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Say you are working in an office where English is not a native language for people but some English terms are used very often (e.g. an IT department). And your boss always pronounces English terms incorrectly.

The question. Is it appropriate to pronounce the terms correctly when speaking to the boss or one should use his wrong pronunciation for any reasons.

It seems to me a bit uncomfortable to use the fixed pronunciation just after his incorrect wording (right in the next sentence). He may find this offensive I think. He may think that I'm either too dumb to remember how it's pronounced after one second after his saying or I'm trying to teach him.

P.S. Trying to tell him how it's pronounced correctly is not an option. Please avoid this advice. Thank you.

  • 15
    Are you absolutely sure your pronunciation is correct? – Kent A. Oct 31 '15 at 18:13
  • What is the harm in using terms he understands even if it is the wrong term? If you cannot correct your manager then you have a manager you need to manage. – paparazzo Oct 31 '15 at 18:13
  • I edited your title to make it a little more descriptive of the situation. If you think I misrepresented your question, please feel free to edit it. – Kent A. Oct 31 '15 at 18:23
  • Why do you think your pronunciation is correct? Are you speaking in English or in another language? If it's the only way to designate something in the local language, it makes more sense to regard English-sounding words or words originating in English as loanwords than anything else. – Relaxed Nov 2 '15 at 9:27
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    @Relaxed I've watched interviews of the technology creators and authors in which they were asked how they should be pronounced. Many official web sites explicitly state how the term should be pronounced. So that is how I know how the term should be pronounced. – Kolyunya Nov 2 '15 at 23:39
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As long as you are not gratuitously using the words, you should always aim at correct pronunciation. Knowingly imitating an incorrect pronunciation is dishonorable and groveling behavior. Correct behavior is to pronounce words correctly and ignore other people who may be pronouncing the word incorrectly.

The only thing to avoid would be unnecessarily using a word you know to be pronounced incorrectly by someone else. Repeatedly or unnecessarily speaking such a word could be construed as an attempt to humiliate the other person. Therefore, you should only use the word when absolutely necessary and avoid using such a word needlessly.

16

First and foremost, you don't need to correct every mistake. Focusing on his pronunciation is likely causing you to miss some of the message he is trying to communicate to you.

If your manager interacts with other English-speaking professionals, you would be doing him a favor by helping him learn to pronounce things correctly. Pronounce things correctly yourself, even if he just pronounced it incorrectly in the previous sentence. It will be subtle, but over time it might work. Of course, you need to be absolutely sure your pronunciation is correct, too.

If your boss thinks he's right and you're not, your response might be something along the lines of, "Oh? I've always pronounced it this way. Let me go check it out and see if I've been doing it wrong." Then you can double check and let him know what you found.

In the end, it's not the end of the world to mispronounce things, except when the mistake could lead to an entirely different understanding of the speaker's message. In that case, it's good to repeat back what you heard, so he knows you got his message.

7

It's less important how he pronounces it then it is that you understand him. Lots of people have lots of different accents. There is no reason I can think of for a person to mispronounce on purpose.

So I would just pronounce the word/s correctly as I know them. I live in a country where my accent is very different, over time my accent has changed a bit, but it wasn't a conscious change, just the natural one that comes from your environment. In any case it has never really impacted on my ability to communicate in English which is the norm for technical discussions.

If I tried to imitate their accents when talking to them, they would probably think I'm trying to be funny. As far as which pronunciation is correct, mine is in most places. But in their country theirs is, so it's relative to the situation. The important thing is we're mutually intelligible. The native language here does not have all the same sounds as English, so for them to pronounce my way would be very difficult for some. Much as I will always speak their language with an accent.

7

This answer becomes trivial if you stop thinking of him pronouncing it wrongly and instead that he is pronouncing it in his accent which doesn't have to be the same as yours.

I have Australian friends who say "dahta" and "dahtabayse" while I say "dayta" and "daytabase". I don't adjust my pronunciation to match theirs. They don't take my pronunciation as a correction to them. And there are plenty of opinions about how to say GIF, SQL, etc -- tech terms don't always have single pronunciations.

You worry that if he says "do we have the dahta?" and you say "yes, we have tons of dayta" that he'll feel rebuked. Why should he? Different doesn't mean wrong. If you feel funny, take refuge in pronouns (eg it, them) or substitutes (the language, the framework, the platform, the library.) If it's been that recent since your boss said the word, it's available as an easy referent using these sorts of words.

The only reason to change your own pronunciation is if everyone on your team and in your area says it differently than you (and the inventors, and possibly the majority of the internet) and you are starting to feel bad, not as someone correcting others, but as someone who isn't acting according to the norms of your group. You haven't provided any examples so it's hard to know if that needs to happen in your case.

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I'm going to answer this question as the person who mispronounces words. I'm a native English speaker but have started picking up French late in life. I can follow a conversation and speak short sentences. I slaughter the pronunciation of words; a native or fluent speaker can understand me though.

I personally prefer if native French speakers use proper pronunciation around me. Foremost because I couldn't understand them if they used my own mispronunciation. A secondary reason is maybe, through some odd osmosis or asking outright, I'll pick up the correct pronunciation over time.

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