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Difference between -in, -ing, and -een

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Joined: 29 Oct 2010
Posts: 2
Location: China

PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2010 8:43 am    Post subject: Difference between -in, -ing, and -een Reply with quote

I teach university students in China. While teaching the difference between /th/ and /s/ with word pairs such as thin/sin, thing/sing, think/sink, three/see, thick/sick, and others, I discovered that my students have a hard time with the short /i/ sound. They pronounce thin and thing the same way. In fact they pronounce both in a way similar to theen. After some practice I was able to get them to say thick instead of theek, but when the word ends in -in it's harder. Then when I thought I had made some progress in getting them to say thin, they started pronouncing thing the same as thin, with the short /i/ sound. I realized that I have no idea how to explain the difference between short /i/, /ing/, and long /ee/.

Any tips, websites, or activities that you can offer would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
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Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1377
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are you saying that your students are having trouble differentiating between the final sounds in thin and thing? The vowels are technically both "i" although the quality changes before "ng".
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Joined: 29 Oct 2010
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Location: China

PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a problem with both the final sounds and the vowel sounds. They are pronouncing the short "i" like long "ee."
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Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Chantal! Mandarin Chinese (i.e. Putonghua) has two consonantal (purely ~*) 'finals', -n and -ng, so your students should** be able to appreciate the difference (and these are completely off the top of my head!) between say "shaolin de lin" ("the lin of shaolin": ) and "lingqian de ling" ("the ling of lingqian": ); then, as Lori mentions, the "i" in each case is an allophone of the same phoneme (i.e. the same phoneme, essentially!), and it isn't a long one...sooo, to get the students on their way to even partway understanding short versus long vowel sounds, I'd suggest introducing something like the phonics "magic e" (i.e. silent e) rule: , .

I guess that you could then profitably contrast thin with thine (or to use more contemporary words, shin with shine, twin with twine, win with wine, bid versus bide, slid versus slide, rid versus ride, hid versus hide, grip versus gripe, trip versus tripe, lick versus like, til(l) versus tile, slim versus slime, prim versus prime, dim versus dime, Tim versus time, fin versus fine, pip versus pipe, rip versus ripe, strip versus stripe, fir versus fire, bit versus bite, kit versus kite, sit versus site, spit versus spite etc); and then of course there are the other vowels to consider (e.g: at versus ate, can versus cane, rag versus rage, bad versus bade, mad versus made, sag versus sage, stag versus stage, wag versus wage, bath versus bathe, grad versus grade, pal versus pale, cam versus came, dam versus dame, blam! versus blame, Sam versus same, sham versus shame, Dan versus Dane, plan versus plane, pan versus pane, man versus mane, gap versus gape, tap versus tape, fat versus fate, lat[s] versus late, slat versus slate, hat versus hate, mat versus mate, rat versus rate; met versus mete, them versus theme; not versus note, glob versus globe, rob versus robe, cloth versus clothe, rod versus rode, cod versus code, odd versus ode, con versus cone, [ton[ne, 'tun']"versus"] tone, ROM versus Rome, Tom versus tome, cop versus cope, hop versus hope, pop versus pope, dot versus dote; us versus use, cub versus cube, cut versus cute). [Apologies for the slight jumble of the example words, but I was browsing quickly through my (very useful!) Inverted English Dictionary (英語逆引辞典, Kaibunsha Ltd, Tokyo 1968/2006). Hope they're useful despite the ordering!].

There's more to phonics than the magic e rule though, but I'm no expert - unfortunately! (Otherwise I could give you, or indeed myself, and thus our students, a few further pointers!). I'll try then to dig out, scan and post links to a couple of relevant pages from Kenworthy's Teaching English Pronunciation and also the COBUILD English Guides 8: Spelling. Wink

*I'm avoiding the issue of the retroflex suffix er/-r!
**Speakers of dialects other than Mandarin however may sometimes have trouble or not bother much with distinguishing the -ng final from the -n one: for example, students in Shanghai would tell me that Jackie Chan's Chinese name (according to its characters 成龙) was spelt 'Chen Long' despite the Pinyin for the first syllable/character actually being chéng ( ). Or perhaps they were simply mixing up his birthname's first character-pronunciation ( 陳港生 Chan Kong-sang/Chen Gong-sheng - ) with his apparent later/adult/screen Chinese name (the aforementioned Cheng Long).
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