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Seven Tricky Words and How to Pronounce Them

When learning English as a new language, you will come across words that can trip you up. It is important to take your time, and “sound it out.” The following words can be difficult to pronounce.

Here are some tips to break down each word. There are also audio recordings to listen to for reference. Click on the /pronunciation guide/ to hear each word.

If you want to sound more like a native English speaker, practice and master these seven words and you will be well on your way!

1. Anecdote

The two consonants next to each other can be problematic to pronounce. Try taking a small pause between the voiceless (no vibration or sound) /k/ sound and the voiced (with vibration and sound) /d/ sound.

And don’t forget the stressed syllable! In this word, it is on the first syllable represented by the apostrophe /ˈæ/. Listen closely to the recording to hear the word stress.

2. Colonel

This rank in the military poses much confusion for non-native speakers. Here’s a hint; it is spelled nothing like it sounds!

Think of a piece of corn. Colonel and kernel sound exactly alike! Just double-check your spelling when you are writing a letter to an officer…

3. February

Even native English speakers have a hard time with this one.

Is it feb-ROO-ary or feb-U-ary? Listen to the audio link to find out! It might take a couple hundred times to get it right, but it will be worth it!

4. Island

A common mistake for non-native speakers is pronouncing every letter they see. Although there are many phonetic rules that tell you how and when to say certain letter sounds, the word island is not one!

Just ignore the s after the i. It may seem strange, but it’s correct. Just like the in the words isle and aisle (hint: isle and aisle actually sound the same!) and the state Illinois, the s remains silent.

5. Library

Like February, library can be tricky even for the most practiced speaker. Often, speakers may skip the r after the b, but in this word, it’s important! If you want to borrow a book, make sure to pronounce this word correctly!

6. Rural

The repeating consonant/vowel pattern of this word can be hard for many non-native speakers. Especially because the vowel sounds are so similar!

Try watching a video that shows how to position your mouth, tongue, jaw and lips. Then practice these movements with a mirror to improve your muscle memory.

7. Sixth

The voiceless "th" sound is typical on the English language. It can be difficult depending on the location of the sound within the word. In sixth, ending with the soft "th" sound is challenging. Try separating the to syllables; six + th. Then repeat them back-to-back until they blend together. Use the audio link as a reference.

Bonus Tip:

Don’t recognize a word on the list? Look it up!

Use Merriam Webster’s Learners dictionary to find definitions, pronunciations, and uses.


Hailing from New England, Caroline Gunning has been living in Lima, Peru since 2019. She has worked in many types of learning environments as an Educational Interpreter, a Water Safety Instructor, and a private English Tutor for over ten years. Caroline is excited to be a part of the Amidon Studios team and looks forward to getting to know students through her English classes.


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