I learned a lot of higher level vocabulary words from reading books, as opposed to hearing people say them. This however leads to situations where I will pronounce a word based on the way I understand it, rather than the way it is generally pronounced.

Some acquaintances of mine (friends, classmates, etc.), whether right or wrong, will correct me, sometimes nicer than others.

However, there's always that awkward feeling that I don't know how to speak English. How should I respond to such criticism so that feeling doesn't come up?

(Related Question)

  • Is part of the reason that you speak English with a foreign accent?
    – John
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 17:36
  • 1
    @John No. I'm a natural-born American.
    – user52
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 21:07
  • 2
    Can you give a more specific situation? Are these people from work? Do you see them often? Do you have a good rapport? What is your personality type? What is theirs? Are they like Hermione correcting Ron's pronunciation of "wingardium leviosa"?
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 22:03
  • It is more specific, though I'm surprised to see that you refer to someone you live with as an "acquaintance". Is this a short -term situation or something likely to continue for a while?
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 18:05
  • I guess my concern is that you're talking about two different situations - either it's an acquaintance and it's a one-off correction... but this roommate who's repeatedly taunting you about a single mispronunciation is a different thing entirely.
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 19:09

2 Answers 2


Above all, it’s a learning experience, and that should be your main focus.

There are things you would rather know sooner rather than later: something stuck to your shoe, a male’s fly is open, and things like that. I would think that proper pronunciation fits in that category somewhere. So there is a reason to be thankful that someone is taking the time to correct you. Some people are better at doing this than others, so it’s probably a safe bet to assume the criticism was meant to be constructive – unless it’s clear that it’s not.

For the constructive folks, praise and thank them for caring. For the others, it may be best to quietly let the conversation move on.

On a similar train of thought, perhaps the best way to deal with this is to prevent it from happening. It’s great that you are broadening your vocabulary, and that means using a dictionary form time to time. On a personal note, I have a dictionary and thesaurus near my desk all the time. A decent dictionary will tell you how to pronounce a word. And maybe there is more than one correct way to say a word. A good online dictionary is even better.

  • 1
    Many online dictionaries have a button to click to hear the word. Then you know at least one way to pronounce it. Many times it's actually difficult to be sure how to pronounce it after listening to those online, but it can help you decide if you're close or not.
    – User 27
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 3:40
  • @WitanapDanu Exactly. A good online dictionary will also be a thesaurus as a bonus. It will give you ideas for usage, and the word's history. And of course, the ease of use means it will be there as long as you have a connection to the Internet. It's a great resource.
    – John
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 23:36

Just like when you are faced with other kind of criticism: whether it is right or wrong, say thank you, appreciate their criticism, and say you'll work out your pronounciation better next time.

It is important not to argue with them, because you don't know how to pronounce it yourself. Although in general you don't want to argue even if you know the correct one.

This applies to all relationship, and is more related to how you should receive criticism.

  • I think this is fair if we're talking about someone you interact with in a passive manner... a friend of a friend you see occasionally and don't care to really argue with, for example, but it seems like an odd solution for closer friends or family.
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 18:07
  • @Catija it's a trivial matter, and the most important part here is the OP himself doesn't know how to correctly pronounce that, so it is pointless to be defensive even to a close friend or family
    – Vylix
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 18:53
  • 1
    It's not about being defensive. There's middle ground between caving entirely (particularly as the OP insinuates that the person correcting them doesn't know the correct pronunciation, either) and starting a fight. Whenever I do this, I make a joke out of it... "Really, Are you sure? I've only ever read it before so I guessed at the pronunciation... I can't believe I've been saying it wrong for years!" Your solution is very, very formal... there's no reason to be so stiff.
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 18:59