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Sep 25, 2018 00:07
One of my biggest headaches when studying English is that I usually mispronounce some foreign words. Vocabulary from French is difficult for me. Vocabulary from Spanish is easier to cope with, but the thing is I usually don’t know the words are from Spanish.

For example, I learned about San Jose way back in a junior-high geography class because the city is in Silicon Valley. To be exact, because the class was taught in Chinese, I only learned the Chinese name - 圣何塞 (Sheng Hesai). Years later, I read the city name “San Jose” in an English newspaper and was confused about why the name had been translated into Mandarin as “Sheng Hesai.” I tried to rationalize it by thinking of a common English name “John,” which was irregularly translated into “约翰(Yuehan)” because of religious reasons. I thought 圣何塞 might be also irregular for whatever reason. Last year, when I was talking with an American guy next to me on a plane and mentioned “San Jose,” he immediately laughed and said, “sän hô-ze?” I blushed. I must’ve sounded super uneducated. At the same time, I suddenly realized why it's called 圣何塞 in Chinese.

Another word that I’ve mispronounced a few times is "chipotle.“ In an English class about food and restaurants, I told my English teacher that my favorite Mexican restaurant was Chipotle but I mispronounced it, as you can imagine. My English teacher corrected my pronunciation on the spot, but when I repeated the word later, I still mispronounced it. The ending syllable was simply too tricky! After the class, I looked up this word and learned that it was Spanish and referred to a Mexican pepper.

The reason I usually mispronounce words like that is I don’t live in an English-speaking environment so I read English more than I listen to it. Sometimes when I come across a foreign word disguised in the form of an English word, I tend to pronounce it in an English way. If I pick up a Spanish word by listening, I usually get the correct pronunciation. For instance, while watching a video clip about Mexican food, I learned how to pronounce the word “tortilla.”

[Edited]
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