How to Avoid Causing People an Earsore

A sore can be excruciatingly painful. It sometimes can be embarrassing when you have a sore that has defied all manner of treatment on a part of your body that everyone can see. You may decide to have it bandaged as you endure the pain.

There is another sore that is plaguing nonnative speakers of English. It’s called earsore. Earsore is one of the words in my list of new words in English. The idea must have originated from an existing familiar word, ‘eyesore’, first used in 1530, “something offensive to view.” Earsore, something displeasing or offensive to the ear, is the focus of this presentation. I am about to discuss two earsores: bad pronunciation and bad tenses.

Bad Pronunciation can Cause Earsore

Some things non-native speakers of English say are absurd and best described as an earsore. The mispronunciation of the sound of just a letter can put one in an awkward position. The sound of the digraph TH, for instance, could make you sound absurd cause you a huge embarrassment.

Now let’s consider some expressions that I will describe as earsores and how you can avoid them.

“Tank you so very much.” (Thank you so very much). The speaker here intends to express gratitude but ends up saying) Tank you so very much. While tank is an English word, “tank you” is not an English phrase. When your listeners realize tank you when you say thank you, it sounds absurd—an earsore, and you can imagine how you are perceived.

I am Root.” (I am Ruth). Nothing could be more upsetting to me than when Ruth introduces herself as root. This absurd introduction that reduces Ruth to root dehumanizes her. If introductions are like the icing on a cake, Ruth must have sprinkled some sand or salt on her beautiful cake. What a shame!

“Jane is a tin girl.” (Jane is a thin girl). The speaker really wants to describe Jane’s stature, but ends up saying something unimaginable about Jane as their listeners heard them say, “Jane is a tin girl.” A “tin” girl? Some muttered. Oh my word! Imagine that!

Learning to say the ‘th’ Sound

The sound of the TH (the theta) poses one of the most challenging speech problems to non-native speakers of English. Mind the sound you make when you see the digraph TH so that you don’t intend to say one thing while people hear something completely different. This difficult-to-pronounce sound needs to be given some special attention. Listen to how educated speakers make the sound in different words as it occurs in different positions.

Ask someone who knows how to make the sound to teach how to make the sound in isolation and in words.
Take this short exercise. The idea is to help you see that the digraph Th doesn’t have the same sound with letter T but for English names and place names.

Let’s consider these contrasting words.
Seth and set
Path and Part
North and not
Bath and bat
Faith and fate
With and wit
Cloth and clot
Oath and oat
Thread and tread
Booth and boot

While you can bandage and endure your sore, earsore is an injury you inflict on others and lose them when your pronunciation is bad. Watch what you say and how you say them. Make your expressions interesting and listenable, and save yourself all the embarrassment.

We will look at the earsore ‘bad tenses’ and how to overcome it in our next newsletter.

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