BAViscount
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Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Fri May 13, 2011 1:29 am

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.
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Braybuddy
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Fri May 13, 2011 7:12 am

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".
 
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Fri May 13, 2011 7:32 am

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.
 
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AirPacific747
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Fri May 13, 2011 7:58 am

I just have a very difficult time pronnouncing "three". It will often sound more like "free"
 
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Fri May 13, 2011 8:01 am

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"!!  
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ajd1992
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Fri May 13, 2011 8:22 am

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....
 
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Fri May 13, 2011 9:22 am

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.
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Asturias
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Fri May 13, 2011 11:23 am

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
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Fri May 13, 2011 11:30 am

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
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Fri May 13, 2011 4:27 pm

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"! 
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sat May 14, 2011 12:43 am

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!  

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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sat May 14, 2011 12:55 am

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"?
n
 
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sat May 14, 2011 1:08 am

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"! 
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CXB77L
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sat May 14, 2011 1:18 am

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'.
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sat May 14, 2011 1:21 am

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!!! 
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Asturias
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sat May 14, 2011 1:29 am

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
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

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?!?! 
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Asturias
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sat May 14, 2011 2:22 am

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
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sat May 14, 2011 2:56 am

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
 
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sat May 14, 2011 3:06 am

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
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sat May 14, 2011 3:12 am

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!
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Aesma
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sat May 14, 2011 3:08 pm

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.
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sun May 15, 2011 12:18 am

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!
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solnabo
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sun May 15, 2011 5:13 pm

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

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XaraB
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sun May 15, 2011 5:39 pm

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...
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sun May 15, 2011 6:05 pm

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". . . whoops.
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sun May 15, 2011 10:46 pm

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

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 and vice versa. Walking home from school with him one day I suggested that he might try imagining the two letters being switched around. Consequently, the next day I heard him say "television" for the first time, instead of "telewision"!!

[Edited 2011-05-15 16:29:10]
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 12:12 am

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 predeced by a comma. If you cannot use "which" as in your sentence, the correct word would be "that". [/anal mode off]
Quoting BAViscount (Reply 14):
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"!


Ahhhh . . . you can't beat good old Hiberno-English  
 
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 1:25 am

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 pretty idiosyncratic rules about when and whether you are "in" "at" or "on" a park, etc.

Luckily for learners of English, it is one of the very easiest languages in some ways: it has no grammatical genders, no declension of nouns or adjectives, only two cases for pronouns, no formal and informal "you," etc. etc.

Quoting BAViscount (Reply 14):
I have absolutely no idea what you mean by "cohesive device"!

A cohesive device is something the TSA screens your baggage for...
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 1:37 am

Quoting n229nw (Reply 28):
no formal and informal "you,"

I think I might teach my students to use "thou", it would be nice to see that back in common usage again! 
Quoting n229nw (Reply 28):
Each language seems to have pretty idiosyncratic rules about when and whether you are "in" "at" or "on" a park, etc.

That's something I've always had difficulties with. When I go to the Channel Islands (one of my favourite places on earth), I've always wondered whether I'm "on" Guernsey, or "in" Guernsey!

Quoting n229nw (Reply 28):
A cohesive device is something the TSA screens your baggage for...

I always put those in my hand baggage!
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Ralphski
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 7:02 am

The definite and indefinite articles, "a", "an", "the" are always a pain to learn for some Eastern Europeans.
 
signol
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 11:22 am

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", most students would study it intently.
Some of the trickier points:
they're / there / their
fewer / less

http://ebookee.org/Collins-COBUILD-E...uides-Confusable-Words_996645.html
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Collins-Cobu...h-Guides-Confusable/dp/0003705625/

signol
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baroque
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 12:59 pm

What a lovely thread, not a spot of bad temper or other a.net no nos.

Quoting CXB77L (Reply 13):
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.

To which I can add the Indonesia consonant problem where "f", "b", "p" and "v" appear to sound similar. Just as well they do not need to describe the small rubber disk in ice hockey too often.

