Pronunciation Problems in Ukraine
It is not a secret that pronouncing English sounds easily and correctly is a big challenge for non-native speakers. Of course, the complexity of English pronunciation consists not only of particular sounds but also of several other aspects such as intonation, stress, rhythm, and timing. I would like to analyze one of the biggest and most obvious pronunciation problems for Ukrainian speakers of English which, in my opinion, is sound differences and the way of pronouncing sounds.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Hanna H. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
There are a number of English sounds that simply do not exist in Ukrainian, so it’s no wonder Ukrainians have difficulties with pronouncing them. Ukrainians' least favorite sounds in terms of pronunciation are forelingual interdental sounds [ð] and [θ]; bilabial sonorant [w] sound; backlingual velar sonorant [ŋ] and central narrow [ə:] sound. The mixture of difficulty and confusion leads to a tendency of Ukrainian speakers to solve the pronunciation problems by changing unfamiliar English sound to familiar Ukrainian sound similar or slightly similar to English one. As a result, the undesirable accent appears. Given the substitution of sounds which sometimes means changing of the meaning, there is a high probability to be misunderstood. The great example can be the word ‘when’ where the sound [w] is pronounced by Ukrainians as [v].
It is also known that Ukrainian speakers tend to have such pronunciation features as incorrect articulation of English diphthongs; more front articulation of the English front vowels [i], [i:], [e]; excessive fortis articulation of [h] sound; excessive lip rounding and protrusion in the articulation of English rounded vowels caused by the greater prominence of lip participation in Ukrainian; absence of qualitative and quantitative reduction of vowel phonemes in unstressed position etc.
By comparing voice-quality settings we can come to a conclusion that challenges in pronouncing particular sounds are inevitable but can be overcome. The differences are as follows: a relaxed state of the oral cavity, spread lips, nasal voice, low/ high pitched range, tense articulation in English and tense state of oral cavity, neutral intermittently rounded lips, absence of nasality, mid-level pitch ranged, lax articulation in the Ukrainian language.
The next stop is aspiration. One of the features of Ukrainian accent is an absence of aspiration of plosives [p], [t], [k] and the absence of neutralization of aspiration in special cases. Also intonation. Intonation is one of a huge part of pronunciation which English speakers and Ukrainian speakers see differently. For instance, using rising intonation while saying ‘please’ at the end of the sentence express politeness, when, for instance, falling intonation is inappropriate and rude in English. The Ukrainian language does not work like that and that is why it is especially hard for Ukrainian speakers to understand in what way the intonation works unless they can grasp it naturally.
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It is not embarrassing to have the features and difficulties mentioned above, this is normal. With the help of a teacher and his or her effective teaching techniques, Ukrainian speaker can get over any English pronunciation problems. The teaching techniques may include visuals (writing arrows to indicate intonation; drawing diagrams of the mouth showing how particular sound is made), peer dictation (for analyzing pronunciation problems), introducing phonemes, repeating tongue twisters, gesturing, using the board, humming or singing (for stress and intonation) and surely analyzing and practicing as much as possible.
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