Saturday, 28 May 2011

Problems faced in English Pronunciation


Introduction:

Pronunciation can be defined as the way in which a person sounds the words of a language while speaking. The students of spoken English language or any other spoken Language face the problems in the pronunciation of the particular language. As a Pakistani student, I also face some problems in order to pronounce the English words.
The speech of non-native English speakers may exhibit pronunciation characteristics that result from such speakers imperfectly learning the pronunciation of English, either by transferring the phonological rules from their mother tongue into their English speech or through implementing strategies similar to those used in primary language acquisition. They may also create innovative pronunciations for English sounds not found in the speaker's first language.
It is very difficult for learners to achieve a pronunciation that sounds like a native speaker's. Discussions of the pronunciation of English as an international language have emphasized the fact that native-like pronunciation is also unnecessary for many learners, and may indeed not be wanted. It has been suggested that intelligibility is a more appropriate objective than conformity to any pre-existing model.

Difficulties in English Pronunciation:

Pronunciation is an aspect of verbal communication which makes it more effective and attractive. Therefore, the significance of pronunciation becomes highly considerable in the process of verbal communication. Speakers of a particular language have a very deep and strong impact of the sounds of the alphabet on their pronunciation.
There are certain sounds which every language possesses. Most of the sounds which a language has seem to be similar, but they are not pronounced in the exact manner. There are certain differences in pronunciation. Therefore, when a person speaks any non-native language, he has to face certain sound difficulties.
For example, the Japanese do not have the sound of ‘r’ in their language. Therefore they have to use an alternative sound available in their language according to their convenience. While pronouncing the sound ‘r’, they pronounce ‘l’ sound. Similarly, the Arabic language does not have ‘p’ sound and they replace it with ‘b’ sound. But there are many other factors present which affect the pronunciation of sounds. A person who is a non-native speaker of any language always faces some problems.
Following are some problems that are faced in pronunciation of English Language:
Recognition of Speech Sounds:

Speech sounds are certain acoustic effects voluntarily produced by the organs of speech and they are a result of definite actions performed by these organs. There is a problem in recognition of speech sounds and we can observe that the same letter has different sounds.
For example the letter “a” in “bath” is not pronounced in the same way of that in “bathe”. The “ou” in “South” is also different from “ou” in “Southern”. Generally verbs and nouns are pronounced differently although they are written the same.

Mother Tongue Interference:

There is a problem that the students mix up the various sounds of English language with the sounds of their mother tongue and there is lack of ability to recognize foreign sounds with ease.
In Pakistan the sounds of English and Urdu are certainly different from each other but the Pakistani students mix them up and try to shape their speech organs according to the sounds of Urdu while pronouncing English sounds. This is due to the influence of the mother tongue of the people of Pakistan.
In Pakistan many languages are spoken as the second or the third languages other than Urdu. For example Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Pashto languages are spoken in different parts of the country and there is a problem for them to pronounce the English words. As we can see that the Pakhtoon people have the problem that they pronounce the ‘f’ sound with ‘ph’ as this is due to the mother tongue interference and there is a problem with the flexibility of the organs of speech.

Supra segmental features:

            Suprasegmental features are also referred as Prosodic features or Prosodies. The main suprasegmental features are length, Syllable stress and voice-pitch. It is difficult for a English learner to make the foreign sounds with his own organs of speech and the learner has to learn to put his tongue, lips and other parts of the organs of speech into certain definite positions, or to perform with them certain actions.
            “Articulatory phonetics” helps us to teach the movement of speech organs in production of speech sounds. Speech is produced by lungs, larynx, tongue, lips soft palate, hard plate etc.         
            Daniel Jones defined the articulation of the words as the “gymnastics of the vocal organs”. He states that in order to cope with articulatory problems a learner should study Phonetics Theory and do the necessary exercise based on that theory. Generally the student will be able to pronounce correctly in the matter of length, stress and pitch, if accurate information as to foreign usage in regards to these matters is supplied to him. The main difficulty is to bear those instructions in mind. The teacher is required to be a model of pronunciation and he has to provide ear training exercises to the learner and he must judge the success or the learner’s effort.
             Spoken Languages has a particular rhythm of speech and the learner of the particular language must try to pronounce the words as they are pronounced in the particular language and it is essential for a English learner that he must try to produce those sounds with the correct articulation of the words.

