Live or Leave?

Janean Fischli, July 27, 2023

Say these words: hill, heel, slip, sleep, ship, sheep. Did you make a different sound for the vowels in each pair of words? In English, we have 26 letters in the alphabet, but many of the letters can make more than one sound and other letters make sounds that might seem very similar to a non-native speaker. But why is pronunciation so important? If people can understand, students tell me, then why bother focusing on pronunciation? The problem is that sometimes people don’t understand and might end up very confused.

Take for example these two sentences:

  1. Your uncle isn’t going to leave.
  2. Your uncle isn't going to live.

If the last word in the sentence is pronounced incorrectly, it could leave the listener with a very different idea of what his or her uncle is going to do! Furthermore, poor pronunciation might cause your listeners to underestimate the great English language skills you have worked so hard to master.