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I moved (because of work) in a non-English speaking country, where pronunciation of English words / sounds can be a problem sometimes. I try to help them improve, since my level of English is much better (not native) than theirs.

One situation is regarding the words in the title.

The following sentences sound exactly the same when they speak:

  • I walked yesterday.

  • I worked yesterday.

So in these situations, I invariably have to ask for clarifications.

What I "trained" them to do is to keep the pronunciation for "walk" unchanged (similar to u-o-k), and to add a "faint" (20%..40%) "r" in "work" (similar to u-o-r-k).

Do you have a better idea? I usually have no problem in understanding the difference between the two when they are used by a native speaker.


Slightly different question for the same problem: is it very wrong to introduce that partial "r" (for the sake of disambiguation), even though in the text-book rule there is no "r"?

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"walked" is a similar vowel sound to "wore" I wore clothes yesterday I walked yesterday

"worked" is a similar vowel sound to "were" (wur)* in Standard British English We were workers yesterday.

Try We were workers We wore walkers

(* in Scottish English were, wear, air and where may be the same vowel sound.)

You can hear the difference if you paste

We were workers We wore walkers

into translate.google.com and click on the speaker icon so it reads it to you

  • You almost got me lost there :) I need something a lot more basic than that. As non-English speakers, we may not even get the US-British differences right, but Scottish English?! – virolino Mar 4 at 12:23
  • In American English, the vowel sound in "walk" is similar to the vowel sound in "aw" or "awe". Thus, "walk rhymes with "awk" or "auk". Whereas "wore" sounds like "war", and rhymes with "or". – Jasper Mar 4 at 22:20

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