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Submitted by:

Daisy D. Santisas


Submitted to:

Gwen Maria Severro

September 30,2008


S.Y. 2009-2010
First impressions
Pronunciation is definitely the biggest thing that people notice when

you are speaking English.

When you meet a person, and you just say a sentence or two, do

you think they will notice your poor vocabulary or bad grammar?

Probably not. But they will notice if your pronunciation is good or

bad. If your pronunciation is poor, they will immediately think about

you as "the guy/girl who speaks bad English". Your pronunciation

creates the first impression you make.

Good pronunciation should be one of the first things that you learn

in English. You can live without advanced vocabulary — you can use

simple words to say what you want to say. You can live without

advanced grammar — you can use simple grammar structures

instead. But there is no such thing as "simple pronunciation". If you

don't have good pronunciation, you have... bad pronunciation.

And the results of bad pronunciation are tragic. Even if you use

great vocabulary and grammar, people may simply not understand

what you want to say.

For example, if you pronounce sleep like this, and not like that, or if

you pronounce ghost like this instead of this, native speakers will

have serious problems understanding you! In our opinion, you

should know how to say English sounds like the ee in sleep or the o

in ghost, before you even learn words like sleep and ghost.

Here is another anecdote about this. After coming back from a

vacation in the USA, a friend of Tom's said:

"Whenever I spoke to a person in America, they kept asking me

"What? What?". I would repeat my sentence again and again.

Finally they would say "Ah-ha!" and then say my sentence, using

exactly my words! It was very humiliating. I knew my words and

grammar were good, but nobody would understand me, just

because of my pronunciation. I am very motivated to learn English


Can you communicate in English?

Almost all English learners say "I don't need to study pronunciation.

I just want to communicate in English." Many of them think that

they can communicate in English because they can communicate

with their teacher and other students.

Do not make this mistake! You have to remember that:

• Your teacher has been listening to bad English for years. He

or she can understand it much more easily than the average


• Other students are usually from the same country as you.

Therefore, they speak English like you and they make the

same mistakes. So it is easy for them to understand you.

The only true test is: Go to America or Britain and try to talk to

"normal people" — a clerk at a supermarket, a bus driver, etc. If

they can understand you, then you can say that you can

communicate in English.

Unfortunately, many learners ignore pronunciation. They can

communicate in class, so they think that they are good enough.

After a few years they go to England or the USA and... nobody

understands what they are saying. Remember Tom's friend who

went on vacation to America and couldn't communicate? He was the

best student in his English class.

Michal wrote a short story about people living on two islands where

English is spoken. The story is for those who say: "I don't need to

learn pronunciation because I only want to communicate."

Communication is not enough

If you can communicate in English with people from other countries,

congratulations! It's a big achievement. But it may not be enough.

If you are at Level 2 of pronunciation skill, your English is

understandable, but you have a strong foreign accent which is

unpleasant for other people.

We have already said that your pronunciation is important because

it makes your first impression. This is certainly true — nobody will

say that you speak good English if you have a strong foreign accent.

But there is more. If you have a pleasant accent, people will simply

enjoy talking to you. They will want to spend time with you. On the

other hand, if your accent is bad, people may be even avoiding you

(consciously or unconsciously).

The good news is that you can work on your pronunciation until you

speak "understandable and pleasant English" (we simply call it good

pronunciation). For example, you can learn the sounds of English,

listen to recordings, watch English-language television, etc. But first

you have to realize there is a problem! Most English learners don't.

Michal wrote a short story to help learners understand this problem.

We have received reader comments on this article. Subjects: My

motivation for learning pronunciation. Pronunciation is like singing.

The pronunciation of learners who live in an English-speaking

Being able to speak English includes a number of skills,

involving vocabulary, grammar,pragmatics, and so on. It

can be argued that by far, the most important of these

skills is pronunciation. Despite having a good grasp of

vocabulary and the grammatical rules of the English

language, speakers would be unintelligible if they had

poor pronunciation. Though pronunciation is an aspect of

language that is difficult to acquire, the reality is that in

many English language classrooms, teaching

pronunciation is granted the least attention. When

teachers defend the poor pronunciation skills of their

students, their arguments could either be described as a

cop-out with respect to their inability to teach their

students proper pronunciation or they could be regarded

as taking a stand against linguistic imperialism. This paper

begins by discussing these views and will then outline the

current status of pronunciation teaching from the

viewpoint of several experienced English language

teachers. Some information regarding the nature of

second language pronunciation and the needs of the

teacher for teaching pronunciation, with particular focus

on material selection and teaching methodology will be

provided. Finally, this paper makes a number of

recommendations as to how the teaching of pronunciation

can be made more effective in the classroom.

Some Korean academics believe that the reason why some Koreans

cannot pronounce English is because of physical differences. “Those

who have a short frenulum (a strap of tissue linking the tongue to

the floor of the mouth) can face problems pronouncing some

characters due to a disturbance in lateral movements of the

tongue,” said Bae Jung-ho, an oral surgeon at Seoul’s Yonsei

Severance Hospital.

Such drastic measures are often taken in an ever increasing level

of competitiveness in the Korean society, where the need for

speaking English is higher than ever.

The operations are mostly performed on young children and cost

about 150,000 won. But do they really help? The answer is that

there is no decisive evidence, as many months of speech therapy is

need after the operation, and the level of success largely depends

on the child’s mind & the ability to acquire new language.


Harsh Kadepurkar
Spoken English
Submitted on 11 September, 2008 - 16:58
I am Harsh Kadepurkar from India, the first guest teacher on this


I do not propose to offer any advice on improving pronunciation.

However, I would like to share my experience. I have realised that

pronunciation is not a problem of Indian students alone. It's a

universal problem of all the second language learners. Yes, we need

to overcome it. One of the ways is to first clearly understand and to

list down the differences between the two languages, the learner's

language and the target language and focus on those aspects.

Luckily a lot of work has been done in this area and is available

either in the form of books or dissertations in university

libraries. Unfortunately most of these dissertations are gathering

dust, at least in most libraries in India. Next thing would be to give

them as much of listening experience as possible, using authentic

sources. I mean the BBC or any such source.Thirdly, try to change

your approach. Your learners are not wrong in their pronunciations,

they are just different. There's nothing wrong in being different. Tell

your learners that if they want to communicate with their own

people their variety of English is just fine. But if they want to

communicate at the international level, they will have to minimise

the differences. We are not native speakers of English and we can

never be. At the most we can go as close as possible. Tell them that

even in the UK there are four major varieties of English: Irish,

Scottish, Wales and British. And within them there are a large

number of sub varieties.

I said I won't give any advice. And I did just that. Sorry about it.

But can't help it. Have been a teacher for a long, long time!

To get Chinese pronunciation really authentic it's not that easy, but

just remember, if you really want your pronunciation to be perfect,

then it's a combination of careful study of the pronunciation guides

(I think the ones here on Chinese pod are really good) and careful


If you really listen and repeat and compare your pronunciation with

the native speakers, then you'll know what you're doing wrong and

the pronunciation guides give you the tools to fix it quickly.

I'll give you an example from my own experience, the three sounds,

"ji, qi, xi" I always had trouble with. From the beginning I knew

there was something wrong with them but didn't have any idea how
to fix it. Most pronunciation guides (as well as my private tutor)

only concentrated on the sounds, "Zhi, Chi, Shi and Ri", since if we

pronounce our "Ji, Qi & Xi" with an American accent, then no

misunderstanding will arise, and besides I was always told my

pronunciation was really good and that I had a special gift for

pronunciation. Not just by my teacher but by all the Chinese People

I came accross you'll see sometimes scrutiny and fair,

constructive criticism can help you immeasurable more than imply


I would listen to native Chinese speakers and the speakers on my

Pimsleur CD's, and would hear things like, " 在 一 起 " (zai yi qi) and

when I would make the "Qi" sound, it just never quite sounded


I'd say some of the most basic words, like “谢谢" and "小姐" (xie xie

and xiao jie) and absolutely cringe at the sound of my own voice

because I KNEW EMPHATICALLY there was something I was doing

wrong...but I couldn't figure it out! Even my $50 dollar an hour

private tutor said there was nothing wrong with the way my "Ji, Qi,

Xi" sounded! But that's only because when I would say the sounds

all alone I couldn't really clearly hear what I was doing wrong.
When you say the words in a sentence, then you can plainly hear

the American accent come across. But I'll get into that more in a


Then just about a year ago I went on John Pasden's (Chinesepod's

John Pasden) website and discovered his

pronunciation guide for correcting the common mispronunciation of

"Ji, Qi and Xi" and I knew I'd found the answer I was looking for!

Keep in mind this is after FOUR YEARS of study of this

language...and I STILL couldn't get a handle on what I was doing

wrong by listening alone!

As it turns out, these sounds are completely foreign to English

speakers but they are much harder to correct than the Ü with the 2

dots (umlaut) because you can't SEE what you need to do to

pronounce it correctly! As in the case of the Ü with the Umlaut, you

can see the lips rounded in a tight hole and the dimples forming in

the cheek so saying words like 绿茶,and 身略 (LÜ Cha and Sheng

LÜe) are pretty easy to figure out because it's VISUAL, but with the

"Ji, Qi, Xi" it's INTERNAL! It's a sound produced from completely

inside the mouth.

The "Ji, Qi and Xi" sounds are actually made by pressing the tip of

your tongue on the bottom of your lower teeth, with the center of

the tongue touching the Alveolar Ridge. The way we make the
sounds in English is with the tip of the tongue turned up, touching

the Alveolar Ridge, thus giving the American sound to it.

That's why the Chinese describe it as being a "flat tongue" sound,

and that's why you hear a sort of soft hissing sound with this group

of sounds, as the air travels downward on a slope across the

surface of your tongue and out of your mouth.

So to really hear the difference between the sounds, reverse

everything. Replace your English "she" with the properly

pronounced Chinese sound "Xi", say, "Xi said xi wants to take a

xiao-er (shower) in a xi-ny (shiny) new xiao-er (shower)" and the

difference between the individual sounds really comes across! I

thin much more so than when pronouncing our butchered "Gee,

Chee, She" sounds in Chinese, and I feel this can help really help

bring it all together! It helps you to realize how important these

little details of pronunciation are.

But I digress, anyway needless to say I was ELATED! I finally had

the answer to the question that had been plaguing me for all those


Correcting these sounds didn't happen overnight, I had to

constantly concentrate on proper tongue placement, as well as

having to learn how to move the tongue smoothly through quick

combinations between, the flat tongue and rolled tongue sounds,

words like 洗手间 (xi shou jian...bathroom) were especially difficult

because it's a quick transition between Flat Tongue, (to) Rolled

Tongue, (and back to) Flat Tongue...but after a months of constant

work I finally got it.

So...that being said my Chinese speaking abilities gained newfound

confidence! I know it sounds corny but it's true, and actually,

finally getting that group of sounds correct led me to totally re-

examine my pronunciation and by being honest with myself I found

there were plently of other sounds I wasn't pronouncing correctly

either! Since then I've gone on to fix pretty much all the

pronunciation problems and I honestly feel my pronunciation is

really really close to sounding totally Chinese!

To tell you the truth, when you want to blend in perfectly with a

society, the more like them you SOUND...the more like them you


One time I was out with a group of my Chinese friends and we went

to a place where it was necessary for me to speak English, so I was

busy conversing with the Clerk in English and when I came back to

my group they said that, when watching me speak English one of

them remarked, "哇, 小虎的英文很厉害啊" (Wow, Xiao Hu's English is

really great!), the others started busting up and said,

" 小 虎 就 是 美 国 人 并 不 是 中 国 人 , 当 然 他 的 英 文 很 好 呗 ! " (Xiao Hu is

American, not Chinese...of course his English is great!)

The other told me, "我已经这么习惯跟你说中国话好像我完全忘记你是美国

人!" (Apparently I'm so used to speaking Chinese with you that I

totally forgot you are American!) It sounds kind of dorky to say I

owe so much improvement to John Pasden, but I do! So, the point

of my long winded story is just that if you want to correct your

pronunciation, first consult the written guides to give you the clues

on how you are supposed to place your tongue, lips, etc., and what

you are supposed to do with the passage of air out of your mouth,

once armed with that knowledge, then go back to the Pinyin sound

chart and listen to each sound individually. Having previously

studied the pronunciation guide you will know basically what to do

to replicate those sounds, after which you, MIMIC, MIMIC, MIMIC!

Mimic the sounds individually at first, then start combining them

into words, and finally sentences, and before you know it, you

yourself will actually become widely regarded by the Chinese People

as a true 中国通!

/l/ and /r/

This is probably the most common problem for Japanese learners of

English. The Japanese language does not have a different sound for

/l/ and /r/ and instead has a sound in between these two. This a

problem because it can change the entire meaning of the

information. For example, native speakers of English might hear

'light' instead of 'right' and 'arrive' instead of 'alive' or the opposite.

This problem has lead to Japanese spoken English commonly being

referred to as "Engrish".

/b/ and /v/

Japanese does not have a /v/ sound. Because of this, Japanese

speakers often substitute /b/ for /v/ in English pronunciation. This

is a problem because it can change the entire meaning of the

information. For example, native speakers of English may hear

'berry' instead of 'very' or the opposite.

/s/ and /∫/ and /t/ vs. /t∫/

When /s/ and /t/ are followed directly by the vowel sounds /i/ and

/iy/, as in 'sip' and 'sea' or 'tip' and 'tease', Japanese speakers often

confuse them with the sounds /∫/ and /t∫/ of pronouncing the

words that sound like 'ship' and 'she' or 'chip' and 'cheese'.

Pronunciation Problems for Brazilian Portuguese


by susan.

I know that many readers of my blog are Brazilians who want to

improve their American English pronunciation. I am pleased that so

many of you visit here!

Here are two common problems encountered by Brazilian

Portuguese speakers who are trying to improve their pronunciation

of American English.

1. The schwa sound /ə/

Brazilian Portuguese does not have a reduced vowel sound such as

the schwa that is so prevalent in spoken English. That means that

Brazilian Portuguese speakers often pronounce the vowels in

reduced syllables fully when these vowels should have a schwa

vowel sound.

2. Consonant clusters that begin with S

In Portuguese there is usually a vowel in front of an /s/ sound or s

consonant cluster. Because of that Brazilian Portuguese speakers

tend to insert a vowel sound before s clusters when they speak

English. That means that they pronounce the word school like
eschool, the word study like estudy and the word special like


While American English speakers may still understand you if you

make these mistakes, these types of errors will contribute to your


See also: Italian phonology

A study on Italian children's pronunciation of English revealed the

following characteristics:

• Tendency to replace the English high lax vowels /ɪ/ /ʊ/ with

[i] [u] (ex: "fill" and "feel", "put" "poot" are homophones),

since Italian doesn't have these vowels.

• Tendency to replace /ŋ/ with [ŋɡ] ("singer" rhymes with

"finger") or as [n] (combined with the above tendency makes

the words "king" and "keen" homophones) because Italian [ŋ]

is an allophone of /n/ before velar stops.

