10 English Words Even Native Speakers Find Difficult to Pronounce

You might think that all native English speakers have no trouble with their pronunciation, but you would be wrong.

You shouldn’t feel guilty about your pronunciation of English words; I know one IELTS examiner who finds it difficult to even say the word ‘pronunciation’!

A hugely popular Reddit thread asked people to list the words they find most difficult to pronounce.

Thousands of people responded and below are their Top 10.

If you want to hear these words pronounced by a native speaker just head over to howjsay.com and type them in.

10- Rural



Germans find this one particularly difficult to pronounce because of the /r/ and /l/ combination and it looks like some English speakers have the same problem.

It is particularly difficult to say when combined with other words containing the same sounds, such as ‘rural jewelry’ or ‘rural jury’.


something that exists and can be seen, felt, tasted, etc., especially something unusual or interesting

A phenomenon is something that exists and can be seen, felt, tasted, etc., especially something unusual or interesting.

The sheer numbers of consonants and having /n/ and /m/ sounds one after the other trips people up here.

8- Colonel


A colonel is a high ranking army officer.

It’s words like this that make me feel sorry for anyone trying to learn English. It is not a phonetic language, which means lots of words look completely different to how they sound.

7- Penguin

My personal favourite because I have ‘mispronounced’ this word my whole life as ‘Pengwen’ and I also normally stress the second syllable. Don’t ask me why, we native speakers all have a few words we mess up.

I am in good company though; here’s Benedict Cumberbatch with his own personal version of penguin:

6- Sixth

My Vietnamese students will have some sympathy for people who can’t say this words correctly. Having to put your tongue up at the roof of your mouth to make the /k/ sound and then back down between your teeth for the /th/ ending is a bit of a tongue twister.

Try saying this- The sixth sick sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick.

5- Isthmus


This is a small piece of land with water on each side that joins two bigger parts of land.

Most people sound like they have a speech impediment when attempting to say this word. The trick is to keep your tongue behind your teeth and say Is-muss.

4- Anemone


I had to look this one up in the dictionary myself. There are a few too many /n/ and /m/ sounds for my liking, so I’m going to avoid this one altogether in the future.

Here is Nemo having the same problems:

3- Squirrel


I’ve had a debate with a few friends over the years about whether this word has one syllable or two. Strictly speaking it has two, but I can never say it that way, and I wouldn’t want to either.

Apparently, this word is so difficult for Germans to say that the English used it as a test for anyone they suspected of being a Nazi spy during WWII.

2- Choir



Another word that proves English really is a silly language.

1- Worcestershire


If you ever want to hear an American mispronounce a word, just ask them to say this.

Leicester and Edinburgh fall under the same category.

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