4 Strategies to Stop Stumbling Upon Words When Speaking in English

By Robby

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Stop stumbling upon English words when speaking

Improve Spoken English

Unless you’re a super-fluent foreign English speaker, you most certainly find yourself in situations when you stumble upon certain English words and sentences which leaves you frustrated and angry with yourself, am I not right? 😉

Well, I’m not talking about the typical tongue-twisters here such as “she sells seashells by the seashore” (try to say it out loud fast a few times in a row – you’re bound to make a mistake sooner or later by saying “she shells..” or something similar!)

What I’m going to be looking in this article is simple words and phrases which are still quite easy to mispronounce because of repeating letters or similar sounds following each other in a quick succession:

  • World Wide Web (letters “d” and “b” as well as the ‘R’ sound)
  • I brought the bad goods back (letters “b” and “g”)
  • What a wonderful world! (‘R’ sound)

What happens sometimes when saying such and similar English sentences is the following – just because you’re trying to pronounce each sound within those words, your sound producing organs suddenly can’t cope with it, and that’s when you can implement various strategies I’m going to look at in this article.

Let’s say, if you can’t get the sentence “What a wonderful world!” right and your tongue and lips just can’t seem to pronounce it correctly, you can re-write the sentence in your mind the following way: “Whada wondeful wold”.

Try it, and you’ll realize that if you omit the letter “r”, (the ‘R’ sound isn’t that audible in this sentence anyway!) it becomes much easier for you to pronounce the sentence without getting your tongue twisted and you’re less likely to stumble upon words in the process.

Bear in mind that I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to pronounce English words the right way.

It’s just that I believe if you have to choose between struggling when speaking AND speaking freely albeit with a slightly incorrect pronunciation, you should go with the last option if your ability to speak fluently is very important at that particular moment in time.

But now let’s look at some examples on how you can modify English words and sentences so that you can pronounce them easier ❗

Word Merging in a Sentence

This could be old news to you, but the chances are that you’re not taking a full advantage of this principle in daily English conversations.

Let’s say, for example, you want to ask your work colleague a question beginning with “What do you…” It’s a pretty simple question, but even simple questions like this might present certain difficulties to us on our bad fluency days!

We may start stuttering just by trying to pronounce the individual words “what”, “do” and “you” in a quick succession (and on top of that you may even start analyzing the correctness of what you’re saying from the grammar standpoint) which in turn may leave us unable to finish off the sentence and formulate the actual question.

What you have to do in order to make it easier for yourself is the following – imagine the three words becoming one – “whadoyou” – and all of a sudden it becomes super-easy for you to pronounce it and then follow it up with the rest of the question ❗

Related article: Importance of Learning Whole Sentences When Learning American Pronunciation.

Omitting Certain Letters and Sounds

Just like in the example in the beginning of this article – “Whada wondeful wold” – you can omit certain letters and sounds to make pronunciation easier for yourself. Sure thing, I don’t advise to adopt such habits for good – I mean, if you pronounce the word “world” as “wold” every time you say it, people will notice that you’re skipping the ‘R’ sound altogether and you should by all means learn how to get it right (watch a video about the ‘R’ sound HERE!)

All I’m saying is that omitting certain sounds is an effective quick-fix solution in certain situations, and here’s another example.

“World War One” – I personally have gotten this phrase wrong on multiple occasions (in fact it’s what prompted me to write this article in the first place!) and here’s what I did to get it right: “Wold Wo One”. Now that the letter “r” is omitted, it’s much easier to get the phrase right simply because you don’t have to exert your mouth and tongue to such a great extent.

Other examples:

  • “Particularly” – “paticulaly”.
  • “Regularly” – “regulaly”.
  • “Pearl Harbor” – “Pel Habo”.

Replacing Certain English Sounds With Others

Let me paint a familiar picture for you: the entire extended family and friends have gathered to congratulate you on your birthday, and they’re all singing the familiar song “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…” At least half of them, however, are singing “Happy birZday to you” which is not the end of the world, of course, but it would still cut into my ears.

Needless to say, this scenario would most likely take place in an English speaking country where English speaking kids would have been invited to your son’s or daughter’s birthday party and then the foreign speaking adults would sing along by pronouncing “birthday” as “birzday”.

