How To Stop Stumbling on Words When Speaking English? 4 Useful Tips

Ellison Claptonreviewed byIryna Andrus / more about Editorial Process9 min
Created: March 3rd, 2023Last updated: July 5th, 2023
Speaking

English is a rich and fascinating language, but students often encounter numerous challenges and difficulties in their early learning stages. It is entirely normal, particularly if it is not your first language. While some may struggle with grammar rules, others may frequently mix up words when speaking. The purpose of this article is to address this particular issue. Today, you will discover the primary reasons for stumbling over English words and learn practical tips to overcome this common problem.

Main Reasons That Make You Stumble On Words 

The first thing you should do to stop mixing up English words is analyze the problem and find the reason why it occurs. Sometimes, of course, it can be just a lack of practice. However, if you have an intermediate or upper-intermediate fluency level but still stumble over words, there can be another explanation. Here are some reasons that can make you mix up even simple terms:

  1. Anxiety. If you are afraid of public speaking or speaking English in general, you can feel nervous during casual conversations. As a result, you can start stumbling on words or even forgetting the main point of the dialogue. 
  2. Complex words and tongue twistersThe English language contains dozens of difficult-to-pronounce terms and expressions. So if you don’t know how to say some words or sounds, you can stumble over it during a casual conversation. Plus, some word combinations might sound like tongue-twisters  
  3. Pronunciation differences. We’ve already told you that English consists of numerous borrowed words. And although they look similar, their pronunciation can vary. You might have the same word in your mother tongue, but it will differ from its English pronunciation. As a result, you can unintentionally mix two ways of saying this term (your native one and the English one) and start stumbling over it. 
  4. Distractions. When you are not yet confident in your speaking skills and are not multitasking, you can easily mix up words and phrases during conversations because of different distractions. 

Here are the most common reasons that explain such difficulties. So if you still ask yourself, “why do I stumble over my words?”, maybe you will recognize yourself in one of these examples. But you don’t have to worry! With enough practice and exercise, you will easily overcome this problem. And we will be happy to help you achieve this goal. 

The Most Commonly Mispronounced Words and Phrases

One of the reasons we’ve mentioned above explains mixing up words by facing difficult-to-pronounce terms and tongue-twisters. We’ve decided to pay special attention to this topic since it can cause many funny mistakes. So, if you want to know how to not stumble over words, browse through this list and see if any of these terms and phrases can confuse you. 

  • Squirrel. This simple (at first glance) word has two syllables, and the first one begins with the “skw” consonant cluster, which requires the speaker to transition quickly from an “s” sound to a “kw” sound. It can be challenging, especially for those unfamiliar with pronouncing this particular combination of sounds.
  • Rural. This word ​​also has two syllables and is challenging because it contains the “r” and “l” sounds in quick succession. They are produced in similar parts of the mouth, making it difficult to distinguish them clearly when speaking quickly.
  • Worcestershire. Sometimes even native speakers don’t know how to pronounce this word. Hence, there is no surprise that English learners can stumble over it during a casual conversation. 
  • She sells seashells by the seashore. It is a very widespread English tongue twister, and even though it looks easy, it is relatively hard to say it out loud without stumbling and mixing up letters. 
  • Unique New York. It is another famous tongue twister that can be a big problem for an unprepared person. A combination of the letters in this simple expression looks easy when you read it, but when you say it for the first time, you might easily stumble over it.

Now you know a few words and expressions that can boost your vocabulary and prepare you for unusual situations. But if you still ask yourself, why am I suddenly stumbling over my words, and what can I do about it, keep reading. Below, you will find the best tricks and exercises you can do to practice pronunciation, get rid of public-speaking anxiety, and become more confident in your English skills.

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Tips and Exercises to Avoid Stumbling Over Words When Speaking English

Many reasons can explain unexpected stumbling and mixing up words during casual dialogues. Luckily, many tips and exercises can help you minimize these issues. Hence, if you know the answer to the eternal question, why do I stumble over words in conversation, read the advice below to find the solution.

Tongue Twisters and Pronunciation Exercises

The lack of pronunciation practice is the most widespread reason for stumbling over words. You can be great at reading and listening, but you can stammer out the easiest terms if you don’t speak English regularly. You can start practicing alone to avoid such unpleasant situations in conversations with real people. Here are some of the best exercises to help you master pronunciation and eliminate mixing up words and sounds. 

Tongue twisters are tricky to pronounce when you are not ready for them. But if you practice saying them for some time, you will be surprised by the results:

  1. Find out what words are difficult for you to say.
  2. Determine the combination of sounds that cause problems.
  3. Find some tongue twisters with such sounds and start practicing them.

