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Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers  
User currently offlineBAViscount From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 2338 posts, RR: 4
Posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 3721 times:

Hello all! I recently started a thread about your favourite European language, and reading some of your responses has made me think about the difficulties faced by non-English speakers when trying to learn to speak English.

I'm hopefully about to embark on a career of teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) and would really appreciate your thoughts and opinions on what you find difficult when trying to learn the language.

I know that we have some very strange pronunciations as well as multiple meanings for the same words, but I'd be really interested in hearing about the difficulties you've faced in trying to learn English and what you've done to overcome those difficulties, or what advice has helped to clarify things for you.

When I start teaching I really want to make things as fun and as easy as possible for my students, so any tips would be very gratefully received!

Thanks.

Andy.


Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barb
44 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineBraybuddy From Ireland, joined Aug 2004, 5627 posts, RR: 32
Reply 1, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 3639 times:

A friend of mine is a TEFL teacher and in the past I've heard her comment on Spanish students having difficulty distinguishing between "chips", "sheep" and "ships" in pronunciation.

And, while the standard of English on this site by non-native speakers is excellent (sometimes better than us native speakers), one incorrect word which pops up with amazing regularity is "aircrafts".


User currently offlineSevernaya From Russia, joined Jan 2009, 1395 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 3628 times:

I have really never understood the difference in pronunciation of the words 'aisle' and 'isle'. Maybe it's just me.

The pronunciation of the words women and woman is also difficult for me, I always use somehow the wrong variant while I perfectly know the difference.

Quoting BAViscount (Thread starter):
When I start teaching I really want to make things as fun and as easy as possible for my students, so any tips would be very gratefully received!

I can understand usually Americans much better than people from England (I'm not even talking about Scotland).



Всяк глядит, да не всяк видит.
User currently offlineAirPacific747 From Denmark, joined May 2008, 2373 posts, RR: 21
Reply 3, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 3614 times:

I just have a very difficult time pronnouncing "three". It will often sound more like "free"

User currently offlineBAViscount From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 2338 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 3613 times:

Quoting Severnaya (Reply 2):
I have really never understood the difference in pronunciation of the words 'aisle' and 'isle'.

The two words are pronounced exactly the same, they just have different meanings (oh, and spellings of course)! An aisle is of course a walkway between rows of seats or shelving and an isle is an island, as in the 'Isle of Wight' etc. Although let's not get started on the pronunciation of "Wight"!!  



Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barb
User currently offlineajd1992 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 3598 times:

Quoting AirPacific747 (Reply 3):
I just have a very difficult time pronnouncing "three". It will often sound more like "free"

Don't worry - most kids here say it like that because they can't be bothered to pronounce the "th" sound. Goes for most words with that sound in it, actually....


User currently offlineCXB77L From Australia, joined Feb 2009, 2596 posts, RR: 5
Reply 6, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 3578 times:
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Quoting BAViscount (Thread starter):
your thoughts and opinions on what you find difficult when trying to learn the language.

I found grammar to be much more difficult than spelling and pronunciation. There aren't many exceptions to spelling rules (i before e except after c, for instance), but grammatical rules are a whole different matter. Punctuation is another issue I struggle with at times, but I'd like to think that I'm ever improving with more and more practice (Lynne Truss' Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a very good - and humourous - book with which one can learn about punctuation).

There are words that I still struggle to pronounce - such as 'fuel'. When I say it, it sounds a lot like 'few'. Such pronounciation errors can be fixed with practice, though.

When I was learning English as a second language, the teacher went through grammatical rules, spelling and punctuation - basically drummed it into our heads, before we even started on reading comprehension. I think that's a good way of teaching any language as a second language - first, learn the basics: grammar, spelling and punctuation, before moving onto the more advanced areas of the language.

I remember learning Japanese in high school. We started with learning hiragana - what the characters look like and how to pronounce each character individually, before moving onto learning words, then sentence structure.



Boeing 777 fanboy
User currently offlineAsturias From Spain, joined Apr 2006, 2063 posts, RR: 16
Reply 7, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 3538 times:

Quoting Braybuddy (Reply 1):
A friend of mine is a TEFL teacher and in the past I've heard her comment on Spanish students having difficulty distinguishing between "chips", "sheep" and "ships" in pronunciation.

