My talks about a holiday
Watch My’s video where she tells us about a recent holiday. What do you notice about her pronunciation? What might make it difficult for a listener to understand the details of her story?
My does a great job in general! There are a couple of things we could pick up on. We are going to focus on one area. Watch the video again. Can you spot what is wrong with the way she pronounces these phrases:
- …a lot of countries in Europe
- We went to Germany, Italy and eh…
- ..a little wine.
- … a lot of photos with them.
What’s the problem for the listener?
My is dropping a lot of consonant sounds at the ends of words. She does add them sometimes, for example in “blow your mind”, she pronounces the final /d/. What sounds does she drop in the phrases above? Watch the video again if you need to. Here are the transcriptions of the phrases above in the wrong order. Can you match them?
/wiːwentuː ʤermən ɪtæliː jənɑ: /
In the first phrase, “a lot of countries in Europe”, she drops the /s/ in countries. In the second phrases, “We went to Germany, Italy and eh…” she doesn’t pronounce the final syllable in Germany, this might be a pronunciation or a grammar problem, however. We can’t be sure if she is confusing the noun Germany with German, the adjective. In the third phrase, “a little wine”, she does not pronounce the /n/ in wine. And, in the final phrase, she does not pronounce the /s/ in photos.
This is an issue which comes from My’s first language, Vietnamese. As in the case of other Asian languages, Vietnamese does not contain words ending with consonants, so learners tend to drop them. The consonants commonly omitted are: /z/, /s/, /t/, /v/, /ks/, /ʤ/. As you can hear, My drops the /s/ but also the /n/.
Strategies to develop this pronunciation problem
1 Firstly, as a general pointer it is good to do some research on your learner’s L1 and what aspects if their pronunciation might affect their English pronunciation. This has implications for listening and speaking. If they do not have some of the sounds of English, or they tend to omit sounds in particular parts of speech, as in Vietnamese, then knowing this will help you to anticipate problems.
2 Back chaining is a type of drilling you can do to work on final consonants. Start with the final consonant sound, e.g. /n/,then add the preceding sound, /aɪn/ and then the next sound until you have the whole word: /waɪn/. If you have a phonemic chart in your classroom you can use this to help students to see the symbols and associate the sounds with them. This can act as a memory hook. After students are able to pronounce the word correctly in isolation, drill it in a phrase, e.g. I like wine! Maybe they can personalise it, e.g. “I like white wine more than red wine”. They could even exchange sentences with a partner and give their partner feedback on how well they pronounce the key word.
3 To raise awareness of this issue in a student’s speech, ask them to record themselves talking about a topic which is stimulated with images (not sentences as they may produce the sounds if they see the written form). They should be speaking freely about a topic- use images of words they tend to omit the final consonants from. After they have finished speaking ask them to listen to their speaking and focus on the pronunciation of the words in the images. Can they spot any errors and what is the error. This will help them to self-monitor this aspect of their pronunciation. As we saw from My’s talk, she does not drop the final sounds all the time but is not consistent in this.