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English Pronunciation for Chinese and Vietnamese Speakers


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Tips and resources for teachers of English pronunciation to speakers of Chinese and Vietnamese, by Marsha J. Chan

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English Pronunciation for Chinese and Vietnamese Speakers

  1. 1. Pronunciation Doctor on Youtube Sunburst Media and Mission College, CA CATESOL Teaching of Pronunciation Interest Group (TOP-IG) Co-founder & Co-coordinator Marsha J. Chan
  2. 2.  Over 2000 free videos for learning English, curated into over 25 playlists.  More info and handouts at
  3. 3.  Most of my students are from southern China, and they cannot pronounce an "l" sound at the beginning of a word or distinguish the sound from an initial "r" sound. How do you go about teaching this?
  4. 4.  What's the best way to teach students the difference between "walk" and "work”? I draw diagrams of the mouth and tongue, but it's still very difficult. Is there better way?
  5. 5.  The Vietnamese woman who works with me refuses to pronounce the ends of words. I keep telling her how, but she just won’t do it.
  6. 6.  It’s so taxing to listen to them speak. It’s like a sing-song staccato, and sometimes I just can’t figure out what they’re saying. Is there a way to make their pronunciation more listener-friendly?
  7. 7. Ana Wu’s Blog A Conversation with a Multilingual https://ccsfeslpr m/2016/08/01/ marsha-chan/
  8. 8. Every student must use a mirror fastidiously and systematically.  All together  Direct line: student’s mouth–mirror–teacher’s mouth  1st listen & watch the teacher  2nd look in the mirror, repeat 3 (5, 10) times  Long pause = waiting for students’ eyes
  9. 9. V v A sagittal view of the mouth, nose, and throat Source:
  10. 10.
  11. 11. You wish to know all about my grandfather. Well, he's nearly ninety-three years old. You wish to know all about my grandfather. Well, he's nearly ninety-three years old.
  12. 12. onunciationDoctor Playlist: Pronunciation Workout Videos
  13. 13.  Both are sonorants. ◦ The sounds reverberate off the vocal organs freely without obstruction.  Both are liquid phonemes. ◦ Liquids produce only a partial closure in the mouth  a resonant, vowel-like consonant. ◦ The tongue approaches a point of articulation within the mouth, but it does not obstruct the flow of air through the oral cavity.  Contrast liquids/l/ and /r/ lake, rake with stops /k/ and /p/: cup with obstruent /ʧ/ in chair
  14. 14.  The sound /l/ is a lateral consonant. ◦ The outward flow of air goes around the tongue toward the sides of the mouth before it exits through the lips.  In English, /l/ and /r/ may be syllabic, acting like a vowel ◦ the second syllables of table and father  /l/ and /r/ are mostly non-syllabic, acting like a consonant at the beginning ◦ rock, lock
  15. 15.  Bring tip of tongue near alveolar (gum) ridge, and let voiced breath travel over relaxed left and right sides of tongue. ◦ Postvocalic: all, fell, cold ◦ Intervocalic: alive, belong, yellow ◦ Prevocalic: let, lie, look  Two allophones ◦ Clear/Light L: prevocalic: lay, slay, play ◦ Dark L /ɫ/: Raise back of tongue toward velum (soft palate), at back of roof of mouth. Insert short schwa-like vowel before the dark L in AmE.  tile, tail, tell
  16. 16.  Do not round the lips for words ending in the sound /l/ (Vietnamese, southern Chinese). ◦ Feel–few, dill-dew, mail–mayo ◦ Use a mirror ◦ Hold the lips with fingers
