Home Forums iTDi TESOL Certificate Focus on sounds – pronunciation problems in my country Focus on sounds – pronunciation problems in my country

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    • #8321


      People with different language backgrounds often have different pronunciation problems. Think about learners in your own country, or a country you know. What pronunciation problems do they have?

      Reply below with your observations. Comment on other teachers’ posts.

    • #8409

      Steven Herder

      In Japan, there are a set of common pronunciation problems including L/R, B/V, Shi/Si, Th, and more.

      A significant reason for the problems with pronunciation is that many Japanese never hear a variety of languages or non-Japanese sounds in their youth. It is said that we can easily mimic the sounds we hear up until the age of 2 years old. I often tell students this and suggest that if they ever have children, they sound make sure that their young children hear a variety of sounds when they are babies.

      • #8506

        One other thing that has long confounded the problem in Japan has been to use the Japanese phonetic alphabet to (often mis)represent English pronunciation. So, for example, It’s a lovely day! Might be represented as follows

        It’s       a      lovely   day!

        イッツ    ア ラブリー デイ (but often with no spaces, as per the album name)

        ITTSU   A     RABURI-   DEI and with the l/r and b/v challenges Steve mentioned, lovely can often sound more like rubbery.

        (The other key difference is that Japanese is syllable-time and not a stress-timed language like English, as discussed in the next lessons.)

    • #8491

      Barbara Bujtás

      *Hungarian is a syllable-timed language, the word stress is always on the first syllable, so we tend to have problems with word stress. (Also, it makes listening slightly more difficult, namely finding word boundaries. We expect the break between two words before the stressed syllable.)
      *Diphthongs are also a bother, we use diphthongs largely in regional dialects, but those are not considered to be nice.)
      *The usual th thing

      • #8507

        It’s interesting to see the various similarities and differences between 1st languages and the issues that learners have with English.

    • #8496

      Rhett Burton

      I live in work in Korea. My students need a lot of extra practice between b/v/p and r/l.

    • #10538

      Masatoshi Shoji

      l/r, th, f, v, etc.

      • #10545

        Yes, those are some of the main consonant sounds that Japanese learners typically have trouble with. What other pronunciation challenges are there?

    • #11585

      Jessica Sohn

      In Korea, I find many kids having problems with r/l, b/v, p/f, th and more. Very similar to problems in Japan.
      I feel it’s very difficult for Koreans because it’s such a different language.(The sounds of alphabets, the use of body to make the sound, the use of the mouth, tongue settings are just distinct.)

      • #11607

        Just wondering also if p/b is an issue after I saw some references to Pusan and other to Busan (after the name change in 2000).

    • #11597

      Rhett Burton

      I live in work in Korea. My students need a lot of extra practice between b/v/p and r/l. Students will benefit from learning how to move the tongue. These days, because we are always wearing masks, I am wondering how I can train the tongue while wearing a mask. To be honest, I sometimes remove my mask for brief periods of times when I can hear corrective feedback is required.


      • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by Rhett Burton.
      • #11606

        Yes, kids really need to see the mouth and tongue position for pronunciation. Posters/Images and/or videos would seem like a good alternative.

        FYI I’ve seen teachers switching to face shields although it doesn’t seem to offer much protection on its own, unfortunately, but less of an issue if combined with 2m+ social distancing.

    • #11599

      Rhett Burton

      I like the phonics song to anchor students’ ears to sounds to words.

      The song is easy to remember.  Once the students know the words then you can start to bring their attention to subtle differences in the way they are produced. Lots of ear and tongue practice.


      • #11605

        Nice video, Rhett. Parents can enjoy listening to it, too 😉

      • #11624

        scott gray

        Nice and gentle. Love that the parents can be the ones to introduce this to their kids and not the teacher. Then it can just build better rapport.

    • #11608

      English Central offer 37 videos with pronunciation tips in the following playlist:

      • #11625

        scott gray

        In addition to English Central there are some good apps that let the students see the mouth and movement of the parts while they make the sound. But yeah great to use more senses!

      • #11633

        Please share any specific apps you’d recommend. Thanks!

      • #11638

        scott gray

        Now that my kid isn’t using the iPad and it’s not 3 am, Speech Tutor is a paid app that I find it quite nice to let them see how the sound is made. It has a computer-animated head that you can see all the articulators move while you hear the sound. You can also record yourself from your iPad and listen to your sounds. It also will turn on a small video window to act as a mirror while you watch and follow along. I will show it tonight. It was made for speech therapists and you can also switch from front view to side view and show in 3 speeds.

        I will also find the homepage for the website that has a chart that they can push to hear each morpheme. But finally have time to work on my written assignment. Doctor visits so much fun.

    • #11623

      scott gray

      I think the main problems they have is learning a stress-based language versus a syllable based language. There are sound problems with sounds that they don’t have in their L1 but I find that the above is the biggest hurdle the students face.

    • #11645

      scott gray

      One online phonemic chart that has British and American versions accessible online.
      Color Vowel Chart with sample words and sounds, may be under resources but one pops up here on my browser at the following address. The Blue Canoe app is free right now if you register.


      Sorry have to run to store but write more later.

    • #14561

      Naoko Amano

      Vowel sound “u” and “a”. Japanese students tend to enunciate “a” sound as “oo” sound for example in the words they may say BAT or BOOT when they should be reading BUT.

      Students don’t recognize the “u” sound.

      • #14797

        What do you think the source of confusion is? For example, students often learn

        ‘u’ says /u/ as in ‘umbrella’

        as well as ‘u’ as in ‘unicorn’, but how about the influence of romaji with ‘u’ for ウ?

    • #16381

      Rhett Burton

      I didn’t add that the /th/ sound is tough to hear and produce for my students in Korea. I have to spend a lot of time helping them create a new filter for /TH/ and to not confuse with /d/. Examples – Students should be saying and writing ‘this,’ but they will often say and write /dis/. I do include /TH/ from the start of the curriculum to help students build awareness naturally, but some students don’t notice and build awareness independently.

      • #16392

        /th/ is a problem for many learners around the world and, as you know,  “D’is is a problem for da people in some English-speaking communities, too!” Demonstrating and having students make and practice the /th/ sound is really important and often addressed by correcting the tongue position.

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