I will always remember that day on the beach. I was visiting friends in Italy, and we were taking a break from the searing Sardinian sun under the shade of a giant multi-colored umbrella. I was practicing my Italian by reading out loud from a magazine. With the rules of the language in my mind (remember to pronounce “ci” as “chi,” I reminded myself), I thought I was doing pretty well, until suddenly, the group erupted in laughter.

Feeling myself turning red, I stopped and looked up from the magazine, confused. “That word is in English,” they told me, still laughing, “You read it like an Italian word.”

I looked down. The word that had caused my friends to laugh at me was “live” (as in “live music”). Instead of saying the word live, I had said lee-vay. No wonder they were laughing. Once I understood my mistake, I could laugh about it, too.

Maybe you’ve had experiences like this. It doesn’t feel very good to be laughed at because you made a pronunciation error, and it feels even worse when you don’t know what the mistake was. But when we can identify when we have made a mistake, we can learn from our error and move on. When we do that, we improve.

My experience on the beach that day has, without a doubt, made me a better communicator, particularly with reading. I learned firsthand that the letters on the page do not always sound the same, and sometimes, they might not even be from the same language.

In English, more so than in Italian, letters of the alphabet can represent multiple sounds, depending on their context within a word. If you would like to work on your spoken English abilities and improve your English pronunciation, click here to complete a free speech snapshot.