Skkn troublesome english sounds to vietnamese students causes & solutions

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1 TROUBLESOME ENGLISH SOUNDS TO VIETNAMESE STUDENTS: CAUSES & SOLUTIONS By Le Van Su CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION 1. 1 Background Information When we learn a foreign language, its pronunciation is one of the hardest problems to surmount. This is due to the fact that “the new language (1) has a phoneme not existing in our native language, (2) has variants of phonemes not similar to those of comparable phonemes occurring in different environments from those of our own language.” (Tam, Le Duy, 1970, p.108) As far as English is concerned, its phonological system consists of consonant and vowel phonemes some of which cause Vietnamese learners a lot of difficulties. It is this problem that calls for a comparative analysis of the phonological systems of the Vietnamese language and the English language to reveal trouble spots and point out the way toward possible solutions. 1. 2 The Purpose of the Study Therefore, the purpose of this research paper is to work out a list of problem consonant and vowel sounds, to state their causes and to find out the best way to help students overcome the difficulty to pronounce them properly. 1. 3 The Organization of the Paper These main contents will be dealt with in separate chapters. The difficult sounds and their causes will be presented first and the last part will focus on how to solve the problems. 1.4 The Statement of Value 2 It is hoped that this study will contribute its part to the improvement of Vietnamese students’ pronunciation of English sounds, the first step for them to learn English better and more effectively. 3 CHAPTER II SOME PROBLEM ENGLISH SOUNDS TO VIETNAMESE LEARNERS AND THEIR CAUSES According to Lado, Robert (1957), “the process of analyzing sound systems will reveal problem sounds” for the second language learners to take into consideration and spare time to drill them. Following are the English consonants and vowels which cause troubles to Vietnamese learners together with their reasons. 2. 1 Tense and Lax Vowels / I / and / i: / , / ʊ /and / u: / , / e / and / eɪ / These vowel pairs belong to the English tense / lax vowels. They pose difficulties for Vietnamese learners because of the following reasons:  The Vietnamese vowel system makes many vowel distinctions. Therefore students often produce the two vowels of each pair identically, using neither the tense nor the lax vowel. “Failure to make these distinctions can lead to misunderstandings. Words such as SLEEP, TASTE, and STEWED may be heard by English speakers as SLIP, TEST, and STOOD respectively” (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.96)  The vowel they produce is shorter than the equivalent in English and has no tongue movement during its production. In other words, the vowel length is neglected. The result is that these two pairs of words BEAT – BIT and SEAT – SIT are pronounced the same.  “The English short / I / is somewhat similar to the Southern Vietnamese / i / in THỊT, whereas the Northern Vietnamese THỊT would sound like the English long / i: /. The contrast / I / and / i: / as in SIT and SEAT should be drilled.” (Tam, Le Duy, 1970, p.110)  “The Vietnamese / u / is between English / ʊ / and / u: /. The contrast WOULD and WOOED is difficult to distinguish and produce. It needs drilling.” (Tam, Le Duy, 1970, p.110) 2. 2 Vowels / e / and / æ / 4 Vietnamese speakers may have difficulty distinguishing between / e / and / æ/ as in BET and BAT because:  They often pronounce these two vowels in exactly the same way. “Most commonly, students fail to lower their tongue and jaw far enough in attempting to produce the /æ / sound.” (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.100)  “The Vietnamese / e / is between / e / and /æ/” (Tam, Le Duy, 1970, p.110). Consequently, the contrast MEN and MAN is not easy to distinguish and produce. This pair of words should be practised.” 2. 3 Word – Final Voiceless Stop Consonants: / p /, / t /, and / k / In the Vietnamese language, we do have these voiceless stop consonants at the end of a word, but why do we Vietnamese learners have problems with these sounds? The reason is that we don’t release these sounds in final position and they are much shorter than their English equivalents. English speakers may have difficulty hearing them. “Thus a word such as BEAT may sound like BEE.” (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.153) 2. 4 Voiced and Voiceless Stops in Word–Final Position / b / , / d / , / g / and / p / , / t / , /k / These consonants are also trouble spots for Vietnamese students due to the fact that Vietnamese has no voiced stops at the ends of words. For them, there is no distinction between voiced and voiceless stops in this position. Hence, “words such as CAP and CAB may sound identical, with a short unreleased / p / at the end of both words.” (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.154) 2. 5 Word – Final Fricative Consonants / f v θ ð s z ʃ and ʒ / These are also difficult sounds for Vietnamese speakers to produce because in Vietnamese, fricatives do not occur finally. Very often they are omitted at the end of words. 5 For example, “a sentence such as: THE BOYS ALWAYS PASS THE GARAGE ON THEIR WAY HOME may sound like THE BOY ALWAY PA THE GARA ON THEIR WAY HOME.” (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.154) 2. 