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ICAO Level 6 Pronunciation: Top 23 Mispronounced Aviation English Words


ICAO Level 6 Pronunciation: Top 23 Mispronounced Aviation English Words

I haven’t found anything similar on the Internet so I decided to make my own. Here’s my list of top mispronounced aviation English words. When I publish the first version of this blog post, it includes 23 words but it’ll be growing as I’m going to edit it once I find something worth sharing with you. I spent a lot of time working on it and I truly believe it’ll turn out to be helpful to you. I’ve intentionally recorded only the correct versions; as a matter of fact, I think if you’re exposed to the correct and incorrect variants you may easily be deconcentrated. Hence, only the good pronunciation is purposefully presented. What’s more, you can listen solely to American or British English. The former has a red play button, while the latter – green. If the pronunciation is identical the button is blue; the pronunciation transcription is taken from Cambridge Online Dictionary which I truly recommend for all who need a reliable online resource. I put a lot of energy into this blog post so I’d appreciate your help to share the link to this article with your friends if you find it valuable. Thank you in advance! <3 🙂

1. Alliance

UK and US phonetic transcription – /əˈlaɪ.əns/

It’s the same, therefore, I recorded just one version. The problematic area here is the correct pronunciation of schwa sound in both cases – /ə/.

Alliance – UK and US pronunciation:

2. Autopilot

The difference here is significant, hence two versions are presented below. The first sound are completely different – UK  has /ɔː/, whereas US – /ɑː/.

UK phonetic transcription – /ˈɔː.təʊˌpaɪ.lət/
Autopilot – UK pronunciation:

 

US phonetic transcription – /ˈɑː.t̬oʊˌpaɪ.lət/
Autopilot – US pronunciation:

3. Auxiliary

Just like in “autopilot” above – UK  has /ɔː/, while US – /ɑː/ at the beginning.

UK phonetic transcription – /ɔːɡˈzɪl.i.ə.ri/
Auxiliary – UK pronunciation:

 

US phonetic transcription – /ɑːɡˈzɪl.i.er.i/
Auxiliary – US Pronunciation:

 

A night long haul flight

4. Aviation

One of my infamous ‘favorites’. Pay special attention to the first sound – /eɪ/. No major distinctions between UK and US here.

UK and US phonetic transcription – /ˌeɪ.viˈeɪ.ʃən/

Aviation – UK and US pronunciation:

5. Certificate

The ending is problematic for some students because in most cases they don’t know there is schwa /ə/ sound. In American English /r/ is also pronounced.

UK phonetic transcription – /səˈtɪf.ɪ.kət/
Certificate – UK pronunciation:

 

US phonetic transcription – /sɚˈtɪf.ə.kət/
Certificate – US Pronunciation:

 

certificate-licence

6. Computer

One of those words that were implied by many languages and, therefore, some regional variations may often interfere with the English language. It’s also problematic because of schwa sound /ə/ used twice and long /uː/.

UK phonetic transcription – /kəmˈpjuː.tə(r)/
 Computer – UK pronunciation:

 

US phonetic transcription – /kəmˈpjuː.t̬ɚ/
Computer – US pronunciation:

ATR 72-600 Multi Purpose Computer

7. Debris

The main thing which is common in both cases – /s/ at the end is silent.  Moreover, listen carefully where the stress is put. In UK ‘debris’, it is located at the beginning of a word, whereas in US version – in the middle.

UK phonetic transcription – /ˈdeb.riː/

Debris – UK pronunciation:

 

US phonetic transcription – /dəˈbriː/
Debris – US pronunciation:

8. Error

Schwa. Schwa. Schwa. It’s definitely one of those aspects of a proper pronunciation that causes the most problem for English as a foreign language speakers. In this case /o/ exists only in writing. When you speak, you need to use /ə/.

UK phonetic transcription – /ˈer.ə(r)/
Error – UK pronunciation:

 

US phonetic transcription – /ˈer.ɚ/
Error – US pronunciation:

9. Feather

Voiced /ð/ is one of my top favorites when it comes to teaching proper pronunciation. It’s quite complicated at the beginning to get used to the proper versions of /th/ sound but practice makes perfect 🙂

UK phonetic transcription – /ˈfeð.ə(r)/
Feather – UK pronunciation:

 

US phonetic transcription – /ˈfeð.ɚ/ 
Feather – US pronunciation:

10. Fibre / Fiber

‘Fibre’ is UK spelling, while ‘Fiber’ – US. The trap here is the correct reading of the second letter – in both cases it’s /aɪ/.

