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Pronunciation Stumblers..

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Joined: 24 May 2004
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Mon May 24, 2004 6:47 am    Post subject: Pronunciation Stumblers.. Reply with quote

I'm searching for information on those sounds that are hardest for ESL/EFL students to master . . . (I understand it depends largely on a student's first language - 'th' for French, 'l' and 'r' for Japanese, etc.)

* what are the toughest sounds for your students to pronounce?
* which general methods do you feel are the most effective for mastering those tricky sounds? lots of repitition? listening? imitation?

Many, many thanks for any input!


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Joined: 29 Nov 2004
Posts: 2
Location: Haarlem, Netherlands

PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 10:19 am    Post subject: common pronunciation problems Reply with quote


One problem I often have with Spanish and Portuguese speakers when teaching English is the confusion of "he" and "she". For example, when asked to describe a picture of a man, a Portuguese or Spanish speaker will sometimes say "She has brown hair". This happens even on intermediate levels.
I teach in the Netherlands and interestingly, my Dutch colleages also have this problem when teaching the Dutch pronouns for he and she (hij and zij) to Spanish and Portugues speakers. At this time I'm doing some casual research to find out why this happens with this particular group of students and why it happens in both Dutch and English. Incidentally, I have never witnessed this problem with speakers of other languages.
**Some colleagues have suggested that this happens because Hispanophones and Lusophones struggle with the pronunciation of the aspirated 'h' in English**

On another note, almost every single Dutch speaker I know struggles with the pronunciation of 'th' just like French-speakers do.
Hope this helped!

Mary Jo
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Joined: 01 Dec 2004
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 01, 2004 2:19 am    Post subject: Pronunciation stumbler - Spanish speaking Reply with quote

For those who speak Spanish, there are two sounds that are mispronounced most often - the "y" as in you, your and the "v" as in very.

The y is realtively easy to correct, as it consists of two spanish sounds, the spanish i (ee) and u (oo) - not perfectly but it is close enough. If you have them substitute these two vowel sounds in place of the "y" they pronounce you and your(s) much better, though not perfect. At first they pronounce it slowly, but as they get used to it and pronounce 'iu' faster, the approach the english pronunication.

The v is much more difficult to correct and some never seem to get it - they continue to say "b" instead. For this, someone must describe in spanish the movements of the top teeth on the lower lip and the force of air, timing, etc., while demonstrating it. I've had mixed results.
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Joined: 15 Apr 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 16, 2005 12:16 pm    Post subject: sounds Reply with quote

Hi Kristi,

Well, speakers of the latin languages (Spanish, Port. etc.) will have problems with 'v', 'y', and 'th'.
Often Asian students will have trouble discerning 'l' from 'r' and 't' from 'th'.

I recommend a fun book called Jazz Chants (that comes with accompanying cassette). It basically as all this wacky chants that are fun for children or adults.
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Joined: 16 May 2005
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Location: Bangalore, India

PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2005 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The problem with the he/she seems to me not to be a pronunciation but rather a grammar issue. I don't think that differentiating a sibilant sound like /sh/ and the aspirated /h/ would be a sound of production problem.

The b/v contrast of spanish is more a listening issue. These sounds are not distinctive in Spanish, and thus are used intercahnageably in the the learner's L2. It is the same situation with the r/l contrast for asian speakers. The first thing that needs to be done is get the learners to actually HEAR the difference between these sounds. You can use minimal pair exercises to do this. I have worked with French speakers in Canada where we focused on voiced th/d and voiceless th/t contrasts. It took aroud a month for my students to hear the difference. After they can hear the difference, you need to get them used to the idea of sticking their tongues between their teeth, which many speakers do not like to do. After they can make the sound, it is a matter of ruthless correction to eradicate the abd habits they've picked up over the course of years of english study.

I'm now working with Indian English speakers where I've encountered the same interdental/alveolar contrasts, as well as v/w contrasts. It is the same process with the v/w contrast as well.
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