Segmental features:

            The segmental features deal with the vowels and the consonants. Vowels in English are uttered with different positions of lips, tongue and jaws, but in Urdu vowels are realized in the natural position of the oral cavity.

* For example, /b/, /t/, /a/ : are confused and /a:
* Cot /kbt/
* Caught /k כ : t / /Ka: t/
* Cart / ka: t/

 When a “ phoneme is replace with another phoneme” that is called phoneme difficulty and when some “sound of phoneme is confused” that is called “ sound difficulty”.
            For example Pakistan learners pronounce wine as vine and in this way they confuse /w/ with /v/.
In English Vowel intensity (quality) is significant for syllabic prominence in English and in Urdu vowel duration (quantity) is significant for syllabic prominence.
Vowels are open sounds made with the letters a, e, i, o and u. Consonants are hard sounds made with all the other letters. There is a problem in pronouncing group of consonants.
Consider the word "describe". Many students try to speak too quickly and end up missing one or more sounds. They pronounce it as "decribe" or "desribe" or even sometimes as "deribe".

Problem with learning the shapes of the Conventional letters:

There is a problem of memorizing the shapes of the conventional letters and the relations between the conventional orthography and the pronunciation. As, we mix up the symbols and which leads the mispronunciation of words. The alphabet which we use to write English has 26 letters but it has 44 sounds. One must be clear about the shapes and pronunciation of these symbols.

Problem with the pronunciation of “th” sound:

The /th/sound in the word 'this' is a voiced sound. That means that your vocal
chords should vibrate when you say the word. Put the tips of your fingers lightly on your throat and say ‘this’. You should feel a vibration in your throat. The other /th/ sound in the word ‘thanks’ is a voiceless sound. That means that your vocal chords should not vibrate when you say the word. Put the tips of your fingers lightly on your throat and say ‘thanks’. You should not feel a vibration in your throat.
Non-native English speakers usually have problems pronouncing the two English /th/ sounds because these sounds are not found in most other languages. They tend to substitute other sounds for the two /th/ sounds.
English learners often substitute the voiceless /th/ sound with a /t/ or /s/ sound. Students say, "sanks a lot" or “tanks a lot” when they mean to say "thanks a lot". Students also say, "sinking" or “tinking” when they mean to say "thinking".
English learners sometimes substitute the voiceless /th/ sound with a /z/ sound. Many of us pronounce the hard TH like Z and the soft TH like S, which sometimes make language hard to understand. With both Z and S, we use both upper teeth and lower teeth to produce sound. With TH, just use your tongue in place of your lower teeth. You can start by biting your tongue slightly with your upper teeth, then blowing out air as with Z or S. Using the tongue makes the TH sounds quite a bit softer than Z or S.

Connected Speech:

The learners of the English language often have a craze to speak fluently and while attempting fluency in speaking skill, they become unconscious of the rules of connected speech and make mistakes in pronunciation unwittingly. Fluent speech flows with a rhythm and the words bump into each other. To make speech flow smoothly the way we pronounce the end and beginning of some words can change depending on the sounds at the beginning and end of those words.

Transliteration:

            There is a problem of transliteration with the non-native speakers in the pronunciation of English language. For example, Urdu is the mother tongue of the people of Pakistan and they are in habit of using Urdu sounds. This repetition of pronouncing English sounds in Urdu style consolidates the mispronunciation.

