Decoding difficulty

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This article is about difficulties trying to say a word while reading it. For difficulties to repeat a word see Possible pronunciation difficulties
IPA vowels
æ ɑː
trap father - start
dress face square
ɪ ɪə
kit fleece near
ɒ əʊ ɔː
lot goat taught
ʊ ʊə
foot goose mature
juː jʊə
cute cure
ʌ ə ɜː
strut comma nurse
price mouth choice
IPA consonants
Normal sound: /b, d, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w, z/
 ʃ  ŋ
show church sing
ʒ  j 
usual judge you
θ ð s
think that see
IPA Stress
ˈ Primary stress
hotel /həʊˈtel/
ˌ Secondary stress
IPA Syllabification
. nitrate /ˈnaɪ.treɪt/, night-rate /ˈnaɪt.reɪt/

Decoding difficulties are the difficulties students may encounter with the idiosyncracies of English spelling. In other words, students with decoding difficulties have problems when sounding out some words, either because the don't know the rule (e.g. pronouncing "authorize" as */ˈaʊθəraɪz/) or because they don't know the exception (e.g. pronouncing "knowledge" as */ˈnəʊlɪdʒ/).

Magic "e"[edit]

The exceptions to the so-called "magic e", as in pin vs pine, give rise to numerous mispronunciations, including words like determine being pronounced as if they ended in /maɪn/.

See also Silent e#Misleading final e.


Special time should be spent practising the schwa sound. The natural tendency of many foreign language students is to pronounce unstressed vowels with their so-called “short” sound, such as "accept" as */ækˈsept/ instead of /əkˈsept/ or "lesson" as */ˈlesɒn/ instead of /ˈlesən/.

See also[edit]