Vietnamese Pronunciation Problems in English
Speaking like a native speaker is always expected from learners. However, they encounter many factors that prevent their success. Therefore, as an English teacher, I want to explore some common difficulties that Vietnamese students face when they learn to pronounce English so that I can teach effectively and help them communicate more confidently.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Thuong L. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Four major features can cause problems for them. Firstly, the complexity of tense and lax vowels in English creates confusion for Vietnamese learners. Secondly, a variety of dialect differences and consonant positions can confuse. Consonant clusters also lead Vietnamese speakers to make mistakes when they speak English. Thirdly, the stress in the English language varies widely. Where the Vietnamese language is syllable-timed, the English language is stress-timed. Finally, the intonation is also a challenge for Vietnamese learners.
Problem with vowels
Vietnamese and English vowel system is more different. People can recognize Vietnamese vowels by spelling, but it does not work in English. In a Vietnamese word, there is only one way to pronounce a vowel, but in English, learners may get confused between tense and lax vowel pairs such as /I :/ and /ɪ/, /u:/ and /ʊ/. Vietnamese learners cannot speak the two vowels of each pair correctly, such as words like sheep, taste, and stewed. When Vietnamese people pronounce these words, English native speakers may hear ship, text, and stood, instead.
Besides, some English vowels do not exist in the Vietnamese alphabet that also creates more difficulties and problems when pronouncing such as /æ/, /ʌ/. Students often pronounce /æ/ and /e/ in the same way because of the wrong position of the tongue and jaw.
Problems with consonants
Similarly, vowel sounds, some English consonants probably do not exist in Vietnamese, therefore people are not familiar with pronouncing these sounds like /θ/, /ð/, /z/, /f/ when speaking English. Additionally, to pronounce / θ/, /f/, /p/, /k/ and /t/ people have to create an air out.
Besides that, consonant clusters are one of the speaking challenges of Vietnamese learners. Consonant clusters can appear in initial, middle or final of a word such as pretty, birthday, mist. Vietnamese learners often tend to miss one or more consonants, especially the deletion of consonant /s/ in the middle of words, for example, people say /dɪˈkʌs/ instead of /dɪˈskʌs/ for discuss.
Another problem is missing the ending sounds, for example /n/ in nine, /θ/ in width, /k/ in duck, /st/ in fast. Also, most Vietnamese people miss or find it difficult to pronounce the ending sounds of /s/ and /z/ which cause learners’ speech to be unclear and sometimes misunderstood. People only pronounce the /s/ sound when they see words that end with the letter s, however, that is not true in all situations such as “s” in “ducks” sound /s/ but sound /z/ in “trees”.
Word stress, sentence stress
In the Vietnamese language, people speak all words in the same volume. On the other hand, English like a musical language. The stress always occurs. The stressed syllable will be pronounced longer and higher than another. If the words have incorrect stress, they will have a different meaning, for example, the word “record” will be a verb if it is pronounced /rɪˈkɔːd/ stress in the second letter, and it will be a noun if pronounced /ˈrek.ɔːd stress in the first letter.
In terms of sentence stress, English native speakers will emphasize content words that carry the meaning or sense within a sentence, while structure words will be spoken small and faster. However, Vietnamese learners speak a whole sentence with the same length of time.
Intonation and word connection
Another different point between English and Vietnamese is word connection and intonation. Every English sentence has its rhythm and beat. Native speakers will raise their voice up or down depending on their purposes. If they want to ask a piece of information, they have their voice up at the end of the sentence. Besides that, falling intonation is usually used in statement, command, and wh – questions. An English word is not only a single word but also put into a phrase or a sentence. Therefore, it has the connection of letters, for this sentence “there is a little boy” people usually forget to link the s sound in is with a. Instead of speaking words separately /ðer/ /ɪz/ /ə/ /ˈlɪt̬.əl/ /bɔɪ/, students should speak /ðe rɪ zə /ˈlɪt̬.əl/ /bɔɪ/.
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In conclusion, because of the difference between both language systems, even the lack of some alphabet letters, Vietnamese learners come across a variety of difficulties in learning English. To speak like a native speaker or only improve their pronunciation, learners have to practice more and more following authentic documents.
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