Problem Of Pronunciation In Level 1 Report Example
This paper analyzes some frequently occurring problems concerning pronunciation in level 1 of English learners throughout the world. Factors leading to these problems are age, nationality, native language, period of learning English, etc.
Keywords: Pronunciation, English as a second language, difficulties with pronunciation, mispronounced sounds.
Pronunciation is the way a word is spoken in a particular language. From our childhood we learn to speak by imitating our parents and relatives. Our pronunciation is influenced by the environment we live in. Sounds are created by our speech organs, mostly tongue, lips and jaw. The positions of our speech organs are different for every sound as well as sounds are different in all languages.
Learning a foreign language is not an easy thing. All around the world, there are many people, who want to speak English with correct pronunciation. However, there are many barriers that make it difficult to achieve the aim. Many students still fail to attain perfection because it is a long process that takes a lot of efforts and valuable time. They just learn basic grammar and vocabulary thinking they will be understood. They substitute the sounds they are not familiar with on other sounds which are close to them. English learners from different language backgrounds make systematic and not accidental mistakes. Thus, native English speakers can hardly understand them.
Statement of the Problem
This report has been written because many people begin to learn English as they are adults. The ability of speaking English in high level would not be possible without the correctness of pronunciation and intonation. Due to the fact that children are more likely to have native like accent, adult learners may feel disadvantage to learn new language. However, they can memorize and retain large volumes of information in short periods of time, and integrate target sounds with all other sounds.
Good pronunciation is really important. Bad pronunciation may be hard to understand, gives a bad impression of your education, and doesn’t allow you to build a good career. On the contrary, excellent pronunciation opens up many opportunities and you become a pleasant communicator.
There are good writing, listening and grammar classes in the most colleges and foreign universities. But pronunciation lessons tend to be very basic and focusing more on conversations. Speech organs have been already formed in adult people. They are designed to articulate the sounds of their native language. People don’t know how to correctly position the speech organs in order to produce right English sounds.
The main problem in level 1 is that people mispronounce English sounds. In supplementary level native speakers usually don’t understand the learners.
For example, Ukrainian language doesn’t have long vowels, and it is usual for speakers to shorten long vowels. Another example is that the English language has th /θ/, /ð/ sounds. It is hard to pronounce these sounds for foreigners because they don’t exist in their mother tongue.
A close observation of students disclosed that students confuse the pronunciation of some words like weak and week, hair and hare, wonder and wander, price and prize. Most students replace the dental /θ/ with the alveolar /s/, a final voiced consonant by a voiceless consonant (red-ret), weak syllables are deleted from words of more than one syllable (telephone - teffone).
The purpose of this report is to analyze problems of pronunciation in level 1 and consider various techniques for improving students’ pronunciation.
Significance of the Study
The research study could provide information on the issues of pronunciation problems. Further, this report would also present useful recommendations for improving pronunciation. It would be beneficial not only for teachers, but also for students, who want to learn a new language.
Data for this report were gathered from 27 February – 3 March 2015. This study was conducted by questionnaire and investigated pronunciation difficulties that students from China, Thai, Ukraine and Russia face with (see Appendix 1).
The survey was voluntary and anonymous. A total of 214 questionnaires were distributed online. Staff representatives were interviewed from 27 February – 1 March. The students were aged between 16 and 25, the number of males and females was almost equal. All participants study English as a second language for no more than a year.
The questionnaire consisted of three sections. The first section asked for demographic information including age, gender and nationality. The second section asked students about period of learning English. The third section asked to outline their pronunciation problems.
The completed questionnaires were returned by email.
The information from the questionnaire was collected and summarized.
6. Results and Discussion
In general, the findings indicated that most students have problems with the rhythm, syllables and particular sounds of the English language. The major finding of the investigation was that people have problems with sounds that don’t exist in their language and can’t be interchangeable with similar sounds from their native language.
Many researchers concluded that problems with pronunciation of other languages are the same but have slightly differences according to language background. Here we are going to see some of the factors that influence on learning English pronunciation and try to find the suitable techniques to avoid errors.
The goal of teaching English pronunciation to learners so they sound like native speakers without exception of a few highly motivated and gifted students is unrealistic. A more realistic goal is to enable learners to reach the level so that their pronunciation will sound natural and will not detract from their ability to communicate (Celce – Murcia M., Brinton, Goodwin J., Griner B., 2010).
