Hobby and Happy: Not the Same

Depending on your pronunciation, words that are very different can become homophones.

Watch out for this. It can get you in trouble!

For example, speakers of Arabic often confuse hobby and happy because they tend to lose the puff of air native English speakers make when they say a /p/.

Hobby means a fun activity that you do to relax or to be more creative.

In contrast, happy means not sad.

You can imagine the confusion if a test question asked, Tell me about your hobby, and you told me about when you feel happy.

The first answer would be great, while the second would be marked down as it doesn’t answer the question.

My hobby is playing soccer. I play it three or four times a week with my friends in a park near my home. I have been playing for many years.

vs.

I feel happy when I get a good grade on a test. I am happy when my family is healthy. I’m also happy when I spend time alone in nature.

How can you reduce or avoid this confusion?

  1. Learn which sounds are tricky in your language vs. the target language. This may be vowels (like sit/seat). It may be consonants (west / vest).
  2. If possible, ask a native speaker to pronounce / spell words you aren’t sure of.
  3. Look at the sentence–context/grammar–to clarify which word is meant. For example, in the test question above, the question would need to be re-written if the word was happy: Tell me about when you feel happy. Tell me about what makes you happy.

Good Luck!

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