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''he'' and ''she'' confusion: Port. and Spanish speakers

 
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mjroepke



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

PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 11:03 am    Post subject: ''he'' and ''she'' confusion: Port. and Spanish speakers Reply with quote

Hello all,
I've noticed that many of my students who speak Portuguese or Spanish as a native language make a particular mistake. They often confuse the pronouns ''he'' and ''she''. For example, when asked to describe a picture of a man, they say "she is tall''. When this is pointed out, they correct themselves quickly, but often make the mistake later on that day or that week, even if the problem is addressed immediately with drilling.

To add another interesting layer to this problem, my colleagues who teach Dutch (I teach in Amsterdam) tell me that Spanish and Portuguese speakers have the same problem with the Dutch pronouns for "he'' and ''she'', "hij" and "zij".

It's been suggested to me by others that the problem could be related to the aspirated 'h' at the beginning of both ''he'' and ''hij''. Does anyone have any ideas or tips?

Thanks,

Mary Jo
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Metamorfose



Joined: 21 Jul 2003
Posts: 345
Location: Brazil

PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2004 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

I've noticed that many of my students who speak Portuguese or Spanish as a native language make a particular mistake. They often confuse the pronouns ''he'' and ''she''. For example, when asked to describe a picture of a man, they say "she is tall''. When this is pointed out, they correct themselves quickly, but often make the mistake later on that day or that week, even if the problem is addressed immediately with drilling.


Is it a problem with pronunciation? Because the most common mistake I find within my pupils is the confusition between 'we' and 'you' being the latter replaced by the former most of the cases, but even so, I believe that happens due the fact when we start learning English, most sentences are made with 'you' and sentences with 'we' are less frequent.

Are you teaching Brazilians? Most of the times the aspirated 'h' happens in here (when a word begins with 'r' mind you, so sometimes one says hight meaning right.)

José
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Evanescence



Joined: 03 Dec 2004
Posts: 3
Location: Seville

PostPosted: Sat Dec 04, 2004 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi!
I don't know how to help you with this... Well, I'm Spanish and when I was a child I made that mistake only once and it was because I had understood "he" was used for girls and "she" for boys. I mean, it was not a problem related to pronunciation, but with meaning. My sister explained to me what "he" and "she" were used for, I didn't have any problems any long.

I think of the pronunciation of "he" and "she" and there is a difference, so I don't know why your students make mistakes Rolling Eyes
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Nacozari



Joined: 25 Jan 2005
Posts: 2
Location: Spain

PostPosted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 9:49 am    Post subject: You're so right... Reply with quote

Hi, I'm in Spain and have noticed the same problem all the time. I think it is more of a grammatical problem than a pronunciation problem, since Spanish-speakers also confuse her/his/its/their, him/her/it... In other words, they mess up the whole third-person range of pronouns (logically, since they are mostly the same in Spanish)... I think the only way to improve this is by relentless annoying correction until the student becomes so fed-up with it that they stop making the mistakes.

Anyway, I even know people who speak pretty good English who continue to make these mistakes with third-person pronouns constantly, so it may be an uphill battle!
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EDUARDO



Joined: 05 Feb 2005
Posts: 1
Location: Peru

PostPosted: Mon Feb 07, 2005 4:55 am    Post subject: PRONUNCIATION- CONFUSION BETWEEN "HE " AND "S Reply with quote

Razz ... I THINK IT'S NOT A PROBLEMS OF PRONUNCIATION. IT'S JUST A MATTER OF LANGUAGE ACQUISITION. SOME STUDENTS, WHO HAVE JUST STARTED STUDYING ENGLISH, TEND TO CONFUSE THOSE PRONOUNS. THE MORE THEY DESCRIBE SOMEONE, A MAN AND A WOMAN SEPARATEDLY, THE EASIER IT WILL BE TO AVOID THAT CONFUSION. EDUARDO JORDAN.
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elena



