Pronunciation is important. If you are in a country that is new to you, they might pronounce words differently than they do back home.
Over the years, I have learned pretty well how to pronounce words in the Philippines. Mostly that is due to my language lessons when I learned how to speak Bisaya. My teacher, Bebe, was very strict in making me pronounce words correctly.
In Philippine languages, even a very slight difference in the way a word is pronounced can make a big difference in the meaning of the word. Some of these sound differences almost cannot even be heard by the western ear, because we do not have such differences in our countries, or such differences are only rarely used in the English language.
I learned a real lesson about this one time when I was having Bisaya lessons with a friend. This was with a different teacher than I have ever talked about here on LiP. I had studied Bisaya for a few months previously, but it did not work out, so I quit. A very close friend and I decided to take lessons together, hoping that we could practice with each other to achieve our desire of learning to speak the language.
Anyway, one day we were having a lesson together, and the teacher was teaching us how to convert a word from an action into a place. For example, in Bisaya the word “kaon” means to eat. A restaurant can be called a “kaonan” – a place to eat, simply by adding the “an” at the end. This is true for many action words, verbs, can be changed into places by simply adding the “an” at the end.
So, as our Bisaya teacher was teaching us about how to change verbs into places, we were all coming up with different examples. I said that “langoy” means to swim, so “langoyan” would be a pool or a swimming hole.
My friend blurted out that “lolo” means grandfather, so “loloan” would mean a place where grandfathers congregate. The teacher got a very red face and broke out laughing!
What was so funny?
Well, “lolo” does mean grandfather. However, my friend pronounced “lolo” in a slightly different way, he put a hard stop on the second “O”, which technically is called a “glotal stop“. By making the second O in the word end quickly, it changed the meaning of the word. “Lolo” with a hard stop at the end means to masturbate. So, a “loloan” is a place to… well, you get the meaning….
What a laugh we had that day, and the teacher got a real kick out of it. Totally unexpected!
So, if you try speaking Bisaya or Tagalog to impress friends or family, it can be quite important to make sure you are pronouncing the words correctly. If you don’t, you might be saying something completely different than you thought!