Jajaja yes that's something very difficult to pronounce for many people.. the "i" sound in e.g. chips just isn't used in Spanish and few people have the time or opportunity to practice it a lot, even if they are interested.

For me I guess the hardest part were the strong conjugations of verbs, in the sense that it took me the longest time to get (more or less) right.

asturias



Tonight we fly
User currently offlineoly720man From United Kingdom, joined May 2004, 6684 posts, RR: 11
Reply 8, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 3530 times:

A couple of things I've noticed with French people is they have problems with "sp"

so, e.g., wasps becomes wapsps and crisps becomes cripsps

and "h" not being where it should e.g.

eggs -> heggs house -> 'ouse, but a leading "h" is generally (?) silent in French anyway



wheat and dairy can screw up your brain
User currently offlineBAViscount From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 2338 posts, RR: 4
Reply 9, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 3490 times:

Quoting oly720man (Reply 8):
A couple of things I've noticed with French people is they have problems with "sp"

I think that generally a lot of non-English speakers will have trouble with sounds that aren't present in their mother tongue. But then of course that's what makes a French or Spanish person (for example) sound so enchanting when they're speaking English!  
Quoting Asturias (Reply 7):
Jajaja

That always makes me chuckle! I realise that a "j" in Spanish is pronounced as an "h" in English, but reading "Jajaja" in combination with English text always makes me imagine that Spanish speakers laugh by going "Jar jar jar"! 



Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barb
User currently offlineAsturias From Spain, joined Apr 2006, 2063 posts, RR: 16
Reply 10, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 3436 times:

Quoting BAViscount (Reply 9):
That always makes me chuckle! I realise that a "j" in Spanish is pronounced as an "h" in English, but reading "Jajaja" in combination with English text always makes me imagine that Spanish speakers laugh by going "Jar jar jar"! 

Well that's exactly what we are saying  

Many Spanish have a lot of problem pronouncing H in words (since in Spanish it is always silent, so how do we pronounce silence?? It's a zen riddle for us) - however we are very good at pronuncing the TH like in the word "three" or "bath" or "thing", while I have noticed (strangely) that a great deal of young people in the UK has immense problems pronuncing the TH sound, so when they are talking, it is impossible to understand whether they got "three" bananas or "free" bananas!!!

First or thirst etc.

We also do world class R sounds!  

asturias



Tonight we fly
User currently offlineeric From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 3435 times:

Quoting Braybuddy (Reply 1):
And, while the standard of English on this site by non-native speakers is excellent (sometimes better than us native speakers), one incorrect word which pops up with amazing regularity is "aircrafts".

No offense, but ironically, one of the few "hard" English grammar rules that exists is that, in order to use "which" as a cohesive device, which (no pun) the usage of the word is in 90% of its usage, its that is predeced by a comma. If you cannot use "which" as in your sentence, the correct word would be "that". [/anal mode off]

Quoting AirPacific747 (Reply 3):
I just have a very difficult time pronnouncing "three". It will often sound more like "free"

Are you sure you do not also mean "tree" vs. "three"?


User currently offlineBAViscount From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 2338 posts, RR: 4
Reply 12, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 3426 times:

Quoting Asturias (Reply 10):
Many Spanish have a lot of problem pronouncing H in words

But what about when it comes to words like "jalapeño" and "Jerez"??!!

Quoting Asturias (Reply 10):
I have noticed (strangely) that a great deal of young people in the UK has immense problems pronuncing the TH sound, so when they are talking, it is impossible to understand whether they got "three" bananas or "free" bananas!!!

That's just downright laziness on their part!

Quoting Asturias (Reply 10):
We also do world class R sounds!

Oh you do indeed...my family still jokes about the fruit sellers on the beaches of Ibiza and their cries of "Frrrrrrrrrrrrrruuuuuutas"! 



Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barb
User currently offlineCXB77L From Australia, joined Feb 2009, 2596 posts, RR: 5
Reply 13, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 3423 times:
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Quoting eric (Reply 11):
Are you sure you do not also mean "tree" vs. "three"?

The pronunciation of 'th' as 't' is more Asian than European. I find that the people that pronounce it that way are generally Singaporeans or Malaysians, or they'd be from the Indian subcontinent.

