By Akeem Lasisi
One of the most widely mispronounced words in English is ‘access’. To many people, it is just ASSESS, meaning that they pronounce it with the same speech sounds they do ‘assess’, as in assessment. The word thus suffers the same fate as accept, except and excess – usually misarticulated as asept, esept and eses.
There are two syllables in ‘access’ but the first often suffers the indicated injury. The syllabic formation is not A-CCESS. Rather, it is AC-CESS (/aksɛs/). Unfortunately, it is the former that a lot of people display when expressing the term. They say A-SES instead of AK-SES. Please note this and adjust accordingly if you are among those affected.
In the same vein, there is the K in accept, except, excess, inspect, respect etc. So, their pronunciations are AK-SEPT, EK-SEPT, EK-SES, IN-SPEKT, RE-SPEKT respectively. This also means that, in referring to the popular bank, Access Bank, it is wrong to say ASES Bank. It should be AKSES Bank.
For Zenith Bank, many of us also have to learn to do better in pronouncing the first word. What one hears often is ze-niT. But is T the best transcription of ‘th’? No! The sound expected there is TH (/θ/). To pronounce T, you let the front of the tongue contact the upper front teeth. But for TH, the tip of the tongue tries to come in-between the upper and the lower front teeth. Try both pronunciations, with the aid of a mirror, or with another person as your mirror, to master the difference. So, Zenith Bank should be beautifully pronounced as it sounds: ZeniTH Bank, not ZeniT Bank.
Other words you should watch in this wise include with, wealth, health, strength, throw, think and thank. They should not be pronounced as wiT, wealT, healT, strengT, Trow, Tink, and Tank. They should sound as wiTH, wealTH, healTH, strengTH, THrow, THink and THank.
And what about ‘first’? The problem most of us have with it is that we do not realise that ‘ir’, especially when it appears in the middle or end of many words, should not sound as OR, AR or E. It has its own distinct phonological identity. For instance, ‘girl’ is not to be pronounced as gEl, just as it is wrong to say shEt or shARt when you mean ‘shirt’. Unfortunately, this is the fate that the words often suffer, and this is the cross that we make ‘first’ to carry whenever we are pronouncing ‘First Bank’ too.
The closest correct sound to the IR you have in the word is like ERR, while the actual transcription is /ɜ:/. So, ‘first’ is like fERRst, not fOst and not fEst. We thus have FERRst Bank, not fOst Bank, and not fEst Bank.
I hope all of us can pronounce the names of the big banks better next time. Did I hear someone ask if that would add to the money in their accounts? I am not sure, really; but it will not reduce it. Besides, since communication is everything, better grammar, richer vocabulary and fluid elocution can directly and indirectly boost your status and earnings!
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