Thursday, March 30, 2017

English Pronunciation for Chinese and Vietnamese Speakers

Decades of teaching English to speakers of Vietnamese and Chinese dialects (as well as other languages); taking classes in Vietnamese, Cantonese, and Mandarin; researching linguistic descriptions of these Asian languages; speaking them to varying degrees of fluency; being ever so curious about the articulation of utterances; and enjoying a gift of imitation have all enabled me to guide learners to modify their pronunciation in English. 

This presentation (click the link below), addresses some questions commonly asked by ESL teachers about teaching pronunciation to speakers of these languages, shows not only a static view of the speech organs but also videos of the speech organs in motion, with attention to the articulation of /l/ and r/. The importance of mirrors and the benefit of pronunciation workouts is mentioned before the demonstration and presentation of details on how to articulate American /l/ and /r/, particularly in relation to typical problems encountered by speakers of Vietnamese and Chinese. A comparison of consonant and vowel inventories and syllable structure of these languages and English is offered to explain where and why pronunciation difficulties occur and what features teachers need to address.

Two influential aspects of pronunciation that lack mention in English pronunciation materials are airstream and glottalization. During the session I describe and demonstrate the implosive characteristic of spoken Vietnamese and its effect on explosive English. Next after a review of stops in English, I explain and demonstrate how glottal stops are inherent features of certain tones of Vietnamese, and Cantonese, but when transferred to English, can cause obstructions that impede fluency and intelligibility. I offer steps and strategies for avoiding unwanted glottal stops, including sensory perception and practice with linking. Finally I touch on tone vs. intonation and suggest guided dialogs and singing selected songs as ways to give learners a feel of oral English and to enhance their prosody in speaking. (more on the music of spoken English here)

Click here to access the slides English Pronunciation for Chinese and Vietnamese Speakers.


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