To solve this, simply replace the “th” with “t”!

Simple as that! 😉

I still remember myself getting it wrong a good few years ago, and when I noticed local English speakers pronounce “birthday” as “birtday” (well, it’s characteristic to English pronunciation in Ireland but you won’t sound awfully wrong in other English speaking countries!), I realized I can follow suit and do the same; as a result I sounded much, much better when singing “Happy birthday..” at my daughters’ birthday party!

Creating Associations With Other Words

At one stage I was struggling with the word “cinnamon”. It’s the repeating letter “n” that presented difficulties with getting the pronunciation right and sometimes I would say “cimannon” because the letters “n” and “m” would get mixed up.

Guess what I did to stop struggling with this word forever?

I imagined I’m pronouncing the word “cinema” which is quite easy to pronounce due to the lack of repeating consonants in it, and then I would add the last letter “n”. The resulting word “cineman” is pronounced exactly the same as “cinnamon”, and all the issues with mixing up sounds got resolved in an instant ❗

And here’s another example – the word “finite” which describes a limited nature of something; it’s closely related to the word “definite” but it’s pronunciation is totally different – [ˈfainait] instead of [ˈfinit] (I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s the way with the English language – its spelling sometimes doesn’t make sense!).

Do you want to know how I forced myself to remember the correct pronunciation of the word “finite”? Here’s how – I associated it with “fine night”! Once that association was in place, I didn’t struggle with the problem word anymore, and you can apply the same principle whenever you can think of other words you can associate some English problem words with!

The same goes if some English word spellings make your head spin and you just can’t pronounce them right because of the multitude of seemingly unnecessary letters in them:

  • “Queue” – just imagine it’s simply the letter “q” you’re pronouncing!
  • “Quay” – think of the word “key” which is pronounced the exact same way!

Now, do you find these pronunciation improving methods and techniques useful? Then let me know in the comments section below!

Robby 🙂

P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System
  • Hi Aryon,

    Here’s the contact page where you can submit your query http://englishharmony.com/contact-me/ and that will initiate an e-mail correspondence between you and me!

  • aryon

    Give me something like your e mail or anything so i can describe my problem more precisely.

  • aryon

    So is there any way i can contact you??

  • So what you’re saying is – the ‘S’ sound in a word such as “success” is very difficult for you to pronounce, right? Well, to be honest with you, I can’t really comment on it – I’ve worked with a number of Indian students, but none of them had issues with the ‘S’ sound! I would have to actually talk to you and see where the problem lies, it’s pretty impossible for me to give you any advice without hearing your speech and being able to talk to you.

  • aryon

    Hi there, words like success, guys, else,etc. I am from India.

  • Well, I would have to know those words, can you please provide me with a few examples and also tell me your native background?

  • aryon

    Hi there, i am having problem while speaking some particular words, containing certain letters like c,s,x,z. I cant control it. I tried to speak slow but it didnt work. Can you suggest me some advice

  • Hi Indrajit,

    Thanks for commenting, and I have to tell you right upfront that the issue you just described is a vivid example of the typical English fluency issue I’m dealing with on this blog!

    To understand what it happens, please read this article: http://englishharmony.com/why-cant-speak-fluently/ where I’m explaining the origins of the “writing mode” (it’s a term I’ve coined) and then please proceed to doing this exercise: http://englishharmony.com/contextual-learning/ in order to realize the effectiveness of contextual English learning.

    Contextual learning combined with lots of spoken practice is the answer to this problem, so basically there are two things you can do about your fluency issues: you can either just start doing regular self-practice by speaking with yourself: http://englishharmony.com/spoken-english-practice/ or buying my best-selling product English Harmony System http://englishharmony.com/improve-spoken-english.php where such spoken practice is automated and makes the whole thing an awful lot easier.

    Let me know if you’ve any further questions!



  • Indrajit Kar

    Hi Robby,
    I have reached a level of english where I can consider myself to be fluent. But the only problem is that I have made it a habit to think in english big time and thats why whenever I am about to speak just fractions of seconds before that, I start thinking in my head, about what to say. This really makes me feel sullen because in my native languages I dont think at all before speaking…it just flows, but not in english.