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DEALING WITH DIFFICULT ENGLISH SOUNDS FOR BRAZILIAN STUDENTS.

Jos Ribamar de Castro.

Introduction. This workshop is an attempt to provide a practical answer to those who ask how they could possibly help their students overcome their main problems concerning English pronunciation.It is divided up into four parts.Each part includes the following: 1. The English Sound System. A simple explanation on how to produce the English sounds,containing words with the sound in initial,middle and final positions. 2. The Portuguese (Brazilian) Sound System in contrast with the English Sound System. A simple explanation about the Portuguese (Brazilian) Sound System in comparision with English.

3. Difficult English Sounds for Brazilian Students. A description of the sounds which in my opinion are considered to be difficult for Brazilian students together with the most frequent mistakes they make. 4. Some suggestions on how to deal with these problematic sounds. Drills with advice on how to prevent incorrect speech habits and mistake. Obs. The phonemic transcription used in this workshop in the one found in the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of Current English (3rd Ed.1974.)

1. The English Sound System. Any teacher of English will probably have noticed that his student make mistakes,not in a random fashion,but that errors are more likely to occur in some structures than in others.The same applies to pronunciation.For instance,Brazilian students will probably have difficulty with such sounds as /i:,,,:,,r/,and with the contrast between pairs such as /i:/ and //,/e/ and //,and//and //. Again ,they will have difficulty with strings of final consonants such as in the words sixths,songs,etc.This is because these phonemes are new to the students,that is,these sounds do not occur in their native language.

Therefore,it is important to make a contrastive analysis of the native and target languages,in this case,Portuguese and English,to find out which points the students will possibly have difficulty with.After having made such an analysis and determined which pronunciation patterns are important for the students to grasp,one should concentrate on teaching the items which are considered to be most difficult for them. 1.1. The English Vowel Sounds. The diagram of the English Vowel Sounds consists of twelve vowel sounds,even though the ordinary English alphabet contains only five vowel characters (a),(e),(i),(o) and (u). Clearly then,these five letters are inadequate to represent all English pure vowel sounds,that is,these sounds in the

production of which the tongue remains stationary throughout the time that it takes to say the vowel.Consequently,the vowel is exactly the same at the end as it is at the beginning.,in other words,it remains pure.So,if a person wants to transcribe sounds without the help of a phonemic alphabet,he is frequently forced to use spellings lie (ee),(oo),(er),(ah) and so on. According to Underhill the English RP pure vowel sounds are:

Close

i:

u:

Mid

Open

One thing that may puzzle the students is that some of the English vowel are long,that is to say,in pronouncing the vowel one keeps the tongue steady for a while in the same position and goes on producing this sound for a good deal longer than for a short vowel.This is an important point because one should realize that certain English vowels are usually long,eg:/i:,u:,:,:,:/ and others are usually short:/,,e,,,,/.

It is true,however,that neighbouring sounds in a words may sometimes influence one another and thus some vowels which are normally long may have their length reduced,eg: the bead / bi:d/ and beat /bi:t/ are both pronounced with a long vowel /i:/, but the vowel is somewhat longer in bead than in beat.This is because in the former the vowel is followed by a /d/and in the latter by a /t/,and we know that the difference between these sounds is that /d/ is a lenis consonant,in other words,it is a consonant pronounced with weak articulation (little degree of breath and muscular effort involved in the articulation) and /t/ a fortis consonant ,that is,

a consonant pronounced with strong articulation (much degree of breath and muscular effort involved in the articulation). One can thus formulate a rule that before a fortis consonant a long vowel is not quite as long as it is before a lenis one. If there is no consonant at the end,such as in the word sea /si:/,a long vowel usually has its full length. 1.2. The English Diphthongs. According to Gimson there are,in all,nine diphthongs in RP English,and they are divided into closing and centring diphthongs.

A diphthong is a glide from one vowel to another forming a single syllable.If the glide is towards a close vowel it is called a closing diphthong.If it is towards a central vowel is called a centring diphthong. The closing diphthongs in English are: /e,,,a,a/ The centring diphthongs in English are: /,,e,/ The diphthong which is not much used by R.P.(Received Pronunciation-characteristic of England)speakers,tends to be replaced by the pure vowel /:/ . So, instead of saying sore /s /

one says /s :/. A diphthong,in short,bevaves like a pure vowel in that it belongs to one syllable only and it differs from a pure vowel in that its quality gradually changes from that of one vowel towards that of another. In regard to length all diphthongs are like vowels.Consisting as it does of two elements,each diphthong takes up the same length of time as one long pure vowel.But,like pure vowels,diphthongs may be influenced by their neighbouring sounds.The diphthong is longer in high and hide than in height because in the latter word it is followed by the fortis consonant /t/.

1.3. The RP English Consonant Sounds. Gimson states that there are twenty-four consonant sounds in the R.P. consonant system. They may be classified as follows: 1. Six plosives. /p,b,t,d,k,g/ 2. Two affricates. /,/ 3. Nine fricatives. /f,v,,,s,z,,,h/ 4. Three nasals. /m,n,/

5. One lateral. /l/ 6. Three approximants. /w,j,r/ 1.3.1. The English Plosives. The main features which distinguish the English plosives are: I Place of articulation: They can be produced in the lips (bilabial),in the alvelar ridge(alveolar) and in the velum(velar). II Presence or absence of aspiration: The voiceless consonant sounds /p/,/t/ and /k/ are aspirated in initial accented syllables,whereas the

voiced consonant sounds /b/,/d/ and /g/ are not. III- Presence or absence of voicing: /p/,/t/,/k/ are voiceless sounds (the vocal cords do not vibrate in their production)meanwhile /b/,/d/,/g/ are voiced (the vocal cords vibrate in their production). IV- Length of preceding sounds: /p/,/t/,/k/ are fortis consoinants,so the vowel which precedes them in a word must be pronounced a bit longer than the one which comes after lenis consonants such as /b/,/d/,/g/.

1.2.3. The English Fricatives. English has a fricative system which is more complex than that of most languages.Fricative sounds are produced by a partial closure of the air passage.
1.2.3.1. Labio-dental fricative sounds. When these sounds are produced the lower lip is placed lightly against the upper teeth.When the air is forced out,one hears a hissing noise,in the case of /f/(voiceless) or a buzzing in the case of /v/(voiced).

1.3.2.2. Dental Fricative Sounds. Both /,/are regularly spelt (th),and there is no certain way of determining from the spelling whether it represents one or the pronunciation.The following is only a rough guide; there are many exceptions. 1. At the end of a word,(th) usually stands for //,as in breath,cloth. The second // in this position is normally written (the) as in breathe,clothe.Exceptions are booth,smooth,with // (Br E),etc. 2. In the middle of a word between vowels as in rather,weather,(th) most often stands for //but between a consonant and a vowel as healthy and anthem it usually stands for //.Between a vowel and a plural (s),as in baths,truths,the (th) sound is frequently voiced //.

As Ward says the sound /s/is first of all spelt (s),but there are several other spellings,as exemplified in dense,pass,waltz. Before (e),(i) and (y) or (sc) is nearly always pronounced /s/.The sound /z/ is written (z) as in zeal,zinc or (s),as in plays.The spelling (s) or (ss) may thus stand for either /s/ or /z/. 1.3.2.4. Palato Alveolar Fricative Sounds. For these sounds the tongue is a little further back than for /s/ or /z/.While the latter are articulated with the blade of the tongue against the teeth ridge ,for // and / / the blade of the tongue is raised towards the hard palate with the tip usually above level with the teeth ridge.

The space between the tongue and the roof of the mouth is wider than for /s/ and /z/ and there is less sideways contraction of the tongue.The vocal cords vibrate for//but not for//. 1.3.2.5. Glottal Fricative Sound. When this sound is produced the glottis is open,and there is no obstruction anywhere in the air passage. The sound of the breath as it passes through the open glottis and mouth is that of /h/.There is no vibration in the vocal cords when this sound is produced. 1.3.3. The English Fricative Sounds.

An affricative is a plosive consonant in which the articulating organs are separated less quickly than in the case of normal plosives,with the result that the corresponding fricative is heard momentarily as the organs separate. //is voiceless and // is voiced. 1.3.4. The English Nasal Sounds. According to Kelly there are three nasal sounds in English: /m/,/n/ and //. All of them are voiced sounds. For the sound /m/ the lips form a complete stoppage of the air stream,but the soft palate is lowered,allowing the air to escape through the nose. For /n/,the tip of the tongue presses against the teeth ridge and completely blocks the air stream,but

// is a velar nasal sound,that is, the back of the tongue is raised and forms a complete stoppage by pressing against the soft palate,which atthe same time is lowered so as to allow the air to escape through the nose.At the end of a word the spelling (ng) always stands for .Examples: bang,king,sing. 1.3.5. The English Lateral /l/ Sound. According to OConnor,the English Lateral Sound /l/can be either a clear l or a dark l. Clear l is used at the beginnning of a word and in the middle of a word before a vowel.For example,lake and spelling. Dark l is used in the middle of a word before a consonant and at the end of a word,if a pause follows.

1.3.6. The English Approximants. According to Daniel Jones there are three approximants in English: /w/(labial velar),/j/ (palatal)and /r/(post-alveolar). Approxmants are usually called semi-vowels since their articulation very resembles that of vowels,that is,the tongue glides from a close vowel position to some after vowel position.For the approximant /r/,the most important feature is its non-fricative nature,which makes its articulation very similar to that of a vowel sound.In other words,this sound is phonetically vowel-like ,but having in English a non-central situation in the syllable,it functions as a consonant.

2.The Portuguese Brazilian Sound System in contrast with the English Sound System. In looking at Mascherpes comparison table between the Portuguese Brazilian sound system and the English sound system,one immediately realizes that many sounds do not occur in the Portuguese Brazilian system and vice-versa. Consonant Sounds. English Portuguese /p/ pill /p/ pala /b/ bill /b/ bala /t/ till /t/ tolo /d/ day /d/ dei /k/ kill /k/ cume

/g/ goose // cheap // jeep /f/ feel /v/veal // thigh //they /s/ seat /z/ zeal //share //measure /l/ leaf

/f/ fala /v/ vaia /s/ selo /z/ zelo // chave // janela /l/ luva

/n/ nada /r/ caro /rr/ carro // minha /l/ falha Approximants. /r/ red /j/ yes /j/ iai /w/ wine /w/ quadro

/m/ no // long /h/heap -

Vowels. /i:/ see // it /e/ day /e/ fell /:/bird //cup //above /u:/ Luke //look //go /:/bought /i:/ ti // fale /e/ ele /e/ lei /e/ ele /u:/ pude // alto // dou /:/ pode

/a:/ bar /a:/ l // hat inverno tempo amplo juntos ona As one can see from the comparison table above,Portuguese has a differenct number of vowel phonemes,its vowel system being marked buy a feature of nasality which has phonemic status,in contrast with English.

3. Difficult English Sounds for Brazilian Students. 3.1. The most problematic English vowel sounds to Brazilian students,in my opinion,are: /,i:/- /,:/-/e,/-/:,/. 3.2. Problematic English Consonant Sounds. The plosives /p/,/t/,//k/. The dentals /,/ The affricates /,/ The alveolars /s/,/z/. The nasals /n/, // The lateral /l/ The approximant /r/

4. Some suggestions on how to deal with these problematic sounds. 4.1. Vowel Sounds. English till Portuguese tio mill mil hill riu bill Biu (nickname) /i:/ /I/ leak lick beat bit seek sick deed did

4.2. Consonant sounds.

/t/ /f/ // tin fin thin tree free three


/d/ /z/ den zen* day zay* dare zare* // then they there

/s/ since fence hence

/z/ sins fans hens

// ////// washing watching treasure badger lash latch pleasure ledger mash match measure marriage ship chip leisure luggage

/n/ - // He is thin. It is a thing. Peter wins easily. Birds have wings. Our kin has arrived. Our king has arrived. I said sin. I said sing . Dark l - // feel fio hill rio pill pio mill mil

Conclusion. As it is suggested in the title,this workshop has no other ambitious purpose than the pure practical one of helping Brazilian students of English to eliminate those errors which repeatedly occur in their speech. If this workshop was somewhat helpful,I would have fulfilled my purpose.