Author: Ela Britchkow, Speech Therapist, Certified American English Pronunciation Specialist
“I don't believe you have to be better than everybody else. I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be.”
When you study a new language the difficulty of pronunciation depends on how many new sounds "match" with your own phonetic repertoire.
The hardest languages to transition from to speak English are
Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Japanese and Vietnamese. In these languages, the meaning of a word can change by changing the tone or inflection. In English we use a very different type of intonation pattern in our words and sentences.
English spoken by Nigerians is often difficult to understand because each syllable is of nearly the same length and given the same stress.
Speaking English is much easier for speakers of Romance or Latin based languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and Romanian. These languages have pronunciation patterns and vocabulary based on Latin words.
Norwegian and Swedish and Afrikaans are also easier.
French and Spanish have many words that we actually use in English or that are derived from these languages.
The Czech language only has 5 vowel phonemes, in comparison to 20 in English. Czech has a direct link between spelling and pronunciation. In English, how a word is spelled and how it’s pronounced can vary widely.
In Korean, the /b/ sound is pronounced as /p/ and there is a /b/ and /v/ confusion and /l/ and /r/ confusion in words.
There is an upside to speaking a language that challenges your English pronunciation.
The more different two languages are, there will be less confusion in spelling. In my own case, I have found that I never confused spelling of words with Hebrew and English because the alphabet is so different, but I frequently misspelled words that I confused from knowing French. For example, the words professor and professeur (French); probably and propablement (French) I found confusing.
Are you repeatedly asked, “What?” or “Can you say that again?”
By Ela Britchkow, Speech and Language Pathologist
©2017 Ela Britchkow