Pronunciation problems

Swedes are good at English, as I wrote before, but they often have problems with pronouncing certain letters or letter combinations in English. Some examples are the pronunciation of the English “j” and “ch” in words like “joke” and “cheap”. Swedes often pronounce them as “y” and “sh”. Joke becomes yoke and cheap becomes sheep (“Hey shek it out! That’s really sheep! Nah, I was just yoking..”). When correcting people, they often tell me that they had no idea that their pronunciation was wrong, since teachers in school do it wrong as well.

Tele2, a Swedish telecom operator uses this as a joke (or yoke) in their commercials, where they say they are “sheep”, while they obviously mean that they are cheap:

On the other hand, I also have difficulties pronouncing Swedish words, since there are several letters or letter combinations that are either pronounced as “sh”,  “sk”, “ch”, or “k” . For example (and bear with me, since I really should learn how to write phonetic symbols):

  • Skägg (beard) is pronounced chegg (where the ch is a soft g)
  • While skal (shell) is pronounced as you write it
  • Kort (short or card) is pronounced as you write it
  • While kör (drive) is pronounced shur (with the u as the u in burdon)

And obviously, there are exceptions. When kör means drive, it’s pronounced with a sh, while when it’s meant as a choir, it’s pronounced as you write it, with a k. And the word kort can actually mean card or short, but is either pronounced koort (with the oo as in poo) or kort (with the o as in short).

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