English Pronunciation Challenges Among Second Language Learners

Date:  2021-03-02 17:05:40
6 pages  (1749 words)
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This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.
This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.



1.1 General Overview

Learning English as a second language might prove very difficult for the learners because they are mostly used to the first language phonological rules. Studying a new language might be difficult for the second language learners because of the difference in sounds systems of English as compared to the native/first languages of the learners. Therefore, it requires the learner to be very careful because it is most likely to make a grammatical mistake. Influence of the first language has great impact on the second language learners. This paper aims at establishing the relationship between language users and acquiring a second language. It will also address the challenges that comes with English as a second language alongside possible solutions and the recommendations that if implemented can mitigate the mispronunciation problem.


English has become a global language, and it is widely spoken and learnt in most parts of the globe. Many people have the strong willing to learn and speak English with the right pronunciation. Most of the challenges faced by second language learners are based on the pronunciation of the words in English. This paper will examine the challenges experienced by second language learners and how they can improve their pronunciation problems.

2.1 Background

Several people world over have the deepest desire to learn, understand and speak English language with the right pronunciation of each and every word. For instance, Eritrea, France, Afghanistan and China has a significant number of individuals with the heartfelt desire to learn the English language; the international English Students from the aforementioned countries. However, these students experience lots of hurdles in speaking good English. Research studies have shown that lots of errors made in English pronunciations by individuals of other languages are systematic and not random. For instance, students from Asia and Arabic lands have difficulty in pronunciation of words and sounds unfamiliar to them, Homeidan (1984) and Moosa (1972). These sounds include; /p/, /v/, /n/ and poses challenges to international students.

Other scholars have also indicated that the errors committed by English learners from other languages are systematic but not accidental; David Nunan (2001) and OCooner, (2003). They therefore drew the conclusion that the major problem of learner English-speakers is none other than sound substitution. They substitute non-existing sounds in their native languages with new sounds almost similar to them. For example, some use /b/ in place of /p/ and also /th/ is replaced with /s/. This depicts common mistake due to influence of the local languages.

Note that even though Arabic students experience this pronunciation challenge, the studies and the findings of this paper were conducted outside Arabic land for speakers of other languages like Spanish, French, Italian and German. Similar studies have also been conducted for the Chinese and Eritrean students learning English. This broadens the research on errors made on English pronunciation beyond just one certain area like to various places. Pronunciation poses a challenge to majority of the international students thus hindering proper communication between them and English oriented students. It even brings a challenge while writing their term papers and research papers which brings a challenge even to the professors while interpreting the answers. This gap therefore needs to be filled to ease international communication.

Some English vowels have more than one pronunciation thus ending up confusing the English learners. The learner instead of making use of the real quality of some special sound, he/she mistakenly alters the sound quality such that he/she ends up using the variant sound; for example in words like blood /bl d/, /, flood /fld/; in these words /o/ and /oo/ represent a similar sound of / /. Most international learners will however pronounce // or /u:/ for / /. This is a common problem especially to the Chinese, Afghans and French students, they miss the context in which such words with more than one pronunciation have been used thus end up messing in their language usage. They find it hard or rather challenging to vary their pronunciation of the words with more than one pronunciation such that they end up using the same pronunciation of that word in two different contexts requiring different pronunciations of the word.

In Russian community, a credible research indicated that indeed English language has attracted a large number of students who wish to learn it and make good pronunciations but they are faced with different challenges that lowers their self-esteem. Some of the students have the same challenges, for instance, the Chinese and Asian students are faced with the same problem of mispronunciation of the words with more than one pronunciation depending on the context in which they are used.

Notably, proficiency in English language is greatly affected by the first language of the students and the society at large. Errors made when pronouncing certain English words is systematic and can be attributed to the influence of each and every students first language. Its therefore imperative that English language be taught at an early age to prepare the students for proper interactions with other students during their course work.

2.2 Subject

This study involved the study on the language acquisition of some of the second language learners in Harvard University. The study involved two students with the native first language other than English. Five students were from Asia; three students from China and two from Korea, two students from Africa and other two from France. The subjects were interviewed on the language learning. Some of the questions asked were;

What are the challenges you are facing in learning a second language?

What is the difference between the first language and the second language you are learning?

The subjects were interviewed through questions that they were expected to answer through writing. Additionally, the subjects were also engaged in oral questions where they were expected to repeat words after the reader.


2.3 Findings

From the study, we can say that language learning is very difficult for the second language learners. Most of the learners showed poor spelling from the study carried out on the second language learners. According to the findings, most students have the influence of the native languages and this affects their pronunciation abilities. Most of the Asian students have a problem in pronouncing the fricatives; the hissing sounds like /z/ and /s/.

The table below shows the analysis of the Chinese pronunciation.

Velar Alveolar Dental Bilabial Glottal

''(g), ''(gg), ''(k) ''(n),''(d),''(t),''(l),''(dd) ''(s),''(j),'' (ch),'' (ss),'' (jj) ''(m),''(b),''(p),''(bb) ''(i) or ''(h)

The tongue meets the upper back of the throat The tip tongue touches the upper alveolar ridge. The tongue is positioned against the upper teeth. The lips are brought together. Air is allowed to flow in the vocal tract.


3.1 Discussion

There are two major dialects of English that have caused a great challenge to the second language learners (Eddine, 2011). Most people find it very difficult to identify the right pronunciation or correct words based on the two varieties of English. American and British English have distinct pronunciations and spellings of words; for example, color is American word while, in British, it is written as colour. Second language learners sometimes cannot make the distinctions between the various varieties of English (Hassan, 2014).

Research has also shown that second language learners make errors in pronunciation systematically rather than random. The students face problems with pronunciation especially with the words they have not interacted with (Hassan, 2014). Wrong pronunciation and spellings of English words are caused by various factors; for example, first, influence from the first language/native language of the learner (Hassan, 2014). Research has shown that the first language of a person greatly has an impact on the development of the second language.

Most of the pronunciation and spelling mistakes the learners make are based on the influence from the first language. People have difficulty in pronouncing the correct English sounds because there are some of the sounds that are not found in the native languages (LeVelle & Levis, 2014). For instance, in Arabic languages, it is very difficult to distinguish between the two phonemes /p/ and /b/ sounds because the sound /p/ does not exist in the Arabic sounds (Alsadegi, 2014). Therefore, most of them end up making misspelling or wrong pronunciation because they are used to one sound that is there in their language.

In such a situation, the learner might end up making wrong conclusions in the pronunciation of words that has the sounds. For example, such a student might not be able to distinguish the correct word from the following words in English; pen and Ben, bark and park. In such a situation, a student might be right bark in a situation where park was required because he/she is not familiar with the sounds like /p/ (Hassan, 2014).

Research has shown that the first learners language does not only influence his/her learning of the second language at the initial stage of learning but affects the entire learning of the second language. This situation becomes, even more, challenging to adult learners. However, for the young children whose language development is still at the low stages, it becomes very simple to change and adapt the new language faster than when they are grown (Fromkin et al, 2013).

The sounds system differences between the English and the first languages of the learners also contribute a great challenge to the development of the learners (Hassan, 2014). Students build a strong phonological background in the first language and it, in turn, affects the development of the second language (Gebhard, 2006). Therefore, they develop a great challenge in distinguishing the native sounds and those of English. Research has further shown that learning English as a second language by learners from different linguistic backgrounds might be very difficult because of the influence from their native languages.

At the high school level, the learner has fully developed his linguistic features and therefore, it becomes a great challenge to start learning a new language with the new phonological and phonemic rules. The first language, in this case, might have great interference in the learning process (Alsadegi, 2014). English has borrowed many words from the different languages, especially the languages that it was driven from such as the Germanic Indo-European languages. Therefore, most of the sounds it bears are unfamiliar to the second language users.

Another challenge in learning English as a second language is the inconsistency of the English vowels (Hassan, 2014). English becomes very difficult for the second language learners because of the difference an...

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