ESL Pronunciation Mistakes

 In Accents and Pronunciation, Grammar

There are some common ESL pronunciation mistakes which your teacher can anticipate, the reason for this being that your teacher has seen this many times before in ESL students of different nationalities.  Depending on your native tongue, there will be certain sounds in the English language that are completely new to you.  Asian students may find some words impossible to get their tongues around, Africans and Europeans too, will have problems. There are some sounds in English that present problems to most ESL learners.  The most typical ESL pronunciation mistakes that occur can be broken down broadly  by the type of mistake and the national language of the learner.

esl pronunciation mistakes

The ‘th’ in English is pronounced in three different ways:

    •  as a hard sound.  For example: this, that, these, those, they or them
    • as a soft sound.  for example: throw, thing, thought
    • as a ‘t’, as in Thames. Although the t is followed by an h, it is sounded out as a soft ‘t’
      ‘l’ and ‘r’
      In Japanese and many African languages, the ‘r’ sound is absent.  Thus learner from these regions of the world find this sound very difficult to enunciate, and that is why you hear works like ‘rice’ being pronounced as ‘lice’.
      The short ‘i’ poses a problem for some English language learners.  For example words such as live, bit, hit, miss will be pronounced not with a short ‘i’ but a long one, so that they are sounded out as leeve, beet, heet and mees.  Many learners whose native tongue is one of the  Romance languages – Spanish, Portuguese, French, etc – may experience problems with the short ‘i’.
      ‘w’ and  ‘v’
      Many European language speakers do not differentiate between a  ‘w’ and ‘v’, and sound out a word with a v rather than a w.  these problems are often experienced by people whose first language is one of the Germanic tongues.  You might hear ‘villing’ instead of ‘willing’, for example.
      Unstressed syllables
      We native English speakers know that many a syllable is not even pronounced in spoken English.  English learners have to learn that syllables are often lost in the pronunciation of a word, even though they will assume it is correct to sound out every syllable.  These types of pronunciation have to be learned by listening and talking rather than by text books.  For example when we say several or vegetable  we sound out the first and  third (and fourth in the case of vegetable) syllables, but not the second syllable – sev-rel; veg-table.
      Silent Consonants
      The English language is full of silent consonants, and make up most of the lists we see of  ‘commonly mispronounce words’.  We all have to learn these pronunciations, commit them to memory, and practice using them in speech.  That includes native English speakers, too!
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