  17. 17.  The letter ‘r’ is used in many written languages, but it represents very different sounds.  Vietnamese ◦ ‘r’ letter name e-rờ; rờ /ɛ˧ɹəː˧˩, ʐəː˧˩/  Chinese ◦ Mandarin /ɻ/Retroflex approximant:日 rì,人 rén ◦ Cantonese has no r-like sound ◦ Many other dialects  American English /ɹ/: ray, row spelled as jih and jen in the Wade-Giles system of transcription
  18. 18.  Anchor both L & R sides of tongue against upper side teeth, round lips slightly, slowly curl tongue up near but not touching gum ridge let voiced breath travel over retroflexed tongue. ◦ Postvocalic: air, car, more ◦ Intervocalic: array, arise, erase ◦ Prevocalic: ray, ride, rock  Essential point: Do not allow tip of tongue to touch palate, the gum ridge, or teeth to cause stoppage or friction.
  19. 19.  English has many more final consonant possibilities than Chinese or Vietnamese. ◦ 0 final consonant: see, my, shoe ◦ 1 final C: dog, cuff, smile /g, t, l/ ◦ 2 final C: dogs, cuffs, smiled /gz, fs, ld/ ◦ 3 final C: pants, curves, thanks /nts, rvz, ŋks/  Many combinations are not in students’ primary language inventory and will take instruction, practice (observation + production)
  20. 20.  English tends to be explosive: air travels outward. Strong aspiration occurs on consonants beginning stressed syllables ◦ pay, come, tend ◦ repay, become, attend  Vietnamese tends to be implosive, with lip closure or rounding at the ends of stop consonants. Compare ◦ English hawk vs. Vietnamese học (study, learn) ◦ cookbook
  21. 21.  Phonemic stops (plosives) in English ◦ Labial: /p/, /b/ ◦ Linguadental: /t/, /d/ ◦ Velar: /k/, /g/ ◦ Glottal stop is non-phonemic in English  Uh-oh, kitten, bottle (BrE), Batman  Glottal stops occur in Vietnamese, Cantonese, and other Chinese dialects ◦ They are not written down –– not in orthography ◦ Belong to 2 lowest VN tones, 2 lowest Cant tones ◦ Final stops are pre-glottalized
  22. 22.  Cantonese examples ◦ 特別 (special) dak6 bit6 /daʔk6 biʔt6/ ◦ 北角(North Point) ◦ 食得(edible, can eat) ◦ 合作 (cooperate)  Vietnamese examples ◦ Mỹ (America) ◦ Nguyễn (a common surname) ◦ học tập (study) ◦ rất đẹp (very pretty) ʔ cook /kʊk/ /kʊʔk/ English with unfriendly glottal stops
  23. 23.  Awareness ◦ Conceptual: description ◦ Auditory sensation: listening discrimination ◦ Visual sensation: eye gaze on throat ◦ Tactile sensation: fingers on throat  Preparation ◦ Pronunciation Workouts  Practice ◦ Breathing and vibration through phrases
  24. 24.  Did‿anyone call while‿I was‿out?  Is the news good‿or‿bad?  When can we bring‿him home?  Yes. Dad’s doctor called.  Very positive. He’s much better now.  This‿afternoon between 3:00‿and‿4:00. The red curved lines show consonant to vowel linking. Note that we delete /h/ in ‘he, him, his, her’ in the middle of a sentence.
  25. 25.  Tone. Chinese and Vietnamese are tone languages. Each word has its own tone.  Compare: ◦ English: These pronunciations signify different words: pan, fan, van, ban. (consonants) ◦ Chinese: These pronunciations signify different words: mā, má, mǎ, mà (tones) (mother, horse, hemp, scold)  Intonation: the rise and fall of the voice in speaking – important for meaning in English.
  26. 26.  Did_anyone call while_I was_out?  Is the news good_or bad?  When can we bring_him home?  Yes. Dad’s doctor called.  Very positive. He’s much better now.  This_afternoon between 3:00_and 4:00. The arrows show intonation, the direction of pitch change.
  27. 27.  Email addresses ◦ ◦  Websites ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ profiles/chan_marsha.html  Tel/Fax (408) 245-8514 Sunburst Media