November 10

Key English pronunciation problems for different languages


Every language is different in sound to every other. Some are very different and some not so. Each person from any language can completely master the pronunciation of English, as long as become aware of the differences and work to eliminate them. Becoming aware of them is the first step.

Once you do that, you then need to learn what it is you have to do and keep doing to eliminate a difference. You can read more about that here.....

In this post I will bring to your attention one key difference from the following languages. As well as that, I will talk a little about what you need to do in your mouth to start to approximate to the English version. Sometimes you have to do the thing before you can actually hear it!

If you cast your eyes down the list, you will see that sometimes you may have the same problem as a speaker of another language.

Once you have worked at a sound and got a measure of success, scroll to the bottom and read what I suggest you do next.

Mandarin Chinese

What is typically said
- nam 

What needs to be said
- name

Comments & Suggestions

  • the letter "a" in this word sounds like "ay" as the first letter in Alphabet
  • find difference between /nam/ and "A" ( important first step) as you say them. It starts here.
  • then work to retain that difference in this word.


What is typically said
- pa

What needs to be said
- pat

Comments & Suggestions

  • the letter "t" in this word sounds similar to "t" in "to"
  • listen AND watch yourself say "to". Watch your tongue, feel where it goes and what it does as you say "to".  Stick at it till you can feel/hear difference. 
  • then go back to "pat", say it see if you can do the same thing with your tongue AND hear the it as well.


What is typically said
- vet

What needs to be said
- wet

Comments & Suggestions

  • the sound "w" does not occur in Russian
  • see if you can hear difference
  • listen AND watch yourself say "wet". You will notice that your bottom lip curls over your bottom teeth and your top teeth rest on them as you say it
  • When we say it in English, our lips come forward, as if to kiss someone. That's where you need to start that word.
  • you need to listen for the different sound not just watch your lips


What is typically said
- lob

What needs to be said
- love

Comments & Suggestions

  • the letter "v" in this word is said using top teeth so we get a different kind of sound
  • listen and see if you can hear difference here
  • Feel AND watch yourself say "love" as you normally say it. Feel your top teeth, see where they go and what they do as you say it.
  • Have a go now and force your teeth to rest on your lips before you finish the sound
  • there is one other key difference between the 2 sounds. With English speakers you will feel a soft vibration when you rest your hands on the sides of their throat, as they say it. 


What is typically said
- pit

What needs to be said
- pet

Comments & Suggestions

  • the letter "e" in this word is quite different to "i"
  • listen, can you hear the difference in this sound file?
  • Hearing the difference is critical (in others and yourself)
  • Say "i" and feel in your mouth where the sound comes from. Up? Back? Front? Mid?
  • Now work the sound up in your mouth. Now down at the same time as relaxing the back of your throat where the sound comes from - might feel like its more open. Listen now. Different sound?

As in mastering any skill, there are further steps that need to be taken to ensure mastery. Once you can master the problem in one area, you need to then see if you can do same thing with the same sound in different words, longer words, words having that sound in phrases, in sentences and then in natural speech. 

Once you can do all that, all the time remaining sensitive to falling back into old ways, you maximise the chances of making permanent improvements to your speech.

Read this free ebook to gain a deeper understanding of what needs to be done to master pronunciation. The Four Steps to Master Pronunciation in Any Language is an easy read, one that can help you gain a better understanding of exactly what you need to do.


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