People in Hong Kong pronounce 'th' as 'f' in words like 'three', 'think', 'thing' etc, but as 'd' in words like 'that', 'this' 'the' etc. It's a pronunciation that I struggled with as well when I started learning English, but I got over it with practice.

Quoting BAViscount (Reply 12):
That's just downright laziness on their part!

  

Either that, or the teachers didn't correct them every time they said 'free' instead of 'three'.



Boeing 777 fanboy
User currently offlineBAViscount From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 2338 posts, RR: 4
Reply 14, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 3421 times:

Quoting eric (Reply 11):
No offense, but ironically, one of the few "hard" English grammar rules that exists is that, in order to use "which" as a cohesive device, which (no pun) the usage of the word is in 90% of its usage, its that is preceded by a comma. If you cannot use "which" as in your sentence, the correct word would be "that". [/anal mode off]



The strange thing is that since I made the decision to pursue a career in TEFL, I've become acutely aware of how bad my own grammar can be at times. Admittedly, using the example you quoted (no offense Braybuddy), I would have used "that" rather than "which", but I have absolutely no idea what you mean by "cohesive device"!

English is scary!!! 



Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barb
User currently offlineAsturias From Spain, joined Apr 2006, 2063 posts, RR: 16
Reply 15, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 3421 times:

Quoting BAViscount (Reply 12):
That's just downright laziness on their part!

What!? Young people lazy!  Well seeing that they are english natives, they should certainly be able to pronunce things more or less.. though I saw this wonderful video of an A380 captain explaining the new instruments and how advanced the new plane was - it was a Lufthansa 380, and the captain was indeed German.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Oa6kRkyyIo

Germans have the same problem with the TH sounds and it seems like this captains speaks fluent english, but has completely given up on ever trying to pronunce TH, and just conistently replaces it with a hard F. And in the video there are a bajillion words starting with or containing TH 
Quoting BAViscount (Reply 12):
But what about when it comes to words like "jalapeño" and "Jerez"??!!

Ah! It is similar to H but uses the throat, so it is sort of similar to the "ch" in Bach (like the composer), so it isn't a true H.

Only the most determined of spanish people ever learn to pronunce H correctly (and even then they have to concentrate   )

asturias



Tonight we fly
User currently offlineBAViscount From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 2338 posts, RR: 4
Reply 16, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 3414 times:

Quoting Asturias (Reply 15):
Well seeing that they are english natives, they should certainly be able to pronunce things more or less..

Oh they can, but they don't. Similarly, a lot of native English speakers also have difficulty pronouncing the "h" sound, and end up dropping it completely. I'll hold my hands up and say that I'm guilty of dropping "aitches" at times too, but usually that's a social thing and happens when I'm speaking to people with the same regional accent as me (or is it "as I"?)!

Quoting Asturias (Reply 15):
Ah! It is similar to H but uses the throat, so it is sort of similar to the "ch" in Bach (like the composer), so it isn't a true H.

I'm curious then, based on your "Jajaja" example, how on earth do you actually laugh?!?! 



Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barb
User currently offlineAsturias From Spain, joined Apr 2006, 2063 posts, RR: 16
Reply 17, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 3398 times:

Quoting BAViscount (Reply 16):
I'm curious then, based on your "Jajaja" example, how on earth do you actually laugh?!?! 

It's a sort of a phonetic transcription, so we laugh the same as others, but if we would write it "hahaha" then we would read it as "a-a-a" and that's certainly not a normal laughter for us (anyway)  

So the closest thing to the "hahaha" in english (and a number of other languages) is transcribed as "jajaja", because we don't have the H sound. It's an approximation.

so we have "jajaja", "jejeje" and "jijiji"  

asturias



Tonight we fly
User currently offlineYokoTsuno From Singapore, joined Feb 2011, 348 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 1 hour ago) and read 3390 times:

Quoting oly720man (Reply 8):
A couple of things I've noticed with French people is they have problems with "sp"
Tell me about it. We have the same problem here with the "r". Hey is it my fault that I happen to like "Motolola" cellphones 
Quoting CXB77L (Reply 6):
I found grammar to be much more difficult ................ There aren't many exceptions to spelling rules (i before e except after c, for instance), but grammatical rules are a whole different matter.
Same for me. I have huge problems with the little words that make up grammar like "On sale" and "For sale". Placement and selection of an apropriate verb is also a killer. Since Singapore is a melting pot of people from all over the world, getting a real feel if a particalar verb carries the right meaning and strength is hard as the others make the same mistakes.Placing a comma is also hard for me.
Quoting AirPacific747 (Reply 3):
I just have a very difficult time pronouncing "three". It will often sound more like "free"
Oh dear, that must be serious.......getting yourself into all these commercial disputes. "What did you have on offer, you said.... ooh free computers"  
Quoting Braybuddy (Reply 1):
one incorrect word which pops up with amazing regularity is "aircrafts".
I don't have much problems with uncountable nouns except the ones that exist in both singular and plural form, like :Fish/Fishes" and "Money/Monies".
Quoting Asturias (Reply 15):
Germans have the same problem with the TH sounds

You'll love this one. Again no offence    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmOTpIVxji8


User currently offlineAsturias From Spain, joined Apr 2006, 2063 posts, RR: 16
Reply 19, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days ago) and read 3385 times:

Quoting YokoTsuno (Reply 18):
You'll love this one. Again no offence    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmOTpIVxji8

Yes, that one is a classic!!  and brings up a good point, that learning languages properly can be invaluable. It is so worthi it.

My recommendation to everyone, know at least two languages so well that you can more or less use them even handedly.

Add more to taste.  

asturias



Tonight we fly
User currently offlineBAViscount From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 2338 posts, RR: 4
Reply 20, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 5 days ago) and read 3382 times:

Quoting YokoTsuno (Reply 18):
I have huge problems with the little words that make up grammar like "On sale" and "For sale".

That's one of those differences between British and American English! As a British English speaker, I would assume that if something was "on sale", I would think that it was available for me to buy. But an American would probably think that there was a discount to be had on the recommended retail price!

The UK and the US, two nations separated by a common language!



Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barb
User currently offlineAesma From France, joined Nov 2009, 6517 posts, RR: 9
Reply 21, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 3289 times:

For me pronunciation is challenging, putting the accents at the right place especially, as in French there is no accentuation. That's why you'll often hear French people living in English speaking countries speak perfect English grammatically, and with lots of vocabulary, but a terrible accent, often they don't even try.

Also, we learn English as in the UK, but most common ways of training while being entertained consist of watching US movies and TV shows, where of course what is spoken is American English. It leads to confusion where the two differ.

Quoting oly720man (Reply 8):
A couple of things I've noticed with French people is they have problems with "sp"

so, e.g., wasps becomes wapsps and crisps becomes cripsps

and "h" not being where it should e.g.

eggs -> heggs house -> 'ouse, but a leading "h" is generally (?) silent in French anyway

Yes, most "h" are silent in French, must be a problem when trying to learn it as a second language, among many other things !

Overall English is quite easy to learn I found, I started learning German years before English, but after one year of English I was already far better at it, for my last two years of high school I switched between the two languages, and in the end I just abandoned German as I couldn't have good enough grades for them to count (a third language being optional at the time, you couldn't lose points, only gain the points over 10/20). It seems my brain can't remember too long words.

English is more straightforward than French, less rules, with less exceptions, verbs have less variations when conjugated.

In the end what takes the most time is learning the subtleties and expressions, and be careful with false friends, which can be a challenge as there are a lot of "true friends".

What types of students would you get ? One difference now compared to when I was learning English in school is the internet, it's with internet that I really improved a lot, because I was passionate about computers and a lot of material was in English, so I was naturally forced to read and understand. Now, I read and contribute to English wikipedia.



New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
User currently offlineBAViscount From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 2338 posts, RR: 4
Reply 22, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 3232 times:

Quoting Aesma (Reply 21):
That's why you'll often hear French people living in English speaking countries speak perfect English grammatically, and with lots of vocabulary, but a terrible accent, often they don't even try.