Joined: 11 Mar 2005
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:29 am    Post subject: Pronouns Reply with quote

I believe the problem is related to the fact that pronouns in Spanish are included in the verb/adjective. They are rarely used in informal speech. For example,
He is tall. = Es alto.
She is tall. = Es alta.
Give it to her. = Daselo or Deselo

Confused I don't know how to fix the problem. I'm working on that and will post some ideas if I come up with something. Idea
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stromfi



Joined: 26 May 2005
Posts: 58

PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Mary Jo,

I'm totally convinced that the problem you described (mixing up he and she) has nothing to do with pronunciation. I’m also one of those whose “he”-s and “she”-s get mixed up every now and then and it's not because I cannot pronounce the necessary sounds, but because of grammatical and structural characteristics of my mother tongue, which are deeply ingrained in my brain.
My mother tongue is Hungarian where verb conjugation is rather similar to Spanish, in the sense that in every person the verb gets a different ending. Thus, when we tell a story it's not important to use personal pronouns.
English, however, is a totally different language in this respect. The verb endings won’t “give away” the person. Except ….. except when we use the verb in third person singular (present). That little “s” at the end will, to a certain extend, indicate who I’m talking about. And that’s a clear invitation for someone who speaks Spanish or Hungarian to pay less attention to their personal pronouns. So, our guard gets down and we start mixing things up.

Stromfi
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2005 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is it possible for it to be both, phonetic and something to do with another area of language. I know the problem crops up in Japanese EFL learners. In Japanese, the [h] sound in a syllable like 'hi' (that would be spelled like 'hee' in English) gets aspirated and moves toward a [sh] sound in how it is articulated. So if you listen closely, 'hi' and 'shi' sound, phonetically speaking alike. This then comes up in speaking English, where we have the pronouns 'he' and 'she'. OTOH, might we account for some difficulties because , at least arguably, Japanese doesn't have grammatical pronouns (and what function as pronouns in Japanese are certainly not used for subjects near so much as English ones). Still, when I hear it as a systematic error, I tend to interpret it as a phonetic error (so we could say phonological error, meaning of the learner's internalized linguistic system) rather than just a lack of familiarity with English's very common pronouns. It's also interesting to note that Japanese has a very similar vowel system to Spanish or Portugese (at least when compared to English), so it might be that the vowel /i/ affects the /h/ sound in all cases.
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Metamorfose



Joined: 21 Jul 2003
Posts: 345
Location: Brazil

PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2005 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

It's also interesting to note that Japanese has a very similar vowel system to Spanish or Portugese (at least when compared to English), so it might be that the vowel /i/ affects the /h/ sound in all cases.


No, I wouldn't say (Brazilian) Portuguese has a close vowel system to Japanese, we have 7 vowel sounds and dispute on nasal ones (that would be more 4 or 5). Ask a Brazilian to say eu canto (I sing or I've sung since/for....) and then a hispanohablante to say yo canto and you'll see how both pronounce the -an part.

Very roughly and imprecisely, I dare say our vowel system is like the French language without the front-rounded ones. And Continental Portuguese has 9 vowel sounds if I'm not mistaken.

José
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2005 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Metamorfose wrote:
Quote:

It's also interesting to note that Japanese has a very similar vowel system to Spanish or Portugese (at least when compared to English), so it might be that the vowel /i/ affects the /h/ sound in all cases.


No, I wouldn't say (Brazilian) Portuguese has a close vowel system to Japanese, we have 7 vowel sounds and dispute on nasal ones (that would be more 4 or 5). Ask a Brazilian to say eu canto (I sing or I've sung since/for....) and then a hispanohablante to say yo canto and you'll see how both pronounce the -an part.

Very roughly and imprecisely, I dare say our vowel system is like the French language without the front-rounded ones. And Continental Portuguese has 9 vowel sounds if I'm not mistaken.