In Souh Africa at present and for a couple of days, I totally failed the tea test. In the restaurant, they asked if I wanted tea or coffee. I requested tea and to my surprise appeared to be told "no more tea". After a couple of events with apparently a total lack of tea, I worked out it was an offer of "normal tea" rather than "herbal tea". Or "erbal tea" as it would be in the US.

Which reminds me I worked in Horbury for a while, a town in Yorkshire near Ossett. But the locals pronounced these as "Orbury" and "Hossett". Then there is my native language of Geordie!!
 
AM744
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 3:38 pm

From a romance language speaker point of view:

Prepositions
Phrasal verbs
'th' and inverted e (shua?) phonems.
False cognates: dispose, sensible, ultimate, fabric, etc... All of which are false cognates in one or many Romance languages. Those 1 billion+ potential speaker need to be taught well   

I'd guess pronunciation should be stressed when teaching South Asian students. I've found that while most speak really good English regarding grammar and vocabulary, pronunciation is difficult for many people including native speakers. No offense intended at all.
 
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 4:15 pm

Quoting Asturias (Reply 10):
young people in the UK has immense problems pronuncing the TH sound

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 it at school as 'three'...

It does make it rather confusing though, a week does not pass by when there is some confusion between 'free' and 'three'. But we just have a laugh about it.  

Also, im pretty sure I am the only person in my whole school who knows which there/their/they're to use. And one thing that really bugs me is when people write 'You are' and not 'You're'.

Anyway.. :L
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BAViscount
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 4:33 pm

Quoting Baroque (Reply 32):
"Hossett".

That's probably related to the reason why so many people say "Haitch" instead of "Aitch"...there's no such letter as "Haitch"!!      
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HELyes
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 4:39 pm

Quoting solnabo (Reply 23):
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
Quoting XaraB (Reply 24):
Seconded. Very common Scandinavian mistake. Used to hear 'Wancouwer' quite a lot on Norwegian news during the latest Winter Olympics. Disastrous...

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 the other European languages, so we have our own difficulties... One typical 'Finnish error' is to mix he and she, the Finnish gramma doesn't separate genders at all, the same personal pronoun is used for both sexes.

The Finnish frontal "r" may sound a bit harsh in English, works better in Spanish. I've noticed Finns and Icelanders sound a bit same in English: "Velcome to Rrrreykjavik!"
 
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GrahamHill
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 5:53 pm

Quoting oly720man (Reply 8):
and "h" not being where it should e.g.

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

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 in Ireland, I still have a French accent  

One thing that was good for me living in Ireland is the pronounciation of the "th", which they pronounce more like a simple "t" or "d". By the way, it reminds me of a well-known joke:



An Irishman applies for a job, but the foreman won't employ him until he passes a little maths test.

- "Here's your first question", the foreman said. "Without using numbers, represent the number 9".

- "Without numbers?" the Irishman says, "dat is easy", and proceeds to draw three trees.

- "What's this?" the boss asks.

- "Haven't you got a brain? Tree and tree and tree makes nine", says the Irishman.

- "Fair enough", says the boss. "Here's your second question. Apply the same rules using the number 99, this time".

The Irishman stares into space for a while, then picks up the picture that he has just drawn and makes a smudge on each tree. "Dere you go".

The boss scratches his head and asks, "How on earth do you get that to represent 99?"

- "Each of da trees is dirty now. So, dat's dirty tree, and dirty tree, and dirty tree. Dat equals 99".

The boss starts getting worried that he's actually going to have to give the Irishman the job, so he says, "All right, final question, same rules again, but represent the number 100".

The Irishman stares into space for a while, then picks up the picture again and makes a little mark at the base of each tree and says, "Dere you go. One hundred."

The boss looks at the illustration and bursts out: "You must be nuts if you think that represents a hundred!"