• Tendency to replace word-initial /sm/ with [zm], e.g. small


• Tendency to replace /ʌ/ with [a] so that mother is pronounced

[ˈmadər] or [ˈmaðər].

• Italian does not have dental fricatives:

o Voiceless /θ/ may be replaced with a dental [t]̪ or with

o Voiced /ð/ may become a dental [d]̪ .

• Since /t/ and /d/ are typically pronounced as dental stops

anyway, words like there and dare can become homophones.

• /æ/ is replaced with [ɛ], so that bag sounds like beg [bɛɡ].

• Tendency to pronounce /p t k/ as unaspirated stops.

• Schwa [ə] does not exist in Italian; speakers tend to give the

written vowel its full pronunciation, e.g. lemon [ˈlɛmɒn],

television [tɛleˈviʒɒn], parrot [ˈpærot], intelligent [in

ˈtɛlidʒɛnt], water [ˈwɔtɛr], sugar [ˈʃuɡar].

• Italian speakers may pronounce consonant-final English words

with a strong vocalic offset, especially in isolated words, e.g.

dog [dɒɡᵊ]. This has led to the stereotype of Italians adding

[ə] to the ends of English words.

• Tendency to pronounce /r/ as a trill [r] rather than the English

approximant /ɹ/, e.g. parrot [ˈpærot].

In addition, Italians learning English have a tendency to pronounce

words as they are spelled, so that walk is [wɒlk], guide is [ɡwid],

and boiled is [ˈbɔɪlɛd]. This is also true for loanwords borrowed from

English as water, which is pronounced [vatɛr] instead of [ˈwɔːtə].

Related to this is the fact that many Italians produce /r/ wherever it

is spelled (e.g. star [star]), resulting in a rhotic accent, even when

the dialect of English they are learning is nonrhotic. Consonants

written double may be pronounced as geminates, e.g. Italians

pronounce apple with a longer [p] sound than English speakers do.

Note: There are two main dialects in Vietnamese, a northern one

centered around Hanoi and a southern one centered around Ho Chi

Minh City.

• Speakers may not produce final consonants since there are

fewer final consonants in Vietnamese and those that do exist

differ in their phonetic quality:

o Final /b/ is likely to be confused with /p/

o Final /d/ is likely to be confused with /t/

o Final /f/ is likely to be confused with /p/

o Final /v/ is likely to be confused with /b/ or /p/

o Final /s/ is likely to be confused with /ʃ/ or simply


o Final /ʃ/ is likely to be omitted

o Final /z/ is likely to be confused with /ʃ/ or /s/

o Final /tʃ/ is likely to be confused with /ʃ/

o Final /l/ is likely to be confused with /n/

• Speakers also have difficulty with English consonant clusters,

with segments being omitted or epinthetic vowels being

• Speakers may not aspirate initial /t/ and /k/, making

(American) listeners perceive them as /d/ and /ɡ/


• Speakers often have difficulty with the following phonemes:

o /θ/, which is confused with /t/ or /s/

o /ð/, which is confused with /d/ or /z/

o /p/, which is confused with /b/

o /ɡ/, which is confused with /k/

o /dʒ/, which is confused with /z/

o /ʒ/, which is confused with /z/ or /dʒ/

o /s/, which is confused with /ʃ/

o /tɹ/, which is confused with /dʒ/, /tʃ/ or /t/

o /v/, which is confused with /j/

o /ɪ/, which is confused with /i/

o /ʊ/, which is confused with /u/ or /ʌ/

o /ɛ/, which is confused with /æ/

o /æ/, which is confused with /ɛ/ or /ɑ/

• Vietnamese is a tonal language and speakers may try to use

the Vietnamese tonal system or use a monotone with English

words. They may also associate tones onto the intonational

pattern of a sentence and becoming confused with such

inflectional changes.

• The lack of discrimination in Hebrew between short and long

vowels makes correctly pronouncing English words such as

hit/heat and tap/top difficult. Dental fricatives–/ð/ (as in

"the") and [θ] (as in "think") –are often mispronounced.