Very true. I spent most of last year working for a Dutch company in Amsterdam for a French boss. Her English was pretty much grammatically perfect, but her accent was so strong that I struggled to understand her unless she spoke to me via email! She also struggled to understand me too though, and I often had to repeat myself several times before I could make myself understood in a language that we both spoke perfectly well (myself as a native)! Conversing by email eventually became the norm, even though she sat 15 feet away from me.

The strange thing though is that she used to work for Hewlett Packard and was based in Grenoble. When she told her manager that she wanted to learn English, they offered her a transfer to...the Amsterdam office!!!  That said, she didn't even manage to learn English with a Dutch accent!



Ladies & gentlemen this is Captain Tobias Wilcock welcoming you aboard Coconut Airways flight 372 to Bridgetown Barb
User currently offlinesolnabo From Sweden, joined Jan 2008, 850 posts, RR: 2
Reply 23, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 3159 times:

Ven I spik inglish I sound like Ingrid Bergman fråm de movie "Murder on the Orient Express"
Wery difficult with the W and V...

Cheers

//Mike    



Airbus SAS - Love them both
User currently offlineXaraB From Norway, joined Aug 2007, 210 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (3 years 2 months 1 week 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 3149 times:

Quoting solnabo (Reply 23):
Wery difficult with the W and V...

Seconded. Very common Scandinavian mistake. Used to hear 'Wancouwer' quite a lot on Norwegian news during the latest Winter Olympics. Disastrous...



An open mind is not an empty one
25 PPVRA : In a classroom setting about ten years ago, we were playing a dictation-type game. The teacher said the word "Allow" and I wrote down "Aloud". . . who
26 BAViscount : I was at school with an Asian guy whose family was originally from Malawi. He used to get a lot of ribbing at school because he pronounced W's as V's
27 Post contains images Braybuddy : Ahhhh . . . you can't beat good old Hiberno-English
28 n229nw : I'm a native English speaker, but I think that about the hardest thing in most languages is using the right prepositions. Each language seems to have
29 Post contains images BAViscount : I think I might teach my students to use "thou", it would be nice to see that back in common usage again! That's something I've always had difficulti
30 Ralphski : The definite and indefinite articles, "a", "an", "the" are always a pain to learn for some Eastern Europeans.
31 Post contains links and images signol : I worked as a TEFL teacher for a year in France, for AF. Great time In the office / language school, we had a book called "Collins Confusable Words",
32 Baroque : What a lovely thread, not a spot of bad temper or other a.net no nos. To which I can add the Indonesia consonant problem where "f", "b", "p" and "v" a
33 Post contains images AM744 : From a romance language speaker point of view: Prepositions Phrasal verbs 'th' and inverted e (shua?) phonems. False cognates: dispose, sensible, ulti
34 Post contains images T8KE0FF : I have to say as a 15 year old in the UK, I have never said the number '3' as 'three'. It's always been 'free'. And I can't think of anyone who says
35 Post contains images BAViscount : That's probably related to the reason why so many people say "Haitch" instead of "Aitch"...there's no such letter as "Haitch"!!
36 Post contains images HELyes : Comforting to hear our Nordic neighbours share the same "W-V" problem than Finns Finnish is not an Indo-European language like English and almost all
37 Post contains images GrahamHill : Yeah, I struggle with that. And most of the French do. It's actually quite rare to find a French speaking English with a proper accent. After 7 years
38 Baroque : For some reason, never AFAIK well explained, it used to be the case in Aus that if anyone referred to BHP as Bee Haitch Pee, it marked them out as ha
39 YokoTsuno : I once read an article in a British newspaper written by a Cambridge professor. The article was precisely about what you mentioned. His claim was that
40 Aesma : That will always bother me, speaking the same to a friend and the big boss. Very funny ! When I was 10 I went to Scotland with my school, and was sur
41 Post contains images n229nw : I believe something along those lines has actually happened in Swedish recently, where the formal/informal distinction more or less disappeared, but
42 CXB77L : Can I ask why, when the correct pronunciation clearly is 'three'? Is it because you were taught wrong, or that it's just easier to say 'free'? I don'
43 Babybus : It's the uncountable nouns (aircraft, information, property etc) that most non-English speakers find difficult. Unfortunately I saw such a mistake in
44 Baroque : Mmmm. Would you accept it is a language where you can be understood even when you are butchering it, and be misunderstood when you are using it well?
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