Pronunciation Problems for chinese
SpeakersOne issue that TEFL instructors soon realize is that students
of certain language backgrounds tend to face similar problems, one of which is pronunciation of certain syllables or phrases. Such is the case with native chinese
speakers, though their problems are neither simpler nor more complex than any other language
The website TEFL Boot Camp offers tips for teaching pronunciation in general. They state that teaching pronunciation is ?an area of great difficulty? for novice teachers, though they suggest that providing mouth diagrams, practicing stress, rhythm and intonation will be of use as well. A popular practice is to drill word pairs (feel ? fail; think - sink) so that students
can at least hear and realize that there is in fact a difference between the sounds. TEFL Boot Camp also suggests that teachers come up with a respelling system, just as there is a set of English Romanization of chinese
An essential to teaching pronunciation is to also teach rhythm; teaching at a slow unnatural pace is helpful at first, but for higher level students
, teachers should speak at a normal pace. This is called teaching Reduction.
Pronuncian, an ESL website for those who would like to learn American English pronunciation, provides a set of podcasts and listening exercises for chinese
-speakers. On their podcast they discuss several common issues, some of which are: ?th,? ?z,? ?v,? ?sh? and ?zh,? ?ng,? consonant stops such as ?p,? ?t,? or ?k,? interchanging ?l? and ?n,? distinguishing between vowel sounds, and the occasionally mistaking ?r? and ?l.?
Pronuncian also provides word lists for the above mentioned. Examples for the ?th? sound are as follows: clothe, bathe, that, their, this, them, mother, father, bother and clothing. Teachers can either drill these as single words or embed them into sentences.
From my personal experience working with chinese students
, I?ve noticed several other issues. One of which is that students
tend to drop off the ends of words so as to avoid pronunciation with words such as: want, churn, curt, elm, thing, hiccup. As mentioned above, ?th? is the most common issue for chinese
speakers, though they also often mistake ?v? and ?w.?
Some of these issues are explained by Gek Ling Lee in Teaching English to students
mistake the sounds ?th,? ?r,? ?l,? and ?ng? because these sounds are absent from chinese
(Lee, 153). Furthermore, students
from Guangdong or Shanghai may have an advantage in pronunciation, because these students
have a higher chance of exposure to Western culture, music and media.
is a tonal language, intonation may also be an issue. Unlike English, in chinese
questions cannot be formed by changing the ending tone ? to do so would change the meaning of the sentence entirely! Teachers should spend time teaching intonation as well as stress; this can be done with most speaking-listening textbooks though it would be useful to include several activities where stress changes the meaning all-together.
It is important to note that this is only a guideline. Mainland chinese
speakers come from very many backgrounds and from various levels of exposure to English. In fact, chinese
speakers themselves have very many dialects and communication can be difficult between two native chinese
speakers. With this in mind, some pronunciation problems will be a bigger issue for certain regions more than they will for others. From the little experience I have, it seems that Southerners have a bigger issue with ?n? and ?l,? ?ng,? and ?v? and ?w;? Northerners tend to have more trouble with ?r? and ?l.? Most chinese
, whether from the north, east, south or west all seem to have trouble with ?th,? and this problem tends to stick with them for a long period of time.