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Common Mistakes in English by Language Background

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Minimal Pairs

Assimilation

Phonemic transcription

English Phoneme Chart


L1 (your native language) and L2 (e.g. English if this isn't your mother tongue)

"Unless the teacher understands how the student is using his speech organs in producing a native language sound and what he should be doing to reproduce the foreign language sound acceptably, he cannot help the student beyond a certain stage of earnest but inaccurate imitation." [Wilga Rivers - Teaching Foreign Language Skills]

Can your teacher tell you how many phonemes there are in the English language and how to use your organs of articulation to produce these sounds?
Teachers who have studied the sound system of your L1 will also be in a better position to help you with common mistakes in L2 (e.g. English).


There are 20 English vowel sounds: 12 monophthongs (5 long & 7 short) and 8 diphthongs

I have added pages on the 12 English Monophthongs and the 8 English Diphthongs. The page on monophthongs shows the fixed tongue positions (the height of the front or the back of the tongue and the degree of retraction) for producing these sounds in Received Pronunciation. The tongue travels between some of these fixed positions to produce the diphthongs. Learners often find the 5 long English vowel sounds and the diphthongs difficult to produce, since learners' native languages more commonly feature most of the short English vowel sounds.

Word lists to practise English diphthongs: introduction | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 |


There are 24 English consonant sounds:

New material on Consonant Clusters

"Kissing Consonants" © Ted Power 2007---------Introduction

When there are three or more consonants together, native speakers do not always produce as many consonant sounds. For example, the final consonant cluster in the word "fifths" is usually reduced to the last two consonant phonemes. Good pronunciation materials need to include practice of elision (missing phonemes out) and assimilation (a change in the quality of the phoneme - perhaps to a different phoneme altogether!).

"KISSING CONSONANTS" practises final consonant clusters, since lists of initial consonant clusters can easily be found in a dictionary, and consonant strings at the beginnings of words generally cause fewer difficulties.

Full word lists (each link is a separate page)-------for consonant clusters beginning with:

/ m / / p / / b / / f / / v / / θ / / ð / / n / / t / / d / / s / / z /
/ l / / r / / ʧ / / ʤ / / ʃ / / ʒ / / j / / ŋ / / k / / g /

Assimilation

Some English consonant sounds, including many alveolar ones, change into (or towards) different phonemes when followed by certain other sounds. Speakers assimilate to avoid awkward sound combinations which would lead to loss of oral fluency with utterances sounding broken up and clumsy. Some native English speakers, including those who have been to top schools, are ignorant of the differences between written and spoken English and attempt to speak as they write. The remedy is Assimilation Practice. The links below provide learners with short phrases where assimilation occurs:

  1. / t / changes to / p / before / m / / b / or / p /
  2. / d / changes to / b / before / m / / b / or / p /
  3. / n / changes to / m / before / m / / b / or / p /
  4. / t / changes to / k / before / k / or /g/
  5. / d / changes to / g / before / k / or / g /
  6. / n / changes to /ŋ/ before / k / or / g /
  7. / s / changes to /ʃ/ before /ʃ/ or / j /
  8. / z / changes to /ʒ/ before /ʃ/ or / j /
  9. /θ/ changes to / s / before / s /

Books

Teaching English Pronunciation

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Learner English Michael Swan (Ed.), Bernard Smith (Ed.) [*****] [covers common phonological & grammatical errors by language background]
Learner English: Audio Cassette
Learner English: Audio CD
Phonetics for Learners of English Pronunciation (book and audio CD) by Marianne Jordan
Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary (17th Edition) (With CD-ROM) excellent for comparing British and American accents [*****]
Longman Pronunciation Dictionary with interactive CD excellent for comparing British and American accents [*****]
The Communicative Value of Intonation in English David Brazil (Ed.) et al [Brazil's system for describing how intonation works]
Teaching English Pronunciation Joanne Kenworthy #excellent and practical.

Pronunciation Practice for learners

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[L1]-[L2] Tree or Three? : Student Book (2nd Edition) and 3 audio CDs - by Ann Baker, Leslie Marshall [****]
[L2]-[L4] English Pronunciation in Use Elementary Book with Answers, 5 Audio CDs and CD-ROM [*****]
[L2]-[L4] Ship or Sheep? Student Book (third edition) and 4 audio CDs - by Ann Baker [*****]
[L3]-[L5] English Pronunciation Illustrated: Student Book John Trim, Peter Kneebone [*****][excellent collection of minimal pairs]
[L3]-[L5] English Pronunciation Illustrated: Cassette
[L3]-[L5] English Pronunciation in Use Intermediate Book with Answers, Audio CDs and CD-ROM [*****]
[L3]-[L5] Elements of Pronunciation Colin Mortimer [*****] [covers consonant clusters, link up, contractions, weak forms, stress patterns]
[L3]-[L5] Elements of Pronunciation Set of 4 Cassettes
[L3]-[L5] Jazz Chants Old and New Carolyn Graham, Marilyn Rosenthal (Editor) [*****] [American English, though widely in UK language schools as fun resource for practising rhythm and intonation]
[L3]-[L5] Jazz Chants Old and New CD Carolyn Graham, Marilyn Rosenthal (Editor)
[L4]-[L6] Intonation in Context: Student's Book Barbara Bradford, David Brazil (Ed.)
[L4]-[L6] Intonation in Context: Teacher's Book [Brazil's system of intonation]
[L4]-[L6] Intonation in Context: Cassette
[L4]-[L6] English Pronunciation in Use Advanced Book with Answers, 5 Audio CDs and CD-ROM [*****]


RSS Webfeeds

-- English pronunciation for L1s: Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, Farsi, Finnish, French, German, Greek or Hungarian
-- English pronunciation for L1s: Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Taiwanese, Thai or Turkish


Click HERE for practice in phonemic transcription - / ðɪs ɪz hɒt / !!!

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