Vietnamese Pronunciation Problems in English
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|As in the case of several Asian languages, Vietnamese have trouble pronouncing words ending with consonants; so naturally, learners are usually very confused with final consonants and thus end up deleting or substituting most of them. |
The consonants Vietnamese students commonly struggle with are: /z/, /s/, /t/, /v/, /ks/, /ʤ/
|/z/: tables; rose; rise; bags|
/s/: mice; class; mess; rice
/t/: right; fight; hate; fruit; start
/v/: love; drive; retrieve; Steve
/ks/: six; lakes; cooks; hacks
/ʤ/: manage; bridge; engage
|Some sounds occurring in the middle of words are also omitted by Vietnamese learners as such occurrence is an unfamiliar phonetic phenomenon:|
These sounds are: /z/, /s/, /t/, /v/, /ks/, /ʤ/
|/z/: Wednesday; president; rising|
/s/: master; western
/v/: severe; savage; rival; never
/ks/: mixer; Foxtel; excel; vaccine
/ʤ/: pledger; virgin; midget; bludger
|A significantly common error committed by Vietnamese learners is to replace /t/ /tr/ & /ʤ/, with /ʧ/. |
That shows that learners struggle greatly with the concept of combining purely alveolar sounds with post palatal ones.
|/t/: time; task; talent; cutter|
/tr/: trash; transit; hatred; tried
/ʤ/: cage; Jamaica; badge; grudge
|Vietnamese learners find it difficult as most English learners to place the tongue tip between the teeth, so they resort to an easier solution that is to bring the tip into contact with the back of the teeth or alveolar sometimes in the form of /d/ or /z/.||/ð/: weather; loathe; then; rather|
|Vietnamese learners use /s/ and /ʃ/ interchangeably, however, based on my classroom experience, I have found that /ʃ/ is more commonly confused for /s/ especially when it is the initial sound in a word as in [shoe], which becomes [sue] and sometimes when it’s final as in [cash] which becomes [Cass]. |
There are times when the opposite is true but more commonly when /s/ is located in the middle of the word as in [castle] which sounds as [cashol?].
Due to the lack of distinction between the two sounds, it’s very difficult to establish a pattern of error.
Teachers then are strongly advised to provide the students with step-by-step instructions on how to produce these consonants and train their ears to distinguish between them.
|/s/: muscle; person; percent; mouse and rats|
/ʃ/(initial): shovel; shine; sheep; shape; shallot
/ʃ/(final): reddish; selfish; cash; rush; tarnish
|Since /dʒ/ is one form of consonants cluster (/d/ + /ʒ/), Vietnamese confuse it with a number of other consonants most commonly as follows: /j/ /d/ /s/ /t/ /z/ /ʧ/.|
/dʒ/ then, as mentioned in TYPE 1, is normally either omitted when it’s the final sound in a word, or substituted for one of the consonants mentioned in the beginning of this section.
Teachers must advise their students of the correct and detailed articulation of this consonant as well as remind them of voicing it.
The best way would be to start with /ʧ/ and then ask the students to vibrate their throats after that.
|/dʒ/ (medial): pledger; virgin; midget; bludger|
/dʒ/ (final): ridge; surge; wedge; cage; dodge
|As formerly stated, the consonants cluster phenomenon is quite unfamiliar to the Vietnamese language and hence complex, so teachers should expect to see plenty of omissions, additions and substitutions occurring in words with [pr] [pl] [tr] [kr] [kl] [fl] [ks] [sk] [st] [ts] combinations. |
Teachers need to spend a considerable amount of time with the students to practice these sounds as they affect intelligibility dramatically.
|/pr/: problem; practice; pronunciation; present|
/pl/: place; plough; plane; please; plumber.
/tr/: try; train; trophy; trail; tricky; trace; trim.
/kr/: crane; crab; crime; Kristen; cram; cradle.
/kl/: climb; claim; cloud; clear; Clayton; cluster.
/fl/: fly; fleece; Fletcher; fluke; flirt; fluster.
/ks/: lacks; Max; spikes; takes; seeks, ticks.
/sk/: ask; task; husky; rascal; mascot; risky.
/st/: must; rusty; festival; Crystal; pastor; best
/ts/: rights; mates; fights; boots; seats; hits
|The Vietnamese language does not have consonant /r/ in its phonetic system at least not as it is produced by Americans or most native English speakers in the world. |
It is, therefore, commonly mistaken for /z/ especially in the North of Vietnam.
Teachers again must elaborately explain to the learners how to produce that sound to clear up the confusion.
|/r/ (initial): rat; reason; right; really; rest|
/r/ (medial): parking; caring; bartender; fertile.
/r/ (final): letter; radiator; armor; closer; aware
|Once again, the Vietnamese language does not have an equivalent to the English consonant /l/. |
Consequently, they typically confuse it for /n/.