José


Maybe I shouldn't have said 'very similar'. Still, it's wrong to say Japanese in standard forms has 5 vowels. Counting diphthongs, it has 8. By similar, I was thinking , for example, /i:/ and /i/ in English, which are quite qualitatively different while in Japanese, not so. I don't know enough about either Spanish or Portugese to say. Still, the possibility of phonetic confusion might stem from something similar going on to the situation in Japanese.


Last edited by CEJ on Sat Dec 31, 2005 10:40 am; edited 1 time in total
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2005 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Metamorfose wrote:
Quote:

It's also interesting to note that Japanese has a very similar vowel system to Spanish or Portugese (at least when compared to English), so it might be that the vowel /i/ affects the /h/ sound in all cases.

No, I wouldn't say (Brazilian) Portuguese has a close vowel system to Japanese, we have 7 vowel sounds and dispute on nasal ones (that would be more 4 or 5). Ask a Brazilian to say eu canto (I sing or I've sung since/for....) and then a hispanohablante to say yo canto and you'll see how both pronounce the -an part.

Very roughly and imprecisely, I dare say our vowel system is like the French language without the front-rounded ones. And Continental Portuguese has 9 vowel sounds if I'm not mistaken.

José


Maybe I shouldn't have said 'very similar'. Still, it's wrong to say Japanese in standard forms has 5 vowels. Counting diphthongs, it has 8. By the term 'similar', I was thinking , for example, /i:/ and /i/ in English, which are quite qualitatively different while in Japanese, not so. I don't know enough about either Spanish or Portugese to say. Still, the possibility of phonetic confusion might stem from something similar going on to the situation in Japanese.

Japanese has 5 nasalised vowel sounds that are supposed to be allophones of the sound, the syllabic /N/. That doesn't raise phonemic counts, but it is still an issue for those learning to speak Japanese to sound more native.

One more factor to consider here: it is quite possible that EFL learners make a psychological/psycholinguistic/phonological distinction (such as /l/ from /r/, /h/ from /sh/ , etc.) that doesn't get PERCEIVED as that when another speaker hears them. I find that is often the case with Japanese EFL students. For example, they simply aspirate the word 'he' like they were aspirating a native version of /h/--which makes it sound like a /sh/ to an English speaker, and have no difficulty at all in distinguishing the meaning between 'he' and 'she'.
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Metamorfose



Joined: 21 Jul 2003
Posts: 345
Location: Brazil

PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 8:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

Maybe I shouldn't have said 'very similar'. Still, it's wrong to say Japanese in standard forms has 5 vowels. Counting diphthongs, it has 8.


I didn't know that, are these diphthongs only interpolation of the same 5 vowels or are there different vowels involved in this? (American English for example has /o/ with /U/ in going that arguably doesn't show up alone.)

Quote:

By the term 'similar', I was thinking , for example, /i:/ and /i/ in English, which are quite qualitatively different while in Japanese, not so. I don't know enough about either Spanish or Portugese to say. Still, the possibility of phonetic confusion might stem from something similar going on to the situation in Japanese.


Yes, you are quite right we (Portuguese speakers) do have two significant /e/ sounds that we can call mid-open /E/ and mid-closed /e/ but we do not distinguish between lax and tense vowels (I guess no Romance language does) so indeed a Brazilian might have problems differing /i:/ in feet and and /I/ in fit.

Quote:

Japanese has 5 nasalised vowel sounds that are supposed to be allophones of the sound, the syllabic /N/. That doesn't raise phonemic counts, but it is still an issue for those learning to speak Japanese to sound more native.


Is this /N/ alveolar?

And giving a second thought on the matter whether Japanese would sound somehow similar to Portuguese and Spanish...well, we do stress the last syllable in many words and I know Japanese also does it, we seem to have a syllabic structure more or less similar (bola=> bo-la; ball in English) please correct me if I am wrong.

José
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2005 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think quoting quotes within quotes on this bb gets too confusing, at least for me, so i'm reverting to how I do it on discussion lists and e-mail, sorry if I'm just not bb-savvy enough.

