Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pronunciation Challenges by Language: A Sampling from Portuguese to Japanese

This is just a brief shortlist and introduction to the most common pronunciation challenges associated with the following languages including a few helpful hints:

Brazilian Portuguese: t vs. ch (Ex. to--chew)
  • In Brazilian Portuguese the 't' is sometimes pronounced as an American 'ch' sound. In English, the 't' sound is pronounced with the tongue closer to the teeth on the roof of the mouth, whereas the 'ch' sound is made further back on the ridge of the mouth.

Italian: h vs. a (Ex. hungry--angry)
  • Italians must remember that the American 'h' sound is what linguists call an aspirated sound, which means that the speaker must exhale when pronouncing words that begin with 'h' instead of swallowing it.

Japanese: r vs. l (Ex. rock--lock)
  • Japanese has one sound for both of these distinct sounds found in English, so students have an especially difficult time with this because no matter what they say it is incorrect, as they are using a sound in Japanese that exists "between" the 'r' and 'l'.  I always tell my students that the tongue is flat with the 'l' and curved back a bit with the 'r'.

Korean: p vs. f (Ex. coffee--copy)
  • Remember that making the 'f' sound involves the top teeth and bottom lip, while the 'p' sound involves both lips.

Portuguese: sh vs. ch (Ex. share--chair)
  • Portuguese speakers usually pronounce the 'ch' sound in English as 'sh'. 'Ch' is quick as in a sneeze... Achoo!...and 'sh' is soft and long as in Shhhh, the baby is sleeping.

Spanish: inserting an 'e' in front of words beginning with 's' (Ex. eSpain, esleep, esafe and esound)
  • Spanish-speaking students need practice beginning the 's' sound without the help of words before or after that normally help the flow and connection of sounnds.

Turkish: v vs. w (Ex. wine--vine)
  • The 'v' sound includes the use of the teeth and the bottom lip, while the 'w' sound is formed with both lips as if giving a kiss.

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