Pronunciation errors can make nonnative English speakers seem less fluent than they are.
Age: both age at which the new language was first learned (before the teen years is best) and current age of the speaker ( the older the speaker, the harder accent is to modify)
Native language: i.e., is the native language compatible with English or are these significant differences are phonemes, placement of tongue, lips, teeth, etc., and stress patterns?
Length of time using English: while practice is generally useful, sometimes using English for a long period of time without feedback and language training can be part of the problem
Social pressure (conscious or unconscious) from friends not to sound too much like US speakers
Innate ability to hear and copy sounds (as with singing or playing music, not everyone has the same ability to recognize subtle differences in sounds and then reproduce those sounds)” (p.1).
Most linguists consider that language background has the major influence on our pronunciation. For example, two different Mandarin speakers might have different ways of pronouncing the same vowel. Even one Mandarin speaker might pronounce one word in different ways. For Chinese students short vowels can be particularly challenging (/i/ as in pin). At the same time Ukrainians have problems with long vowels (as /i:/ in sheep), because they don’t have long vowels in Ukrainian language. Another problem is usage of consonants that is easier to pronounce. For instance, /θ/ can be substituted for /s/ (faith – face); /w/ can be substituted for /v/ (wine – vine) or /n/ for /l/. Some learners might reduce or delete consonant clusters. That is happening because in some languages like Thai, consonant clusters occur at the beginning of the words. The word degree might sound as if it has /g/ rather than /gr/ in the middle (Yates L., Zielinski B., 2009).
Other important issues are rhythm and melody. It plays a great role and helps the listener follow the intentions of the speaker. Typically English learners are thinking about avoiding grammar or vocabulary mistakes and not focusing on rendering the sense of presentation by rhythm. If pauses become too long or emphasis is made in wrong places, the listener simply stops listening. The basic unit of English rhythm is the syllable. Ability to identify and count syllables is very important to see the difference between words in pairs (wait – waited, ease – easy). Learners will never have advanced level of pronunciation if they have low level of the English prosodic system, no matter how much time and efforts are made mastering individual sounds (Gilbert B., 2008).
There is no simple answer to the question what aspects of pronunciation are most important. The most difficult thing in pronunciation varies from learner to learner. In general, it is essential that learners attend to both those aspects of pronunciation which relate to larger units of speech, such as stress, rhythm, intonation and voice quality (suprasegmental aspects) and to how the various sounds of English are pronounced (segmental aspects) (Yates L., Zielinski B.,2009).
Misunderstanding in communication can be avoided only when pronunciation is correct and all melody and rhythm rules are strictly followed. Students should study English literary pronunciation. This is a language of television, radio, theatres. Students should be taught to make right stresses and pauses, to hear the differences between phonemes which are not distinguished, to make correct pronunciation so habitual that it does not need to be attended to in the process of speaking (Bragina E.R., 2013).
It is important to maintain correct pronunciation. It is impossible to speak with good accent if you do not continue making the efforts every day. To achieve the best results try to practice for at least 25 minutes every day.
There are a few advices to increase the level of pronunciation:
Try to limit speaking in your native language. It will help you to memorize the correct placement of the speech organs. Stand in front of a mirror to see the placement of your speech organs.
You should pronounce clearly every sound, avoid speaking too fast.
It is essential to do the warm – up exercise for 5 minutes every day.
Practice sounds which are problematical to you until you pronounce them correctly.
Record your voice. Make a note of sounds where you made a mistake.
Write transcription. Learn to recognize all the sounds.
Watch movies or videos and try to imitate the actors’ speech.
Bragina E.R. (2013). Problems in Teaching English Pronunciation. Вісник НЛУ імені Тараса Шевченка, 14, 93 - 97.
Celce – Murcia M., Brinton, Goodwin J., Griner B. (2010). Teaching Pronunciation: A Course Book and Reference Guide (2nd ed.). London: Cambridge University Press.
Gilbert B. (2008). Teaching Pronunciation. Using the Prosody Pyramid. London: Cambridge University Press.
Intercultural Communication Center. (2012). Understanding “Fossilized” Pronunciation: What to Do When Accent Problems are Hard to Correct. Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved from http:// www. cmu.edu/icc/
Yates L., Zielinski B. (2009). Give It a Go : Teaching Pronunciation to Adults. Australia: AMEP Research Centre.
Appendix 1: Sample Survey Form