Do you ever worry about making mistakes in a job interview?
Juan was working in a call center serving a Canadian telecom company. He worked very hard to get his voice to be clear and accurate in English. However, Juan tried to tell the client that she was ‘Eligible’ (had earned the right) for an upgrade to her services at no extra cost. However, the sounds he said were that she was ‘ilLEgible’ for the service (writing that is unreadable). The woman kindly explained the mistake and how to correct it. Juan was freed from making that mistake ever again!
An immigrant or someone who has learned English in school in a country that speaks a non-English language might miss this little mistake. A Canadian-born person will pick it up like a big red flower in a white bouquet. Often, the mistake is in the rhythm and can be easily corrected using these few hints.
The words eligible and illegible look and sound 90% the same but the rhythms are different.
Dictionaries show a tiny apostrophe before the stressed syllable as shown here between the / /. ‘Eligible /ˈeləjəb(ə)l/ and il ‘LEgible /i(l)ˈlejəb(ə)l. The tiny apostrophe shows the longer, louder syllable that indicates this difference between Eligible and Illegible.
Here are two Rules that will help you say-it-right!
- Look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary before you speak! Where is that little apostrophe? Notice how that longer syllable changes the sound of the words.
- You can’t be too slow on the stressed syllable, only too fast. Stretch it out!