Whereby the Irishman leans forward and points to the marks at the base of each tree, saying: "A little dog came along and crapped by each tree. So now you've got dirty tree and a turd, dirty tree and a turd, and dirty tree and a turd, dat makes one hundred... So, when do I be starting the job?!"

 
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baroque
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 6:23 pm

Quoting BAViscount (Reply 35):
That's probably related to the reason why so many people say "Haitch" instead of "Aitch"...there's no such letter as "Haitch"!!

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 having been educated in a Catholic school. Now it appears much more widespread and those from Catholic schools are no longer all proponents of Haitch. It appears that Haitch even gets past the ABC pronunciation squad. As do a number of strange wording endings and the dreaded end of sentenCE RISE.

And we are not going to get into "Ostraiyah".

In the end, English English will probably compromise with Asian English or Chenglish, just because of weight of numbers, with a spot of Bombay Welsh thrown in for good luck. And we are all going to need faster ears.
 
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 7:31 pm

Quoting Baroque (Reply 38):
In the end, English English will probably compromise with Asian English or Chenglish, just because of weight of numbers, with a spot of Bombay Welsh thrown in for good luck. And we are all going to need faster ears.
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, since English is spread over such a wide geographical and cultural diverse area, it can never exist in a single or multiple mutually intelligible forms forever. His conclusion was that ultimately the current English variants will develop into separate languages in another 500 years or so. I tend to believe this since there are plenty of examples around where this has indeed happened.
 
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 16, 2011 11:48 pm

Quoting n229nw (Reply 28):
no formal and informal "you,"

That will always bother me, speaking the same to a friend and the big boss.

Quoting GrahamHill (Reply 37):
dirty tree and a turd

Very funny !

When I was 10 I went to Scotland with my school, and was surprised that they rolled the "R" just like the Italians do (my mother is Italian). Having only a few lessons in English I was not good to begin with, but with the rolled R, I couldn't even understand my name ! I'm called like a famous Irish singer the family I was in was a fan of. They called him "rrrrrrrrrrwan" or something like that, it made me think of the second surname of my brother, Erwan.
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n229nw
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Fri May 20, 2011 4:12 pm

Quoting BAViscount (Reply 29):
I think I might teach my students to use "thou", it would be nice to see that back in common usage again!

I believe something along those lines has actually happened in Swedish recently, where the formal/informal distinction more or less disappeared, but some young people have tried to bring it back to be cool...maybe some Swedes can elaborate on or correct this version of the story.

Quoting BAViscount (Reply 29):
Quoting n229nw (Reply 28):
A cohesive device is something the TSA screens your baggage for...

I always put those in my hand baggage!


Actually, come to think of it, I can think of some other things that a 'cohesive device' sounds like a euphemism for. And I'm not sure I'd want them in my hand baggage! (TSA: What's this then? YOU: Er...ah...it's not for me, it's er...ah...a gift...I'm not into that stuff, myself, honestly!...)   
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Sat May 21, 2011 6:38 am

Quoting T8KE0FF (Reply 34):
I have never said the number '3' as 'three'. It's always been 'free'.

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'?

Quoting T8KE0FF (Reply 34):
And one thing that really bugs me is when people write 'You are' and not 'You're'.

I don't get this one. They mean one and the same.
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babybus
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 23, 2011 4:47 pm

It's the uncountable nouns (aircraft, information, property etc) that most non-English speakers find difficult. Unfortunately I saw such a mistake in the lift at Elephant and Castle tube station (I think it was).

Even very experienced non-English speakers get their nouns and adjectives mixed up for example 'He is from German'.

All in all, at a basic level, English is a very, very easy language to learn.
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baroque
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RE: Difficulties With English For Non-English Speakers

Mon May 23, 2011 4:53 pm

Quoting Babybus (Reply 43):
All in all, at a basic level, English is a very, very easy language to learn.

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? Not perfectly for the last bit because presumably if it was perfect it would not be misunderstood.

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