>>Quote:

I didn't know that, are these diphthongs only interpolation of the same 5 vowels or are there different vowels involved in this? (American English for example has /o/ with /U/ in going that arguably doesn't show up alone.) >>

Part of the problem is that a lot of people who know about Japanese (JFL learners) don't know standard linguistics (indeed, don't need the topic to learn JFL) and pick up instead native literacy concepts to describe Japanese. I think I have to correct myself and say that there are at least 4 diphthongs to standard Japanese, and using a form of romanization often used for JFL, they would be 'ai', 'oi', 'au' and 'ae'. Long 'ee' might be 'ei' depending upon speaker, accent, dialect, context, I'm not sure. Ditto long 'oo', which might be 'ou'. I think some of these in rapid speech come together and blend enough to call them 'diphthongs'. In my area, there is a town called 'Sabae' and that final vowel sound just isn't a plus e in a two syllable string. It becomes one syllable and seems to end up somewhere in between a and e. Oi just doesn't sound like o plus i when a guy yells it at you (it means like 'hey').

One point here worth lookin at is that standard phonemic accounts of Japanese say the vowel inventory is rather small, but if you take ten 'simple' vowels, a, i, u, e, o, and add long (contrastive in Japanese) vowels aa, ii, uu, ee, oo, uu, and then add 3-6 diphthongs, you see the contrastive vowel segment inventory expands (though as I've said before, I'm not much into phonemics as explanatory of real spoken language).

>>Yes, you are quite right we (Portuguese speakers) do have two significant /e/ sounds that we can call mid-open /E/ and mid-closed /e/ but we do not distinguish between lax and tense vowels (I guess no Romance language does) so indeed a Brazilian might have problems differing /i:/ in feet and and /I/ in fit. >>

I think the phonetic confusions my students experience with English vowels don't boil down to i vs. i: (just saying this because EFL teachers in Japanese often focus on it), but it surely marks their accent. The biggest articulatory factor overall in their production of English vowels, though, is a lack of lip rounding and jaw lowering (though it's also easy to exaggerate this when doing a demonstration of how English is spoken--an exaggeration which I justify as physical re-training of the vocal tract).



>>Is this [Japanese syllabic] /N/ alveolar?

It can be. It can in some contexts pop up as an overlap with the Japanese /n/, such as if it closes a syllable before an onset that is alveolar. English JFL speakers tend to make this a standard substitution from the start because of confusion with the other /n/ sound.


>>And giving a second thought on the matter whether Japanese would sound somehow similar to Portuguese and Spanish...well, we do stress the last syllable in many words and I know Japanese also does it, we seem to have a syllabic structure more or less similar (bola=> bo-la; ball in English) please correct me if I am wrong. >>

The similarity seems to be in the vowels and how syllables are constructed, very simply put. I have had Japanese students report to me that they enjoy trying to speak Spanish, Portugese and Italian (but not French) over English, which some, truthfully, find distasteful to pronounce. I know that there is a Japanese soccer star (a real playboy with the Italian models, too) who mastered decent Italian quickly when he went to play in Italy, but seems to be very reluctant to ever utter a word of English in the media. So it just goes to show how pronunciation can be a big learner factor (even though Japanese doesn't share grammar or lexicon with Italian, he liked learning it more than English). I should add here, he's playing in the UK now, but I guess, still talking Italian and Japanese.
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Twelvetongue



Joined: 25 Oct 2006
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 2:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe you should explain that some English Speakers pronounce the H, others don't. But considering that, the Latino culture is very gender specific, they will understand the need not to confuse the two.

Part of the problem is that the Spanish Jota was once pronounced as SHota rather than today's Hota, and since it is still pronounced that way in certain regions, they are often thought of as the same phoneme. By the way, the letter H is not silent in the Dominican and Puerto Rican dialects, if that's any help (I almost spelled jelp).
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