6 Consonants / θ / and / ð / These sounds do not exist in Vietnamese. They constitute a problem in both production and perception. Because they are both spelled th, there is no way to tell one from the other in writing. Vietnamese learners, therefore, usually replace / θ / by /t/ (heavily aspirated) and / ð / by / d / in such words as THINK and THIS. 2. 7 Word – Final / tʃ / Vietnamese has a sound similar to the English / tʃ / in word – initial position (CHUA, for example) but not in word – final position. So when Vietnamese students produce /tʃ / in word – final position, “they may substitute / ʃ / for / tʃ /, saying MARSH instead of MARCH.” (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p. 155) 2. 8 Consonants / p / versus / f / and / b / As we know, / p / does not occur in initial position in Vietnamese, we may pronounce /b/ or / f / for / p /. “Thus, PUT may sound like FOOT and PETER may sound like BEATER.” (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p. 155) 6 PART III HOW TO SOLVE THE PROBLEMS OF THE ABOVE SOUNDS? After presenting the difficult English sounds which Vietnamese students often encounter, in this part we shall deal with what we Vietnamese teachers should do to help students overcome such difficulty to pronounce these sounds properly. The techniques to remedy the pronunciation errors will be treated in the order of the problem sounds stated in the previous part. 3. 1 Solutions to the Problem of Tense and Lax Vowels / I / and / i: / , / ʊ / and / e / and / eɪ / / u: / , To correct the pronunciation errors concerning tense and lax vowels, Vietnamese teachers can use the following drilling techniques. Have students:  Exaggerate their pronunciation of each long vowel sound in BEE, BAY, BOO for example. In saying / i:/ and / ei /, be sure that they spread their lips. With /u:/ and / ʊ /, be sure that their lips are rounded.  Remember that all the above tense vowels / i: / / u: / /ei / are long ones, so they have to concentrate on lengthening these vowels.  Work on each long vowel in isolation and in sentences. For example: “I see it.” “They blew it.” (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.97)  Make sure that their mouth is relaxed for the production of lax vowels / I, ʊ, e/. Their lips should not be too spread for / I, e / or too rounded for / ʊ /.  Practise these lax vowels in isolation: /I/ /e/ /ʊ/ sit said book lip mess push bid red hood window fender wooden 7 (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.98) 8  Practise the lax front vowels / I , e / in minimal pairs. /I/ /e/ rid red pin pen pit pet mint meant (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.98)  Practise the tense and lax vowels separately and then distinguish between them in minimal pairs both in recognition and production activities. / i: / /I/ / ei / meat mitt mate lead lid late sheep ship waist reason risen main /e/ / u: / /ʊ/ met stewed stood let Luke look west pool pull men cooed could (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.98) 3. 2 Solutions to the Problem Vowels / e / and / æ / To distinguish and produce these two vowel sounds differently, students are advised to resort to the strategies below:  Lower their tongue and jaw when producing the / æ / sound. Put the tip of the tongue against the bottom teeth. 9  The teacher can demonstrate the contrast between / e / and / æ / by exaggerating the dropping of the jaw with / æ /. The students observe and imitate this.  In English, many emotional words contain the vowel / æ /. Students can make use of these words such as MAD BAD GLAD SAD and HAPPY to practise / æ /. For example: I FEEL MAD.  Practise recognition and production of these two vowels using minimal pairs. /e/ / æ / ten tan bet bat pen pan dead Dad sex sacks (O’Connor, J.D, 1988, p.80)  Practise saying these vowels in minimal pair sentences: “The fat men put ten baskets on the black desk.” (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.99) 3. 3 Solutions to the Problem of Word – Final Voiceless Stop Consonants / p /, / t /, and /k / The pronunciation mistake lies in the unreleased state of / p t k / at the end of Vietnamese words. To remedy this, students can follow these tips:  Release the final voiceless stop consonants in words such as TOP, TAUGHT, and BACK. A small puff of air, similar to aspiration, should accompany the release of the consonants. Practise these words in sentence-final position where they receive major sentence stress. This may involve some exaggeration of their own speech. For instance: “Put it up on top.” “I didn’t know that you taught.” “Do you mind sitting near the back?” (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.154) 10  Do linking exercises in which words ending in voiceless stops are followed by words beginning with vowels. It is best if the following word is an unstressed function word like a preposition or an article. Put the book on top of the shelf. He made a lot of money. (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.108) 3. 4 Solutions to the Problem of Voiced and Voiceless Stops in Word – Final Position / b d g / and / p t k / These voiceless and voiced consonants may sound identical in Vietnamese contexts in such words as CAP and CAB, CUP and CUB. Distinguish them by:  Releasing voiceless stops at the end of words. That is aspirating lightly / p t k / but keeping the articulators together for / b d g /.  Practise minimal pairs such as those below, remembering that the vowels are longer before voiced stops than before voiceless ones. Before voiceless consonant (Shorter vowel) Before voiced consonant (Longer vowel) tap tab pat pad back bag (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.103) 3. 