Hebrew speakers may confuse /w/ and /v/.

• In Hebrew, word stress is usually on the last (ultimate) or

penultimate syllable of a word; speakers may carry their

stress system into English, which has a much more varied

stress system. Hebrew speakers may also use Hebrew

intonation patterns which mark them as foreign speakers of



GENERAL: The main problem with acquiring a native accent

lies in speaking like a book and ignoring the assimilations not

mentioned in most books that native-speakers make

naturally. For example, we change "v" to [b] before "m" in

conversational tempos in haven't, gov'ment (in the sense of

the entity one pays taxes to), etc.; and we assimilate "d" to

certain following consonants (see the book by Bailey &

Maroldt mentioned in the note below), as in goob boy, goog

girl, I'b better, if they'b been, etc. The double consonants

simplify to one in conversational tempos, so good in the

previous examples becomes goo', I'd becomes I, and they'd

becomes they--with 'd effectively lost. And [v] gets lost in

unstressed of and 've, especially before consonants; cf. the

normal usage of lotsa for lots of and of shoulda and musta for

should've and must've, respectively. When this coincides with

vowelless 've, the word gets entirely lost, as in I' gotta.

• --omitting the [w] in situ[w]ation, genu[w]ine, etc. This is a

real litmus test of quasi-native English. One often hears

sitchee[/]ation. You should say "sitcha" and immediately add

"waishun." (In Scotland, the "w" is omitted for historical

reasons: "w" became "v," as in Cockney English; siteevation

then sounded too deviant and eventually fell into desuetude.)

--pronouncing [t] between most consonants (as in mustn't

and mostly), as well as [d] between [n] or [l] and most

consonants (as in windmill and goldmine; Germans use a

Knacklaut for both [t] and [d] here). Unstressed and,

England, Scotland, Ireland, island, husband, almond, and

older ribband for ribbon lack final [d]--even before a vowel, as

in "Englan' an' Scotlan' an' Irelan'." In many environments,

and is simply syllabic 'n.

--It is pitiful to hear learners of English trying to pronounce

"th" in faiths, tenths, sixths, and fifth century. Aside from the
fact that we omit the second "f" in fifth and the only "f" in

twelfth, "ths" becomes a fronted "s" (or, in bathes, a fronted

"z"), which is long in slower tempos. Thus, faiths differs from

face only in the place of the tongue tip when articulating "s"--

and, in slower tempos, in that the sound in question is longer

in faiths. In normal tempos, tenths and tense are parallel, as

are sixths and six. And please, just double the fronted "s" in

place of "th" in twentieth century! For how pitiful "th" sounds

in synthetic and (esp. among English literature specialists)

esthetic, consider that pronouncing gift as gifth, while

etymologically in order, would in fact be absurd. (CLICK

HERE FOR FURTHER ON THIS.) Just as we occlude "f" in

sphere (different from spear only in where the lower lip is

placed), so we occlude "th" to "t" in esthetic and synthetic and

in other comparable environments. (See the author's English

phonetic transcription; those who read German can also

consult Bailey and Maroldt, Grundzüge der englischen

Phonetologie.) Some speakers even retain "f" and change "th"

to "t" (as did speakers of Anglo-Saxon) in fifth and twelfth;

fift and twelft are heard. Because "f" is omitted in fifth, fifths

differs from fists (which ends in [s:], with no [t] heard) only

in that the sibilant is more fronted (the tongue tip is against

the edges of the upper row of teeth) in fifths. Foreigners

often fail to realize that the pronunciation of "th" as [T] or [D]

when not preceded b;y a vowel or stopped consonant is just

like their own "t" and "d"; or that the fronted [q 1] of "ths"

is just like their own "s" and "z." The noun clothes sounds

just like the verb (not the noun or adjective) close.