One of the most difficult parts of a foreign language to truly master is pronunciation. This is no different in English. Having good pronunciation in a presentation is essential to communicate and connect with your audience.
There are certain words or sounds that are generally difficult for English as a Second Language speakers, but there are also common difficulties in pronunciation depending on the individual’s native language. Here are some examples of specific pronunciation difficulties:
|Native Language||Pronunciation Difficulties|
|Chinese||The voiceless consonant [θ] such as the or this doesn’t exist. Native Chinese speakers will say sink instead of think.|
|Vietnamese||For native Vietnamese final consonants are difficult, so for instance coat may be pronounced like code.|
|Japanese||Native Japanese speakers may have trouble with the [r] and [l] sounds, because in Japanese there is only a single consonant with a sound in between the two English sounds.|
|Spanish||There is a tendency to add an initial [e] to the beginning of words starting with s + consonant, such as street, Spain and starter.|
|Slavic languages||People who speak a Slavic language as a first language have difficulty pronouncing the letter w. They pronounce it as the letter v.|
|French||French native speakers often don’t pronounce the initial letter h on words, such as hotel, hate and hole.|
|Arabic||Similar to Spanish speakers, Arabic speakers sometimes add an [I] to the beginning of words with multiple consonants, for example, floor or street. This is because in Arabic there are not as many consonant clusters.|
There are many different ways to improve your pronunciation in English. You can sing along to English songs, do pronunciation drills or recite tongue twisters. However, my personal favourite is reading out loud, and in particular reading stories written by Dr Seuss.
Dr Seuss was an American author who wrote over 60 books, mostly for children and beginner readers. However, his short books with colourful illustrations are fun for anyone to read.
I like these particular books for a few reasons. Firstly, there are a lot of rhymes, so for ESL speakers that confuse consonant sounds they are great practice. Secondly, the vocabulary used is simple or invented. The reason Dr Seuss books are fun is because he uses a lot of invented words that don’t exist in English such as a skrope, a grox or a zong.
With these books you can do a few things to help improve your pronunciation. You can record yourself while reading and then listen to your pronunciation after. Most of these books are also available as audiobooks or as a Kindle app with a ‘Read to me’ feature. This way you can hear a native speaker read the same text and then compare. If you are lucky enough to have a native speaker around, you can also read to them and have them correct you.
If you are looking for a real challenge then I recommend Oh Say Can You Say? by Dr Seuss. This book is a story of tongue twisters that will challenge even native speakers.
It doesn’t matter if read these books out loud to your children, your dog or yourself, just focus on how you say each word. The more you practice, the easier speaking and pronunciation will become – even if you are reading a children’s book out loud!
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss