Last week I suggested that we use this month of February to focus our families' attention on those words that are frequently mispronounced, and therefore frequently misspelled - such as "February" (feb-Roo-ary). Today I want to separate those troublesome words into three categories - each with a different pronunciation problem - so that you can concentrate on the group that gives you the most difficulty.
Now, I myself happen to have difficulty with the words in all three groups, but the groupings are helpful to me just the same because when I catch myself mispronouncing one word, that word reminds me of other words in that category, and so I get the benefit of reinforcing several troublesome words at a time.The difficulty in pronouncing words like "February," "arctic" and "government" is in articulating ALL the sounds that are in each word (feb-Roo-ary, arC-tic, gov-erN-ment). This is easily the most common pronunciation problem, and it accounts for a large part of the spelling errors by children and adults alike. Here are some other common words that fall into this category (I have capitalized the letters most frequently left out of their pronunciations): recoGnize, quanTity, chocOlate, probABly, restAUrant, valuAble, accidentAlly, incidentAlly, personAlly, enviroNment, miniAture, cabInet, sanDwich.
A few other words in this category have often-unpronounced letters, but these missing sounds are almost undetectable in normal speech even when they are pronounced. You just have to know that the letters are there and hear them in your mind as you speak: diAmond, diAper, grocEry, jewElry, temperAture.
The second category includes words commonly pronounced with sounds different from those represented by the letters in the word. When children hear the word "basketball" carelessly pronounced "bas-kuh-ball" so often by coaches and TV commentators, it's little wonder that they adopt that pronunciation themselves. In the following words, I have capitalized the areas needing attention in order to ensure we pronounce each word as it is spelled: proNUNciation, congraTulations, kinDergarTen, reALtor, mEmento, pompoN (a "pom-poM" is a military weapon, and, so far at least, has not been customarily carried by cheerleaders).
The last category includes words sometimes pronounced with syllables that aren't in the spelling of the word at all. We commonly study "silent" letters in school, but the words in this group are often pronounced with "invisible" letters! athlete/athletics (not ath-UH-lete/ath-UH-let-ics), mischievous (there's no "e" or "i" in the last syllable, so the pronunciation must be MIS-chiv-us), disastrous/monstrous (not disastErous/monstErous), hindrance/remembrance (not hindErance/remembErance), laundry (not laundEry), recur (not reOCcur).
As you focus your attention, and perhaps your children's attention, on these words, keep a couple of things in mind. Concentrate on only one or two words at a time (especially if you're trying to instill these pronunciations in your children), and then later go on to another one or two. Also, don't mix up pronunciation problems with your concerns about slang or other language matters. There will be time to work on those other areas, but for February, at least, this one will do nicely.