Amazing insight by Rav Yaakov Emden about proper pronunciation in today's Hakhel Email. I think everyone can do this in baby steps on one's own level. We may not know we are pronouncing things wrong but there are siddurim and machzorim with footnotes that point out specific places where it's important to pause and pronounce certain sounds a certain way so it pays to look out for these.
Special Note Five: Many of us are attempting to recite the Bracha of 'VeLirushalayim Ircha' over this Three Week period with extra zeal and feeling--knowing that Hashem Who destroyed his House with heavenly fire will build it once again with that very same heavenly fire (as we recite in the Nachem prayer on Tisha B'Av)--and that there may be no more appropriate time to rebuild it than the time it had previously been destroyed. One of our readers pointed out to us that we should be careful to recite the word VeLirushalayim properly. Because there are no nekudos under the first Yud in the word, the Yud is not pronounced at all--and it is as if the Yud is not there for pronunciation purposes--so that we say VeLirushalayim--and not VeLiYerushalayim. Indeed, there are two more examples of this--where the Yud is not pronounced because there are no nekudos associated with it -- in the very next bracha of Es Tzemach--with the words BiShuasecha (and not BiYeshuasecha), and Lishuasecha (and not LiYeshuasecha).
Additional Note: The reader also pointed to another word which some may read incorrectly. Towards the conclusion of Pesukai Dezimra, at the end of VaYosha and immediately prior to reciting Az Yashir, we recite 'VaYire'u Ha'Am Es Hashem--and the people feared Hashem'. If we misread the word as 'VaYiru'--without pronouncing the sheva na under the Raish--then the word and phrase take on a wholly different and untrue meaning --for we are saying not that the people 'feared' Hashem--but that they 'saw' Hashem--which is not only not true--but, of course, impossible! It is important to note that HaRav Yaakov Emden, z'tl, in his Siddur Bais Yaakov writes that a primary cause for this drawn out galus is our lack of care with Lashon HaKodesh. We have to show ourselves at least desirous of meeting the loftier heights of Moshiach's times--by making at least some effort to properly speak our holy language. One very special place we can accomplish this is in our Tefillos, where we speak to our Master--hopefully in a language that He wants to hear!
Second Additional Note: Speaking Lashon Hakodesh is an elevating experience, for we are speaking the language that the Malachim speak, the language that the Torah was given in, the language that has so much Divinely inspired depth that a key punishment of the Dor Haflaga was to lose this great language (which essentially became the subsequent equivalent to the earth-changing Mabul for the Dor Hamabul in the very same Parsha). K'lal Yisroel is now the only scion of this great legacy of the Holy Tongue. When we see people of other religions with parts of the Torah in book form, it is typically in English, or Spanish or French, losing the power and potency, and indeed to such a great extent, the true meaning, of the Holy Words themselves. We should be careful to pay proper regard to this priceless heritage, and strive to improve our pronunciation and dikduk. Even if it may take some effort and care--would a queen not wear her crown jewels simply because they are too heavy--or would she remind everyone (and herself) that she was the queen--every time she put them on?! We need only note that Chazal teach that the trop itself (Ta'amei HaMikra)in which the Torah is read and pronounced was given to Moshe Rabbeinu as part of Kabbalas HaTorah, and the numerous occasions in which Rashi in Chumash derives and explains Pesukim in the Torah based on the rules of Lashon HaKodesh. Let us show the effort while davening and learning to properly pronounce the Holy Tongue--with the hope that in the zechus of our sincere effort we will merit Lashon HaKodesh in its pristine form--in a VeLirushalayim Ircha that we so desperately need, and for which we so long and strive.