Problems with two types of English Pronunciation; American Pronunciation and the British Pronunciation:

There is a problem faced by the learners of English with respect to the American and English Pronunciation as we mix up the pronunciation of theses two. American English is usually defined as the language that is spoken in the United States and British English is the language spoken in England and the British empire along with countries owned by that empire.
 One of the most noticeable differences is in the spelling of some words. Words such as color in American English become a colour in British English. Another example is the American word theater. In British English it becomes theatre. Many times although words are spelled the same in both forms of English, they may have a different pronunciation. The accent is put on a different syllable in the word.
In British English the word "mature" is pronounced as "machure" and in American English it is pronounced as "Matoor". This shows that there is a difference in the pronunciation of the‘t’ sound.
In Britain, the ‘o’ vowel, [ɒ], in words like dog, hod, pot, is pronounced with rounded lips and the tongue back in the mouth. Americans do not have this vowel, instead pronouncing the same words using the ‘ah’ vowel, [ɑ], with the lips unrounded and the tongue back but more relaxed. This is the same vowel in card or bard.
            In Britain, words like what are pronounced using the same vowel [ɒ] as in dog, and so is phonetically spelled wot rather than wat. Perhaps this is why baloney (nonsense) is so spelled in American dictionaries, but primarily as boloney in some British ones.

Lack of Correspondence between Spelling and Pronunciation:

There is lack of correspondence between the spellings and their pronunciation.
For example, "tion" on the end of a word is pronounced "shun", while "sion" can be pronounced "zhun". There are often many ways to pronounce a particular spelling pattern, but it certainly helps to know what the variations are. For example, the pattern "ough" can be pronounced "uff" as in "enough" and "tough", or "or" as in "ought" and "bought" or "oh" as in "although" and "dough".
            There are penalty of words in English Language which have silent letters but these words are unknowingly pronounced which make these words mispronounced.
For example, Knife, Knowledge, Knave, Kneel have ‘K’ silent which should not be pronounced at all.

Multiple sounds of the same letters:

            There are many letter and combinations of letters which produce numerous sounds at different places.
            For example, “ch” produces three sounds as, ‘ch’, ‘k’, ‘sh’. Similarly, ‘c’ produces two sounds as ‘s’ and ‘k’.

Solutions to Surmount the Difficulties of Mispronunciation:

·                    It is important to listen to how Native speakers pronounce various words and phrases and and try to pronounce these words as they do.
·                    Pronunciation can be improved by consulting the entymolgy or the origin of the words in the modern dictionaries.
·                    Learn the Phonetics alphabets in order to pronounce the symbols exactly
·                    Every English word has its own stress, or intonation. For example, the word "believe" has two syllables (be and lieve), but only the second syllable is stressed. We say be'lieve and not 'be lieve. So, the stress must not be wrong.
·                    If you speak too fast, the danger is that you could skip over some words, fail to pronounce them completely, or mix them up. If you speak too slowly, you might end up sounding unnatural. But it's better to speak slowly and clearly than too quickly.
·                    One must learn to recognize the spelling patterns. For example, the pattern "ough" can be pronounced "uff" as in "enough" and "tough", or "or" as in "ought" and "bought" or "oh" as in "although" and "dough".
·                    A wide range of CDs and DVDs exist to provide native speech modeling of different speaking, pronunciation, national and regional English accents. It is good for a learner to listen to such conversations in order to improve English pronunciation.
·                    One must seek to good teachers and guides that can help them to learn phonetics symbols with proper sound practice and recognition.
·                    One must have the possession of a good ear because if a person has a good ear then he will be able to pronounce the foreign words correctly.
·                    One must have a good memory in order to remember the acoustic qualities of the foreign sounds.

Conclusion:

          There are a number of problems in English Pronunciation for the non-native speaker of the English language. It is necessary for an English learner to pronounce the words exactly as they are pronounced by a native speaker. Hence, it is important for a non- native English speaker or English learner that he must resolve the problems of miscommunication. However it is found and experienced that in spite of strenuous efforts to attain perfectness in English Pronunciation for a Non-native speaker it is impossible to speak exactly like the Native English speaker.

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