊk] But since I haven’t heard of it, I was confused.

My brother works part-time at a bakery on weekends. One day a customer asked: “Has the bread been baked today?” (Today’s toast right?). During peak hours, the shop was very crowded, my brother quickly replied “Yes, today”, but due to fast talking, the two words got stuck together to become “Yesterday”. The lady immediately asked “Yesterday?”. My brother had to slowly answer in full “Yes. It’s been baked today not yesterday”.


Once I came back from Vietnam, I sat down to chat with my colleagues, they asked back and forth what day it was, I answered “23rd (twenty third) of January”, the whole group laughed and laughed, I knew I was pronouncing it wrong, but no one agreed. Just ask yourself to find out. When I got home, I asked my two children and they said that their mother pronounced them third /θəːd/ sounds like turd /təːd/ (feces, waste). When I pronounce /θ/, I have to stick my tongue out between my teeth, but because Vietnamese doesn’t have this sound, sometimes I still pronounce it like /t/.

Incorrect pronunciation

Incorrectly calling a person’s name can be misunderstood from person to person. I once told a colleague “Chad said that” (Chad said that) but she asked “Jack? Who’s Jack” (Jack? Who’s Jack?). I said “Not Jack. Chad!” (Not Jack /dʒak/, but Chad /tʃæd/), she remained bewildered. I have to spell CHAD. My colleague laughed. Since then, every time I call Chad’s name, I have to stretch out CH… AD slowly and clearly.

Once, I was asked by many people where I had just come back from going out, I said “Gold Coast” (city in Queensland) but almost no one understood. They asked again “Where is it?”. I asked a friend to listen carefully, and he heard it as “low cost”. The problem is that I can’t tell the difference when native speakers pronounce it and when I pronounce the same word.

Emphasis is not clear

The number seems simple, but it is not. Once, when I moved house, my son asked for the new house number in advance to invite friends over, I said “60”, he heard it as “16”. Wrong one glass to go a mile, my friend knocked on the wrong door of Mr. Tay’s house at the beginning of the street. “60””sɪksti/ emphasizes the first syllable while “16” /sɪksˈtiːn/ stresses the second.So for important conversations after answering “60” I usually or say something like “6-0” (pronounced /sɪks/ – /ˈzɪərəʊ/) for clarity.

Using controversial words

Every word misused is a lesson, which sometimes comes at a heavy cost because not all native speakers understand and sympathize that English is not the mother tongue of immigrants like me. When my child was young, there was a scandal at school, I happily asked another parent, “Have you heard about the scandal?” (Did you know that scandal?). Unexpectedly, she got angry and said with a serious face: “There is some rumor but I don’t think it’s a scandal”. In Vietnam, I used to use the word “scandal” and found its meaning to be gentle. But in English “scandal” has a bad and heavy meaning.

Similarly, when I was new to work, I once talked to my secretary about a colleague’s child, I used the word “retard” to anger her, and she corrected it as “interlectual disability” (intellectual disability). ). Since then I learned that “retard” has connotations of contempt, disrespect, “interlectual disability” is a better choice.

Talk to Robots

Recently, private companies such as insurance, banks, government agencies all use robots to answer the phone. When calling the phone, it will ask to say the member code, which usually includes both numbers and letters, sometimes the phone asks the reason for the call to transfer to a specialized department. It sounds simple, because you only need to know how to read numbers, letters and a few specialized words. In fact, I didn’t pronounce correctly so the machine didn’t pick up, and after I repeated three times the machine lost patience.

Now Siri understands when I ask “screenshot” but before when I gave this command Siri couldn’t guess, had to ask again “I didn’t get that. Could you try again?” (I don’t understand. Please say again).) Then Siri heard “Spencer” /ˈspɛnsə/ (proper name.) Since there are two different Spencers in my phone book, Siri asked again, “Which one ? Pete Spencer or Spencer Taylor?” (Which Spencer? Pete Spencer or Spencer Taylor?) The problem here is, because there is no /iː/ (long i) and /ʃ/ sound in Vietnamese, it’s better to say “screenshot” /ˈskriːnʃɒt/ I say /ˈskrinsɒt/.

Thoai Giang

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