5 Solutions to the Problem of Word – Final Fricative Consonants / f v θ ð s z ʃ and ʒ / Many Vietnamese students are unable to distinguish voiced and voiceless fricatives. Most commonly, they will be able to produce voiceless fricatives but not voiced ones. For example, / f / may be substituted for / v / so that a word such as LEAVE is 11 pronounced as LEAF. Similarly, / s / may be substituted for / z /, so that a word such as PEAS is pronounced as PEACE.  To avoid this error, students should be provided with practice of the voiced / voiceless distinction using minimal pairs. /f/ /v/ /θ/ /ð / fan van thigh thy safer saver ether either leaf leave teeth teethe /s/ /z/ /ʃ/ / ʒ/ Sue zoo Aleutian allusion ceasing seizing mesher measure face phase (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.102)  They should also remember that vowels are longer before voiced fricatives than before their voiceless counterparts. Before voiceless consonant (Shorter vowel) Before voiced consonant (Longer vowel) leaf leave teeth teethe peace peas (Ibid, p.102) 12  Do linking exercises in which words ending in these fricatives are followed by words beginning with vowels. “Don’t give up your seat.” “Don’t play with it.” “Breathe in and then breathe out.” “Pass out the books.” “Your wish is my command.”  (Ibid, p.154) Practise the pronunciation of the / s / and / z / in words that have grammatical endings – the plural, the possessive, and the third person singular present tense. These endings involve a difference between the voiceless fricative / s / and the voiced fricative / z /. For instance: A B ropes robes cats cads docks dogs reefs reeves cloths clothes (Ibid, p.49) 3. 6 Solutions to the Problem of Consonants / θ / and / ð / / θ / and / ð / are problematic for non-English students. The heavily aspirated stop /t / in Vietnamese is usually substituted for the voiceless / θ / in words like THINK and a /d / for / ð / in words like THIS. Below are some hints on producing these sounds correctly.  It is helpful to have students place their tongue between their teeth, protrude their tongue, and exaggerate the articulation of these sounds.  Practise the date or birth dates because most of the ordinal numbers contain the / θ / sound. 13  Try tongue twisters such as the one below to practise producing these sounds: “Those three thugs think that they threw those things there.” (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.105) 3. 7 Solutions to the Word – Final / tʃ / Vietnamese students have no problem with / tʃ / in word – initial position because it is similar to the Vietnamese such as in the word CHUA / tʃʊə /. They should only have drills on word – final / tʃ / in a word such as MARCH where / tʃ / is usually wrongly replaced by / ʃ /. (Avery & Ehrlich, 1995, p.155) 3. 8 Solutions to the Problem of / p / versus / f / and / b / There is no aspirated / p / in initial position in Vietnamese. Thus PUT may sound like FOOT, and PETER may sound like BEATER. To correct these errors, here are two tips:  To substitute / b / for / p /, close the two lips together and say it with a puff of air in such words as P(h)OT, P(h)IE, P (h)EA. (Ibid, p.101)  To substitute / f / for / p /, close the two lips together, too. Don’t let the lower lip touch the upper teeth as for / f /. CHAPTER IV CONCLUSION 5. 1 Restatement of the Thesis As stated in the introduction, English sounds, with the inconsistency between their spelling and their pronunciation, cause real problems to Vietnamese learners. It is due to this that the topic “ Troublesome English sounds to Vietnamese students : Causes and Solutions” was taken into consideration and researched with a clear view to helping students identify the difficult sounds ,overcome the difficulties and produce them correctly 5. 2 Summary 14 With those aims beforehand, the research has shown that Vietnamese students usually have troubles pronouncing the English tense / lax vowel pairs because Vietnamese makes many vowel distinctions. As for consonants, Vietnamese speakers tend to delete one or more consonants in initial or final position because many English syllable types do not exist in Vietnamese. It has also analysed the techniques teachers can use to help their students overcome the difficulties and produce the problem sounds correctly. Teachers can resort to recognition, production, description and consolidation procedures to bring about good pronunciation results for their students. 5. 3 Implication I fondly hope that this study will respond to the needs of students and teachers alike and will be conducive to the better pronunciation of Vietnamese learners, especially students of junior and senior high schools in Vietnam. 15 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. REFERENCES Avery, Peter and Ehrlich, Susan(1995), Teaching American English Pronunciation Hong Kong: Oxford University Press. Forseth, Ron and Forseth, Carol and Others, Methodology Handbook for English Teachers in Vietnam. Lado, Robert(1957), Linguistics Across Cultures: Applied Linguistics for Language Teachers. Ann Arbor, Mich: Unversity of Michigan Press, p.19. O’Connor, J.D (1988), Better English Pronunciation. Second Edition. Great Britain: Cambridge University Press. Tam, Le Duy (1970), The Pronunciation of English. Saigon: Vietnamese – American Association.
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