Word Confusion

Some words are created to communicate, while others just to confuse. I thought I read “ruminative” on an article about what Fran Lebowitz has to say about her current state of staying at home, but it is actually “remunerative”. I don’t know about native speakers, but as a person learning English as a second language, I’ve always struggled with such kind of confusions–words that look alike but mean very different things. Actually this is not my biggest frustration. The crown has to be given to vowels, which my ears can’t distinguish and my mouth can’t pronounce the difference. “Pot” and “port”, “wit” and “wheat”. Actually half of the vowels are troublesome. A teacher used to teach us to twist our mouths in order to pronounce different vowels, but my tongue and my lips just couldn’t be managed. It’s as impossible as those difficult dance steps that the body just can’t perform. Well at least distortion of the tongue and the lips is a way to make improvement–even if I can’t master it myself. When it comes to listening, there’s no way to deal with one’s ear to make it distinguish the different vowels. I was told to “listen” and to “listen carefully”, and I did. My ears were strained to utmost attention, only to hear the same sound comes out of “thick” and “sick”. Fortunately most of the lectures I attended and most of the presentations I gave were based on contexts, without which who knows how much miscommunication and misunderstanding might arise.

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