UK phonetic transcription –/ˈfaɪ.bə(r)/
Fibre – UK pronunciation:

 

US phonetic transcription – /ˈfaɪ.bɚ/
Fibre – US pronunciation:

Carbon fibre aircraft a Boeing 787

11. Gauge

This one is quite tricky at first glance but once you hear it correctly, you should have no further problems.

UK and US phonetic transcription – /ɡeɪdʒ/

Gauge – UK and US pronunciation

12. Greenwich

Greenwich Mean Time. Forget how you read the name of a popular color. The name is totally different than your intuition may suggest.

UK and US phonetic transcription – /ˌɡren.ɪtʃ/

Greenwich – UK and US pronunciation

Greenwich Mean Time

13. Lethal

Long /iː/ combined with the unvoiced /θ/ are a perfect mispronunciation trap. Now you should know how to pronounce it correctly.

UK phonetic transcription – /ˈliː.θəl/
Lethal – UK pronunciation:

 

US phonetic transcription – /ˈliː.θəl/
Lethal – US pronunciation:

14. Mechanic

In my opinion, the crucial things here are /k/ in the middle and /ɪ/ at the end. Pay special attention to those two sounds while listening.

UK and US phonetic transcription – /məˈkæn.ɪk/ 

Mechanic – UK and US pronunciation

15. Microburst

Every time you see the prefix micro- remember the second letter is pronounced as /ʌ/. ‘Microburst’ is a perfect schwa /ə/ practice. Listen and check.

UK and US phonetic transcription – /ˈmʌɪkrə(ʊ)bəːst/

Microburst – UK and US pronunciation:

 

microburst

16. Missile

Another candidate for the Mispronunciation Miss World. You need to remember the proper pronunciation of /ɪ/ and /aɪ/ diphthong.

UK phonetic transcription – /ˈm/ɪs.aɪl/
Missile – UK pronunciation:

 

US phonetic transcription – /ˈmɪs.əl/
Missile – US pronunciation:

17. Multiengine

Another slightly confusing prefix -multi. It’s used in many languages and their pronunciation differs from English, hence it’s often affected by a speaker’s mother tongue.

UK and US phonetic transcription – /ˌmʌltɪˈɛn(d)ʒ(ɪ)n/

Multiengine- UK and US pronunciation

A multiengine Airbus A380

18. Passenger

It’s tempting sometimes to use your own language which has an equivalent in English. But please do not do it if you want to be assessed as an advanced language user.

UK phonetic transcription – /ˈpæs.ən.dʒə(r)/

Passenger – UK pronunciation:

 

US phonetic transcription – /ˈpæs.ən.dʒɚ/
Passenger – US pronunciation:

19. Queue

The spelling and pronunciation are a big challenge here. Remember about the long /uː/ at the end.

UK and US phonetic transcription – /kjuː/ 

Queue – UK and US pronunciation

20. Service

It’s another word which is present in other languages and hence mispronounced. Practice vowels /ɜː/ and /ɪ/.

UK phonetic transcription – /ˈsɜː.vɪs/
Service – UK pronunciation:

US phonetic transcription –  /ˈsɝː.vɪs/
Service – US pronunciation:

21. Throttle

Honestly, it’s a tongue twister at the beginning because of the unvoiced ‘th’ /θ/, /ɒ/ or /ɑː/ and schwa /ə/.

UK phonetic transcription – /ˈθrɒt.əl/
Throttle – UK pronunciation:

 

US phonetic transcription – /ˈθrɑː.t̬əl/
Throttle – US pronunciation: 

Autothrottle inside a Boeing 777

22. Thrust

‘Th’ unvoiced sound /θ/ and /ʌ/ are the most vital here. 

UK and US phonetic transcription – /θrʌst/

Thrust – UK and US pronunciation:

23. Ultralight

Another prefix to familiarize with; ultra- is pronounced with a /ʌ/ sound in the first place. There is no other option 😉

UK and US phonetic transcription – /ˈʌltrəlʌɪt/

Ultralight – UK and US pronunciation:

An ultralight soaring above Chicago

Summary

What other words would you add to my list of aviation-related counter-intuitively pronounced words? Which pronunciation delighted you? Share your takes in the comments below or you’re invited to send me an e-mail if you prefer more personal contact. I’d love to know which words should be added to this list and I’d love to edit this article to give you the best quality in one place 🙂

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Emilia Barska
About me

General English teacher and Aviation English specialist. Devoting her free time to sharing her expert knowledge how to pass an ICAO exam with flying colors. She enjoys reading crime stories, listening to heavy metal music and sipping a vanilla latte.

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