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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 7th, 2007, 08:42 pm
emile's Avatar
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Default Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian students and pronunciation

Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian students seem to have the worst pronunciation, finding it particularly difficult to pronounce word endings ('help' becomes 'hell', 'wealth' becomes 'well').

This must be due to first language influence. What exactly is it about the first language that causes this, anyone know?
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Unread Mar 8th, 2007, 04:50 am
Sue
 
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Default Re: Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian students and pronunciation

Humans can produce a lot more sounds than any individual language ever uses. Each language just uses a selection - so that, inevitably, when you learn a new language you come across sounds that your brain is not used to. This first of all means that it has difficulty recognising them, and then of course hasn't the foggiest idea how to pronounce them. That's why so many learners have problems with the "th" sounds for instance, which occur in relatively few languages. The brain, trying to make sense of what, to it, is a "non-existent" sound, understands it as the nearest sound that it does recognise. That's why "th" will often be understood (as well as pronounced) as "s" or "t".

This also happens with sound combinations or the position of sounds in a word. Take the English "ng" sound as in sing for instance. That only ever occurs at the end of a syllable in English - never in initial position. Try saying "ngis" - it tends to come out as "nyis", which is not the same. You really have to concentrate to say it properly. The same with sound combinations "str" "scr" and "spr" are frequent combinations in English and cause us no problems. But try saying "slr" or "sntr" -harder work.

I don't know the languages you mention, but I would hypothesise that it is this which is happening - that those particular sounds or sound combinations never occur in word final position (or possibly never occur at all) in those languages. It therefore becomes "hard work" for the learners. They may be able to do it when they're really concentrating on pronunciation, but as soon as they're thinking of other things too - what they want to say, the grammar and vocab necessary etc, - the brain "can't cope" and just simplifies life by reverting to the first language patterns. Which in this means dropping the final sounds.

For Thai students, you may find this site useful.
http://www.btinternet.com/~ted.power/l1thai.html
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Unread Mar 8th, 2007, 07:52 pm
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Default Re: Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian students and pronunciation

The site you gave seems to be playing tricks with my head, Sue. It lists 27 pronunciation issues for Thai students, 26 for Germans, but only 15 for Koreans! It seems to go against what I mentioned about Thais and that language group having the 'worst' pronunciation. But I'm gonna go with my instincts on this one...

On the 'ng' sound, I have to tell you that 'Ng' is a common name in some parts of Asia. The first time I saw this name (on a class register), I was absolutely stumped!

The other experience I've had of this was in Turkey, trying to pronounce the 'u' with two dots on top (cok guzel = very good, for example). I could only get it right if I concentrated really hard on it. There was no way I could do it naturally when speaking.

So I guess I know where these students are coming from, but it's hard work to get them where they're going.
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Unread Mar 9th, 2007, 04:32 am
Sue
 
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Default Re: Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian students and pronunciation

The number of problems doesn't necessarily reflect the final "quality" of the pronunciation. It also depends how much those problems affect intelligibility. If for example a German speaker pronounces "very good" as "wery goot" it may still be intelligible despite there being a mispronunciation in each word. In another case one mispronounced sound might make the whole thing unintelligible.

Of the learners I've taught, it's tended to be Spanish spekers who have the greatest problems arriving at a level of accuracy which is intelligible. Interestingly, one of their problems is also final consonant clusters - in this case with /t/ or /d/, as in "test" or "laughed".
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Unread Mar 12th, 2007, 07:37 pm
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Default Re: Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian students and pronunciation

Quote:
Of the learners I've taught, it's tended to be Spanish spekers who have the greatest problems arriving at a level of accuracy which is intelligible. Interestingly, one of their problems is also final consonant clusters - in this case with /t/ or /d/, as in "test" or "laughed".

Speakers of Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodian seem to have difficulties with final consonants no matter what they are, which makes me think that they have the most chronic pronunciation. (As we would if we tried to speak Vietnamese.) I've always found Spanish speakers quite intelligible, although I have never taught them at a beginner level.
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Unread Dec 19th, 2007, 09:03 am
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Default Re: Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian students and pronunciation

I'm new to the board so I'm over a year late posting on this one. I have recently started helping SE Asian students. From what I've studied, there are no words in their language (Lao) with such word endings as "th". (As Susan53 mentioned, correctly)

There are quite a few sounds that as a native English speaker I had a very hard time learning. The "ng" was one of them. It's like saying "sing" but then flowing into an "ah" sound at the end. Say singa and you almost have the "ng". "Ny" is a whole other consonant sound. So, I can empathize with students on the final and/or beginning consonant combinations. You just realize you will have to spend more time on it and that it is more work for them.

My two cents.. but I'm pretty new to all this myself so more tips welcome. : )
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