For example, if you struggle with consonant enunciation, try the famous tongue twister “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” It is a great exercise to practice the p sound. Another popular expression will be helpful for those who face difficulties with the sounds “ch,” “w” and “ood.” Try to say it aloud: how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Minimal pairs are another excellent example of simple words that can cause stumbling and mixing up. These are the terms that differ in only one feature, for example, “ship” and “sheep” or “pan” and “pen.” Try to say these words out loud and find out the main differences in pronunciation. It will help you avoid stumbling and making common mistakes

To do this exercise, choose the pair of words you will practice. Then, sit in front of the mirror – it will help you see your mouth muscles’ movement. Start with simple one-syllable words, like bet and bat. Pronounce these terms a few times and try to hear the slight difference between them. You can also ask your English-speaking friend to record themselves saying such words to understand the pronunciation better.

Word Association Exercises

In some cases, you can have perfect pronunciation and speak English fluently but still think, why do I mix up my words? Well, maybe it is not about you! Some English words can be challenging to remember for many reasons – repeating consonants, different spelling and pronunciation, etc. So to avoid mixing them up, you need to create some associations that will help you remember such terms easily and never stumble over them again. 

For example, let’s see the word “queue.” Its pronunciation doesn’t make any sense, right? Why do we need all these letters if we say only one of them out loud? To stop stumbling over this word, try to associate it with the letter “q.” Imagine it every time you need to use this term in a conversation, and you will never mix it up again. 

Omitting Sounds and Letters

Sometimes, you can simplify your life and skip difficult-to-pronounce sounds and letters to avoid stumbling over words. Of course, we are not telling you to say “word” instead of “world” because that can cause many misunderstandings. But it would not harm to omit a letter or two when it comes to terms and expressions with different repetitive consonant sounds. 

Consider ways to simplify a word or phrase the next time you notice it is difficult to pronounce. You can hear plenty of native speakers doing it regularly. For example, they will say “whataya doin’” instead of “what are you doing?” or “paticulaly” instead of “particularly.” Try to do it yourself, and you will never ask, “why am I stumbling over my words?” because you won’t!

Breathing and Relaxation Techniques

Finally, we’ve got to the last reason for mixing up words. If you are good at pronunciation but still can’t handle the conversation without stumbling, you may be anxious and nervous something. In this case, you don’t have to learn how to pronounce certain words. Instead, you need to find ways to calm down during the conversation. 

The first thing you can do is take deep breaths from your diaphragm. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth – it is a perfect way to relax. After that, tense and relax each muscle group in your body, starting from your toes and working your way up to your head. It can help release tension and promote calmness. Such simple actions and exercises are powerful and can help you reduce your anxiety and feel confident during a conversation.

How to Stop Stumbling Over Words? Promova Can Help!

Many exercises can help you stop mixing up words when speaking. Of course, you can practice them alone and be satisfied with the results. But if you think you might need professional help, say no more! We know the perfect solution for you. We are happy to recommend you Promova – an international language-learning platform available for students from all over the world.

Here you can find many studying options and choose the one that suits you best. For example, if you want to practice with professional tutors, you can join personal and group lessons. Then, all you need to do is to pass a quick fluency test to determine your English level and start studying immediately. 

Another great option is the Promova free Conversation Club, where you can practice speaking on various topics with students from different countries. And if you still would like to learn English alone, you can install a convenient Promova application or find tons of valuable materials on our blog. There are numerous options, and it’s up to you to select the perfect one. Visit the official Promova website and start your fascinating studying journey right away!

Conclusion

Why do I mix up words when I speak? This question bothers more people than you can imagine. If you Google it, you will find countless medical diagnoses that explain the reasons. But don’t worry. You are completely fine! Stumbling over words is normal, and even native speakers face it occasionally. After reading our article, we hope you will determine the reasons and find out how to fix them. And that’s all for today. Write the most confusing English words you’ve ever faced during the conversation in the comments section. And maybe we will share ours! 

FAQ

What is the difference between a stutter and a stammer?

Although we often use these two terms interchangeably, they have a slight difference. A stutter describes a speech disorder when the flow of one’s speech is interrupted by repetitions or blocks of the sounds. Different developmental and neurologic factors can cause this disorder. A stammer, on the other hand, mainly refers to the speech problems typical for people who are not fluent in a foreign language. It includes frequent pauses, hesitating between words and sounds, etc. 


 

What are the three types of stuttering?

The three types of stuttering are developmental, neurogenic, and psychogenic. The first one is the most widespread and mostly begins in early childhood. Brain traumas and diseases like stroke or Parkinson’s usually cause neurogenic stuttering. The last type, psychogenic stuttering, is mainly the result of stress, anxiety, or psychological trauma.


 

Does stuttering get worse with age?

It depends on several factors. For many people who face this issue, stuttering remains stable throughout their lives. In some cases, they can almost get rid of their stuttering with the help of professionals. But sometimes, unfortunately, it can get worse with age, especially if a stuttering person doesn’t receive proper treatment. 


 

Will stumbling over words decrease my score during an English test?

Yes, stumbling over words may affect your results, but only sometimes. For example, some tests evaluate your fluency and speaking skills. Therefore, if you stumble over simple words during such an examination, it can impact your score. However, many exams evaluate a wide range of skills besides fluency, so it may not be a critical factor for the final decision. But if you ask yourself, why do I always mix up my words, we recommend you practice more before the test. It will help you feel more confident and receive better results.


 

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