Having spent 10 years in the teaching profession and 20 years bringing up children, good pronunciation has been a significant part of my life. I used to make the children in my junior school class repeat, ‘We are going to Miss Thacker’s Maths class on Thursday’ until they had mastered the ‘th’ sound. I find it annoying to now have to miss the endings off most of the words in order to have good French pronunciation! I know that some words in English like Wednesday become ‘Wensday’ and that verbs ending in ‘- ed’ jump from the root to the last letter. ‘Altered’ is not pronounced ‘alter red’. I must now say ‘Jesu’ and not Jesus, and ‘vaniya’ for vanilla! But it works both ways. One of my students worked in London for a time and on arrival needed an underground ticket for Leicester Square. She politely asked for ‘Lie-ses-ter Square’ to which she got a ‘Huh?’ from the lady in the ticket booth. After three attempts the lady finally cottoned on and said, ‘Oh, you mean Lesta Square!’ We have to pass through the department of Aisne to get to our home. For quite some time I assumed it was pronounced ‘Es-na’. When my students tell me that English is difficult to master because of the many unsaid letters I write A-I-S-N-E on the board and then cross out all of the letters except the ‘N’ – all that is pronounced out of 5 letters!

A friend’s little boy heard that he was going to be studying ‘L’histoire de l’ar’ in school the next day. When his mother asked him, ‘How was school?’, he replied. Mummy, I understand now about L’histoire de l’ar. It is not, ‘L’histoire de l’ar’, it is L’histoire de l’ar! After some questions, she understood that he thought he was going to learn about the history of ‘lard’ (the term for bacon and pork products) when in fact he was going to be doing history of ‘art’. What he was actually saying was, ‘Mummy, I understand now about L’histoire de l’art. It is not, L’histoire de lard, it is L’histoire de l’art’. The unpronounced last letters can make comprehension difficult for even French children, teachers and parents.

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