Tag Archives: English

Lost in Pronunciation

Ok so I always thought that California accents were the most neutral, most TV-personality anchorman laundry detergent commercial generic accents that you could get in America…or anywhere. We pronounce things pretty much as you read them and we don’t drop any letters or anything, right? Well, turns out that Californians, and Americans in general don’t really pronounce the letter “t” which can be really confusing for non-native speakers, even when the dropped t is part of a really short or simple word.

It either comes out as some kind of alveolar plosive (yeah Linguistics 1!) as in the word “letter” which we more accurately pronounce as “ledr,” or as nothing at all like in the word “twenty” which comes out more like “twuny.” Anyways, I never ever ever noticed this before Spain but sometimes it causes problems when I am speaking to beginners, like the dad of my host family, and I have to make sure to pronounce all the leTTers in everything thaT I say. They also tell me I sound like a rat when I am helping Bruno eat because I say “Eat! Eat! Eat!” but it comes out as “EEE-EEE-EEE!!!!!!”

So today I was playing with Bruno, and by playing I mean he was destroying a number of old family photo albums and I was sitting next to him saying “no no no!!!” The dad was sitting in the room at the computer. I finally got a little frustrated and said “Ok no more photos!” and took away the album, but I said it really fast because I wasn’t saying it with the intention of Bruno or his dad understanding. The dad turned to me and said “Wait what did you say?” in Spanish. I told him that I had said “No more phoTos,” being sure to pronounce the T. “Ohhhh,” he said, laughing. “I thought you said “No me jodas!”

No me jodas translates to something along the lines of “DON’T FUCK ME.*”  Gotta make sure to pronounce those T’s!!!

*Ok it can also mean “don’t mess with me” or “you have to be kidding” but the literal definition is just waaaay better.

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Inappropriate Words/Phrases I have taught my students/friends this week

Here is a list of all the incredibly important, totally appropriate words that I have covered with my middle-aged male business English students and my non-native friends in the past few weeks.

Cougar

Gold digger

Pot, Weed, Bud (in the literal and slang senses of the words)

Playing Footsie

Snort (as in cocaine)

Take advantage of (physically)

Check out (physically)

Chug

Hook Up

Make out

Murder

Assassinate

Rape

Buzzed

Tipsy

Hungover

Hair of the Dog (in Spain evidently they keep it literal and just say “Have another beer!” but the idea is the same)

So evidently I have some kind of problem with the degree of professionalism I employ in my classes….but actually thinking about it I don’t think the teaching of these words was completely unsolicited. Keep in mind that some of my students don’t know how to say “tall” or “ugly.” But they sure could get through a night at a bar!!! God.

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