Pronouncing numbers clearly is a critical skill for speaking on the telephone or electronically where listeners are relying solely on auditory input. Without the visual cues that accompany in person conversation, professionals must master English pronunciation patterns for numbers that make it easier to be understood and achieve the desired results.
Whether it be reporting vital medical data, financial or managerial information, buying and selling products, meeting deadlines, making appointments or collecting information, every professional uses numbers to deliver essential information.
Necessary information that numbers provide can be appreciated by anyone who has experienced confusion created by the miscommunication of numbers — a pharmaceutical error, a missed deadline, a poor decision based on incorrect financial data, the wrong contact information, a schedule upended.
The ability to communicate clearly particularly when numbers are concerned should motivate everyone to adhere to the following guidelines to master English pronunciation patterns for numbers.
1. Numbers stand out in a sentence
Within a sentence or phrase, numbers must be spoken with greater emphasis for speech clarity. In linguistic jargon, numbers are considered “content words” meaning they convey information at the heart of your message. This emphasis is in contrast to “function words” such as “and, or, but” that don’t provide meaning but string important content words together. Emphasis on numbers is delivered through the features of word stress: greater duration of the vowel sound (elongating the sound), using a higher pitch which in turn makes the sounds louder in comparison to others words in a sentence d enunciating the sounds clearly particularly the final sound. By employing these features, five sounds like fahahahahv and three sounds like thrrrreeee. The boldface text signifies word stress. “Based on current financial data, we project an increase of five (fahahahahv) percent this quarter.” To make sure numbers are comprehended, use these word stress or articulation patterns to make important numerical data stand out in a phrase or sentence.
To pronounce numbers one through thirteen clearly, pronounce the final sound in each word and incorporate word stress or melody as indicated below by an arrow. One syllables words glide down at the end:
One—whun↘ for /n/ place your tongue tip touching the bony ridge behind your front teeth.
Two—tuw↘ for /uw/ round your lips like a “cheerio.”
Three—threee↘ for /eee/ stretch your lips wide and thin.
Four—fawr↘ for /awr/ purse your lips and make then tight at the corners.
Five—fahv↘for the /v/ place your top teeth on your bottom lip let the air flow through.
Six— siks↘ for /s/ make sure not to drop the ending on this word.
Seven—↗sev-uhn for /v/ place your top teeth on your bottom lip and let the air flow through.
Eight—eyt↘ for /t/ place your tongue tip touching the bony ridge behind your front teeth.
Nine—nahyn↘ for /n/ place the tongue tip touching the bony ridge behind your front teeth.
Ten—ten↘ for /n/ place your tongue tip touching the bony ridge behind your front teeth.
Eleven—ih-lev-uhn for /v/ place your top teeth on your bottom lip and let the air flow through.
Twelve—twelv↘for /v/ place your top teeth on your bottom lip and let the air flow through.
Suggestion: Listen to trained broadcast voices on public television’s Nightly Business Report and pay attention to how numbers are emphasized. Then try to imitate them to master English pronunciation patterns for numbers.
2. Word stress with teens, tens, and compound numbers
Pronouncing numbers requires knowing where to place primary stress or emphasis. Words have articulatory patterns or melody (intonation) that make them easier to understand. When using numbers, pay attention to whether you are counting or making a statement. If you are counting using number thirteen to nineteen like ticking off the numbers of assigned seats on a plane, stress falls on the first syllable: thir-teen, four-teen, fif-teen, six-teen, sev-en-teen, eight-teen, nine-teen. But if you are making a statement with numbers thirteen to nineteen, the stress pattern falls on the last syllable: thir-teen, four-teen, fif-teen, six-teen, sev-en-teen, eigh-teen, nine-teen.
“Your flight departs from Gate 15 ( fif-teen).” Statement
“Fif-teen, six-teen, sev-en-teen, the remaining seats are unassigned. Counting
Tens: Using tens numbers for either stating or counting, stress the first syllable: twen-ty, thir-ty, four-ty, fif-ty, six-ty, sev-en-ty, eigh-ty, nine-ty.
When counting or stating compound numbers (tens+ number 1- 9) stress the second number as in twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine and so on…. for all tens compound numbers.
3. Time, money, measurement, and quantities
When stating numbers related to time, money and measurement, stress shifts to the noun that is described by the number. The number is still stressed, but more lightly stressed than the noun which receives primary stress.
“He arrived two hours late.”
“I spent twenty dollars for parking.”
“She ran three miles yesterday.”
“He needs to exchange fifty pesos.”
Numbers almost always convey critical data about the topic being discussed. If your responsibilities include communicating sensitive or timely quantitative information over the telephone or electronically, practice making numbers standout by using correct word stress and English pronunciation patterns for numbers. With practice and persistence, you will become proficient in communicating numbers confidently and clearly. And, even if your work does not involve telephone or electronic communication use these guidelines to make sure that important numerical information is clearly conveyed to your co-workers and staff.