A python is not just a rather dangerous looking animal. It also gave the name to a very powerful and popular programming language — Python. Having heard different people pronounce Python in different ways, I decided to look up its pronunciation. This is what I found.
In British English, Python is pronounced as [ˈpaɪθən], whereas in American English it is pronounced as [ˈpaɪθɑːn]. Clearly, the o is pronounced very differently, and explains what I had been hearing. You can listen to both variants here.
If English is not your native language, make sure you pronounce the th correctly (at least when speaking English), as explained previously.
Given the recent political developments in Europe, the word refugee is now used much more often by non-native speakers. Because most of them are not aware of the correct pronunciation, let me mention it here.
The most obvious mistake is to stress the word on the first syllable. Instead, refugee is stressed on the last syllable, as apparent from the phonetic spelling (‘ indicates stress)
You can also clearly hear the stress on the last syllable here. (In the case of German speakers, putting the stress on the first syllable may be a classified as a pronunciation false friend related to the German word Flüchtling.)
Minor but also quite common mistakes are the pronunciation of the letter g as [tʃ] instead of [dʃ] (compare China and John), and the short pronunciation of the -ee ending (the : in i: indicates a long pronunciation).
German (and very likely other) speakers sometimes use the phrase “at best” incorrectly, and have no idea how big a blunder that is. The problem is that “at best” has the meaning of the best thing in a bad situation, and therefore has to be used with care. For example,
I’m at best qualified for the job.
suggests that you are not sure you are suitable for the job, that you think that you may be suitable, and that there are certainly people who are better qualified than you are. If you want to express that you are the best person for the job, you should say, e.g.,
I’m the best candidate for job.
I’m the best qualified candidate for the job.
The origin of the incorrect use of “at best” by German speakers is very likely the German expression “am besten”, which expresses that somebody or something is the best in a certain situation or context.
While reading an article about BMW’s Harald Krũger, who apparently fainted on stage at the Frankfurt Auto show but is OK, I noticed that BMW cited “circulation problems” as the cause. The term is a translation of the German expression Kreislaufprobleme. However, circulation problems in English refer to a serious and often lethal condition caused by blood clots. In contrast, Kreislaufprobleme is a German expression for various forms of not feeling well. According to the discussion here, it may be thought of as the German version of the British “back problems”, often invoked in order to have a reason not to attend an unpleasant activity (work, family affairs). The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Germans has this to say (the quote is also mentioned in the hilarious discussion here):
[…] the Germans devote enormous resources to the treatment of an illness that doesn’t exist, the notorious Kreislaufstörung. While the rest of us go to meet our maker once our circulation stops, the Germans routinely recover from it and go on to lead useful and productive lives. […]
In today’s business-driven world, many people are using the word corporate, even in non-English speaking countries. Whether you are talking about corporate design, corporate identity or something else, let me inform you about the correct pronunciation of corporate.
According to the OED, the correct pronunciation is either [ˈkɔːpərət] (British English) or [ˈkɔːrpərət] (American English). You can listen to both variants here. A fairly common alternative pronunciation is [ˈkɔː(r)pərɪt], with the ending pronounced like the word it. Finally, a common incorrect variant often used by nonnative speakers is [ˈkɔː(r)pəreɪt], that is, with the “-rate” part of corporate pronounced just like the word rate.
A while ago, while watching Downton Abbey, I noticed that the name Alfred can be tricky to pronounce for non-native speakers. In particular, I remembered where I had heard it being pronounced differently — on TV. I’m not afraid to admit that I used to quite enjoy watching the TV series Batman while growing up. In the dubbed German version on Austrian television, Alfred was pronounced as [‘ɔːlfred] (with the first syllable pronounced like the word all). The proper English pronunciation is [‘ælfrid] (less common is [‘ælfrəd]), according to the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. You can hear the English pronunciation here, and the non-English pronunciation here (around the 40s mark; if you understand German, you will wonder why this series was ever on TV). Finally, the strange German pronunciation of Alfred also creeps up whenever people talk about Alfred Hitchcock, as in this example (he got it right the first time, but not the second time).
I have noticed that the word broad is quite often pronounced in the wrong way by nonnative speakers. Therefore, let me discuss the different correct and incorrect variants. Let us consider the correct pronunciation first. In BrE, we have [brɔːd], while in AmE it is [braːd] (listen here). Even though the OED gives the same phonetic spelling for BrE and AmE, see here, the sounds are quite different. This difference is captured by [braːd], as listed in the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary.
Interestingly, quite a number of people pronounce broad incorrectly, namely such that it rhymes with road. This mistake seems quite understandable, because road and broad have similar spelling. Nevertheless, the pronunciation of the oa is quite different in broad and road. This difference is obvious from the phonetic spelling, which is [rəʊd] for BrE, and [roʊd] for AmE. Listen to both versions here and compare the pronunciation to that of broad here.