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ELT article published by Prof. Jonathan Acua at http://reflective-online-teaching.blogspot.

com/

Common Phonemic Difficulties for German Native Speakers


Part 3: Dealing with Native German Students [Phonotactics]
As it has been pointed out on our first two posts on phonotactics
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English has a unique sound distribution that may or may not be similar to that of the German language, or any other tongue on this planet. The phonotactic distribution of German does overlap with some areas of the English vowel and consonant sound distribution, yet there are areas that dont overlap at all- with English. Those areas are the ones that need to be polished by the German student. This new account on English phonotactics intends to help EFL/ESL instructors dealing with German native speakers learning English to overcome five of the most common mistakes they make: 1) Problems with voicing at the end of words, 2) the /v/ and /w/ sounds, 3) the TH in

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Acua, J (2013) Phonotactics and English Language Learning (ELL) 2 Acua, J (2013) Phonotactics and English Language Learning (ELL)

ELT article published by Prof. Jonathan Acua at http://reflective-online-teaching.blogspot.com/

English, 4) Confusion of // and //, and 5) The /ow/ vs. // vowel sounds. One of the first phonotactic differences ELT instructors spot when working with German learners is the lack of appropriate voicing in words ending with voiced consonants such as the /v/-sound.

Word
live knives
Sample words / Prof. Jonathan Acuas docx.

English Pronunciation
/layv/ /nayvz/

Common Mistake
/layf/ /nayfs/

Its imperative that the German learners get to practice with different contrastive words including sister sounds voiced and voiceless counterparts-. This way will be a great exercise to self-train their ears to listen to the sound difference and speech apparatus to actually produce the sounds accurately.

Sample Drilling Exercise


/f/ /k/ /t/ /t/ /s/ /p/ vs. vs. vs. vs. vs. vs. /v/ /g/ /d/ // /z/ /b/ safe pick bet batch face rope save pig bed badge phase robe

Exercises for German Students / Prof. Jonathan Acuas docx

ELT article published by Prof. Jonathan Acua at http://reflective-online-teaching.blogspot.com/

Probably, the most noticeable pronunciation mistake an EFL/ESL instructor is bound to detect when working with native German students is the way they pronounce the letter w-. In German the W is pronounced as a /v/sound. This is just a language transfer they make from their mother tongue to English. Thats why the learner, with the help of his/her instructor, must be alert to counterattack this problem. And once more, constant drilling can be of great help for the student.

Sample Drilling Exercise for /w/


went wine wary well will west
Exercises for German Students / Prof. Jonathan Acuas docx

vs. vs. vs. vs. vs. vs.

vent fine ferry fell fill fest

The Consonants of English and German (Knig and Gast 2007: 14)

ELT article published by Prof. Jonathan Acua at http://reflective-online-teaching.blogspot.com/

Another common pronunciation habit carried into English because of the Germans phonotactics is the TH. As Bastug (2011) points out, the TH sounds dont have a counterpart in German. [Also see Knig and Gast (2007)] And as Mojsin (2009) suggests in her book, some Germans speakers may substitute /t/ or /d/ for TH. For these reasons, the student must work on learning how to pronounce these sounds correctly to continue to work on their accent reduction.

Typical Mistake
tank dose mudder
Taken from Mojsin (2009, page 147)

Should be
thank those mother

Confusing // and // is also another challenge for the German student. The instructor has to work with him/her on how the mouth is shaped and how much it is open to model the sound and have him/her produce the vowel sound right.

Sample words to practice //


sand salary bat dad mat fans
Exercises for German Students / Prof. Jonathan Acuas docx

send celery bet dead met fence

ELT article published by Prof. Jonathan Acua at http://reflective-online-teaching.blogspot.com/

Finally, another challenge for the German English learner is to accurately produce the /ow/ sound, which is usually substituted by an // sound. No doubt that working on sound production and recognition needs to be stressed to guarantee that both sounds are not confused. Preparing some pronunciation cards with contrastive words can help the student constantly practice the correct pronunciation for these vowel sounds.

Sample Pronunciation Card for /ow/


/ow/ low boat coat woke
Exercises for German Students / Prof. Jonathan Acuas docx

vs. vs. vs. vs. vs.

// law bought caught walk

To sum up, making students aware of the phonotactic or phonemic differences and similarities can be of great help to have them avoid their transfer of pronunciation habits in their mother tongue. Knowing some of these phonetic differences on the instructors side can also help them better plan for their classes.

ELT article published by Prof. Jonathan Acua at http://reflective-online-teaching.blogspot.com/

To fully develop and comprehend this teaching issue, its advisable to research and expand these areas: 1 2 3 4 5 Phonotactic rules in German Common pronunciation mistakes by German students The /r/ sound The lax i The lax u Professor Jonathan Acua-Solano ELT Instructor & Trainer based in Costa Rica Curricular Developer at CCCN Senior ELT Professor at Universidad Latina Freelance ELT Consultant four OUP in Central America For further comments or suggestions, reach me at: @jonacuso Twitter jonacuso@gmail.com Gmail Other blogs and sites I often write for my students at the university are: 1. http://bin-02.blogspot.com/ 3. http://bin-06.blogspot.com/ 2. http://bin-04.blogspot.com/ 4. Computering Applications in Education

ELT article published by Prof. Jonathan Acua at http://reflective-online-teaching.blogspot.com/

Bastug, N. (2011), A Contrastive Analysis of the English and the German Sound System, Munich, GRIN Publishing GmbH, http://www.grin.com/en/e-book/195175/a-contrastive-analysis-of-theenglish-and-the-german-sound-system Knig & Gast (2007) The Consonants of English and German http://www.grin.com/en/e-book/195175/a-contrastive-analysis-of-theenglish-and-the-german-sound-system Mojsin, L (2009) Mastering the American Accent. LA: Barrons