Teachers need to help the learners drop the nasality when attempting to produce that sound as well as free the sides of the tongue while keeping contact between the tip and the alveolar ridge.
|/l/ (initial): light; lace; lead; laugh; learn|
/l/ (medial): fault; rolling; falling; swollen; really
/l/ (final): recall; fall; roll; available; identical
|In English, frequent shifts between voiced and voiceless consonants are required to distinguish between certain words. |
Such mechanism does not exist and is not required in Vietnamese, thus, constitutes a complex problem.
It is the teacher’s responsibility to explain the contrast between voiced and voiceless consonants as well as the opposition of fortis and lenis as they can play a part in the voicing and de-voicing process.
|/v/: live; serve; Dave; leave; vile; volt; oven|
/f/: life; surf; Tafe; leaf; file; fault; often
/b/: beal; best; ball; bye; ban; rib; robe; burb
/p/: peel; pest; Paul; pie; pan; rip; rope; burp
/g/: goal; gap; gate; ragged; beggar; bag; blog
/k/: coal; cap; Kate; racket; Becker; back; block
|As voiced /ð/ is confused for /d/ or /z/, voiceless /θ/ is confused for /t/ or /s/. |
Teachers must advise the learners to place the tongue tip between the teeth without biting or moving the lips down.
For many learners, it is simply odd or embarrassing to have the tongue visible to others.
Also, most often, the problem for English learners is to be able to produce either /ð/ or /θ/ smoothly along with /s/ /z/ /t/ /d/ and mainly other alveolar sounds.
That means practicing these sounds in isolation is likely to be ineffective.
|/θ/: both; Ruth; math; teeth; thick; thin; bath etc|
/t/: boat; root; mat; teat; tick; tin; bat
/θ/: path; faith; thought; forth; growth; thank.
/s/: pass; face; sought; force; gross; sank.
|For learners from the south, or central provinces of Vietnamese, /j/ in word initials is often confused for /z/. |
Again, plenty of listening drills are required to help learners to distinguish between these two consonants.
|/j/: yes, young, yellow, yeast; yell, yacht|
|That is a common mistake not only made by the Vietnamese learners but also by most Asian’s and European’s. |
Learners often rely on spelling to guide their pronunciation and since /ŋ/ is often spelled as /ng/, they attempt to force out the /g/ at the end, which sounds like /k/ once it is de-voiced.
|/ŋ/: king; bring; sing; wing; bang; thing|
/ŋk/: kink; brink; sink; wink; bank; think
|Another common mistake resulting of the confusion between spelling and pronunciation. |
Vowel /ɪ/ is quite frequently spelled as letter [i] in English and since Vietnamese rely on spelling to produce the English sounds, they confuse /ɪ/ for /i/.
|/i/: Need; read; teat; leave; meat; wheel; seat|
/ɪ/: Knit; rid; tit; live; mitt; will; sit
|As in TYPE 14, this error is among many generated by the learners’ unawareness of the gap that exists between the English spelling and pronunciation. |
Vowel /æ/ is quite often spelled with letter [a] which learners would then read as /ʌ/ or /a/.
Teachers must repeatedly remind the students that English spelling and pronunciation are two very different things.
|/æ/: bad; man day; hat; badge; tramp|
/ʌ/: bud; Monday, hut; budge; trump
|These two vowels are sometimes spelled the same as in [foot] and [food]. |
Teachers must explain the difference between lax VS tense as well as short VS long vowels and conduct some minimal pairs’ exercises to drill these sounds and assist learners in distinguishing between them.
|/u:/: Room; tooth; food; mood; rude; wooed|
/ʊ/: Book; put; foot; hood; could; would
|Vowel /ɝ/ is quite difficult for most English learners including Vietnamese and is usually mispronounced as /ɔː/ which could considerably affect the speech intelligibility.||/ɝ/: First; sir; burn; curl; work; learn; worm|
/ɔː/: Forced; soar; born; call; walk; lawn; warm
|Diphthongs are very complex sounds as they require combining one vowel and one consonant in one sound and these combinations are unfamiliar to the Vietnamese learners who typically end up dropping consonant /j/ and retaining vowel /e/.||/eɪ/: fade; date; wait; trained; bake; cane; wage|
/e/: fed; debt; wet; trend; beck; Ken; wedge
|Vowel /oʊ/ is another diphthong involving vowel /o/ and consonant /w/ and as in TYPE 18, only the vowel is retained while the consonant is dropped. |
Teachers must encourage the learners to round their lips at the end of that sound after pushing them forward for /ɔː/.
|/oʊ/: Wrote; old; boat; coat; mode; road; showed|
|One of the most important English sounds yet most neglected by teachers is the schwa sound. |
This smallest sound in the English language is crucial for reasonably accurate production of stress and rhythm and without it, the Vietnamese learners, and all English learners, will never be able to fully understand natural and native-like English speech.
The schwa sound can be spelled as: [a] [e] [o] [u] and [y].
That can cause plenty of confusion for learners who will again attempt to pronounce the words as written, not as spoken.
|/ə/: about; taken; pencil; eloquent; supply; sibyl|