These are the top words people struggled to pronounce in 2020

We managed to get our brains and tongues around all sorts of new additions to our vocabulary this year.

Coronavirus, lockdown, social distancing, substantial meals, to name just a few.

But which words and phrases gave us trouble this year?

Which words did we struggle to pronounce?

Language-learning app Babbel has teamed up with the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters to bring us a list of the topical words of 2020 that proved especially difficult for newsreaders and other people on TV to pronounce correctly.

While last year we stumbled over Chernobyl, prorogue, and gilets jaunes, in 2020 we tried to figure out the correct emphasis to put on Barnard Castle and Googled the pronunciation of Kamala Harris.

So, here are the top words that were tricky to pronounce this year, along with how to say them correctly.

Top words people mispronounced this year (and how to say them)

  • Barnard Castle (BAR-nard CAR-suul)
  • Ghislaine Maxwell (GEE-lane MAX-well)
  • Kamala Harris (CAW-ma-la HAIR-iss)
  • Kawaii (kuh-WAI-ee)
  • Koselig (KOOSH-lee)
  • Nevada (nev-ADD-ah)
  • Paris (PA-riss) – due to the Emily In Paris pronunciation debate
  • Pfizer (FIE-zer)
  • Tao Geoghegan Hart (TIE-oh GAY-gen haart)
  • Wuhan (WOO-hawn)

You’ll notice that ‘microwave’ is not on the list. That is because Nigella Lawson was not actually pronouncing the word incorrectly, but was giving us a new, far more fun, way to say it.

Todd Ehresmann, senior linguist at Babbel, said: ‘In a year dominated by politics and the pandemic, UK newscasters have been grappling with Chinese cities, vaccinations, and exemplary athletes.

‘All of these have added some new phrases to our national vocabulary, which may take some practice.

‘The key to language-learning is confidence and enthusiasm, so we always say that being good enough to be understood is perfectly fine. But, of course, it doesn’t hurt to know how these words are meant to be pronounced!’

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