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Difficulties Encountered Learning English Pronunciation English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1511 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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”The ability to speak in a foreign language is at the very heart of what it means to be able to use a foreign language”(J. Charles Alderson, 2004, P.XI) [1] .Thus, The mastery of English pronunciation is crucial to us. Nevertheless, English pronunciation has always been ignored in the English learning classroom.

In this essay, difficulties encountered when learning English pronunciation with reference to my own experience will be covered and a lesson plan will also be presented for teaching pronunciation for Secondary 3 students. Objectives and the approach to achieve that will be justified with theories.

Difficulties Encountered

It is believed that mother tongue will interfere the production of pronunciation of a second language(Chan) [2] . Thus, it poses a lot of difficulties in pronouncing English. In this part, the influence of my first target language-Cantonese on English articulation will be examined with support of personal examples.

Substitution of a Cantonese sound for an English sound [3] 

I recalled my memory of learning pronunciation when I was young. Students tended to write down some Chinese words next to the English words in order to indicate the pronunciation of the English words because we were not taught of IPA for the sake of indicating the pronunciation of the English words. Moreover, another reason for that is because we are influenced by Cantonese. Thus, substitution of Cantonese sound for an English sound happened all the time.

For example : She – 書

This method was not that effective as the Cantonese sound and the English sound are similar but not exactly the same. Somehow I found it would be quite strange to read the Chinese words out to pretend speaking English.

Absence of Cantonese sounds in English pronunciation

When I learnt English pronunciation, I came across sounds that Cantonese doesn’t have. I did not realize the true pronunciation until I took an articulation course.

For example : Happy Birthday , This

Before taking the American Articulation course which was forced by my mother, I tended to substitute “th” with either “f” or “d” as even the teachers at school taught me like this. After taking the course and knowing the real pronunciation, I needed time to practice of putting my tongue out in the middle of pronunciation which is not required in Cantonese speaking.

Absence of Consonant Clusters in Cantonese

There is no consonant clusters in Cantonese. Thus, it is quite complicated for Cantonese speakers to produce the sound of the consonant clusters, especially those with more than 3 consonants.

There is one example that I still remember vividly. My alma mater is called Sacred Heart Canossian College and we call ourselves as Sacred Heartists. “sts” is a consonant cluster as it contains more than three consonants. I practiced for more than one week just to produce the “sts” as I somehow had to give public speeches. And this word still challenges me a lot.

Absence of Vowels in Cantonese

Unlike English, there is no vowels in Cantonese. I am unaware of the difference between /a/ and /e/ until I took the articulation course. Thus, somehow there would be some confusion of pronunciation of bad and bed.

Stress and Rhythm

We don’t have stress or rhythm in Cantonese. Cantonese is quite a monotone language. We only use one syllable only to represent one word while in English we may have more than two syllables involved to pronounce the sound of the word. Besides, we have less rhythm in our language than English. Thus, I also had a difficult time to understand the stress of the whole sentence after taking the articulation course. For example, I need to stress on the nouns or the verbs but speak softer when there is preposition and etc.

All in all, I would attribute to these difficulties to not being taught the right way to learn and pronounce the word clearly during the critical period. Plus the interference of Cantonese, it makes the mastery of English pronunciation even more challenging.

Lesson Plan

The target group is a class of Secondary two students who are studying in an EMI schools. There are 28 students in the class and they are very active.


Students will be able to pronounce the sound of some consonants and vowels. Since Students are not taught of the IPA before, introducing some of the pronunciation of the consonants and vowels would be useful for them so that they will know the real pronunciation and how to pronounce the word with the use of IPA symbols in the dictionary.

Students will be able to aware of the mispronunciations. Mispronunciation without correction will lead to fossilization and that would make the learners harder to change. Thus, it is vital for learners to pay attention to the correct model in order to pronounce the word accurately.()

Methodologies / approaches used

Create Interests

“Interest is an essential feature of successful practice, not just an optional extra.” (Ur, 1988, P. 15) By creating the intersts from the students, learning will be more effective. Thus, I plan to show a video at the beginning of the lesson in order to draw interests from the students to learn the correct pronunciation.

Communicative Approach

Communicative approach is applied here as “the ultimate aim of language learning is to use language as a means of communication” (CDC, 1999, Appendix 2). As I have mentioned in the very beginning of the essay that speaking is very important to master a language. And through communicative approach, students will be engage into tasks and activities for communicative purposes which is believed to be an effective way to acquire a language.

Cooperative Learning

It is a way to make sure that every student will be aware of their responsibility to learn and helping classmates to learn will also further consolidate their learning as well. Besides, it won’t be effective or feasible for teachers to listen to the pronunciation of the word from every student in the classroom. Thus, cooperative learning will be important in order to helping students evaluating their progress by their classmates.

Details of the Plan [4] 

This part will be about how to achieve the objectives by presenting the details of the lesson.

Ability to produce the sound of some consonants and vowels

Basically students will go through four stages. A video [5] of a legislative counselor speaking bad English will be shown at the beginning of the lesson in order to create an interest for the students to learn. Having realized the importance of pronouncing the words correctly, teachers will teach the pronunciation of the consonants and vowels. Practice will be carried out in order to consolidate the knowledge.

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After that, an activity will be carried out in order to let students apply what they have learnt. They will be asked to form in groups of four. Each group will be given some consonants and vowels. They have to video tape their pronunciation of their respective consonants. Each group will represent a country and they have to teach some words about the country in which the words have to contain their respective consonants or vowels. The idea of having them taught some new words is to assess whether students will be able to apply what they have learnt in the lesson.

Both peer and teacher Evaluation will be held after showing all the videos to the whole class.

All the stages complete the learning cycle of a student and that can ensure short term memory will be transformed to long term memory after the application and evaluation process. This would further consolidate the knowledge.

Avoid mispronunciation of words

To avoid mispronunciation of the words, evaluation will be very important in avoidance of fossilization of the mispronounced words. Peer evaluation will be done after showing the videos. Teachers will give feedbacks immediately and do follow-up as soon as possible if a serious pronunciation problem is found. Peer evaluation will come first as this is to indicate student’s responsibility in learning as well as improving their classmates.



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