I will never learn everything about the English language. That’s impossible. It doesn’t stop me from constantly trying to improve, though … to gather more words into my vocabulary makes me more confident as a speaker.
Then there’s the pronunciation! Many words I’ve only seen written … I read a novel, I see words that I easily understand, but never use in speech — or even bothered to look up, because they’re so obvious. I remember a couple of years ago, I wrote a blog about the word «awry». I’d seen it many times, but in my mind I pronounced it like “AWE-ri”. Luckily, I never felt the urge to use it. Don’t remember how I came across the correct pronunciation, but I did.
The other day, I was talking about something or someone with my husband. Out of the blue, I said «That’s very admirable!» Fine … but the thing was; I said ‘ad-MIRE-able’ instead of ‘AD-mir-able’. In this case, I did know better but it just jumped out of my mouth. In Swedish, we have an expression for stuff like that … when you speak before thinking …when your brain isn’t attached: «Frogs jump out of your mouth!» Well, this was a frog, and I’m so happy that I’m always able to laugh at myself. Would be sad otherwise.
The we have the word «saline», which I never can remember how it’s pronounced. I’ve looked it up so many times, and tried to make a point of remembering … I still don’t. I think it is «SAY-line».
The admirable-word reminded me of my cousin when she lived in the US. She’d bought a new pair of shoes, and told my aunt that they were very comfortable. She made the same mistake as I — put the accent on the wrong syllable, and said “comfor-TABLE” 🙂 My aunt, who was a sort of bossy character, and had lived much longer in the US, corrected her: «Say after me, three times!!! COM-fortable, COM-fortable, COM-fortable!!!» Guess my cousin never forgot THAT word!
UPDATE: A comment I just got, reminded me of this video I came across in Facebook. It really illustrates what languages sound like, without her saying anything at all. I listened attentively to the “Swedish” part, and even though it sounded perfectly Swedish, I couldn’t hear a full sentence or anything that made sense 🙂