English Pronunciation Practice For Arabic Speakers

Here we look at some English sounds which often cause difficulties for native Arabic speakers. 

Part A: vowel sounds

1.  /ɪ/ and /ɛ/ These are both short vowels, but are different in quality.  

First practise the /ɪ/ sound: 

tin, pin, did, will, lit, lift, chick, miss Now the /ɛ/ sound.  

This is a more open vowel, with the tongue in a lower position.  


ten, pen, dead, well, let, left, cheque, mess 

Now contrast the two: 

tin, ten;  pin, pen;  did, dead;  will, well; lit, let;  lift, left;  chick, cheque;  miss, mess 

2.  /æ/ and /ʌ/ 

These are also short vowels, though /æ/ is slightly longer than /ʌ/.  

First practise the /æ/ sound: 

bag, mad, ran, drank, cap, bat, cat, match 

Now the shorter /ʌ/ sound: 

bug, mud, run, drunk, cup, but, cut, much 

Now contrast the two: 

bag, bug;  mad, mud;  ran, run;  drank, drunk; cap, cup;  bat, but;  cat, cut;  match, much 

3.  /ɑː/ and /ʌ/ 

Practise the difference between these two sounds, and make sure you give the long vowel /ɑː/ its full length.  

Remember that the 'r' sometimes found in the spelling is silent.  Practise the long sound first: 

barn, dance, march, cart, heart 

Now contrast the two sounds: 

barn, bun;  dance, dunce;  march, much; cart, cut;  heart, hut

4.  /əʊ/ and /ɔː/

Try not to make these sounds too short.  The first is a diphthong, /əʊ/, the second a long vowel, /ɔː/.  Practise the /əʊ/ sound:

no, go, so, show, tone, boat, hope,
smoke, coke, soap

Now the long /ɔ:/ sound:

more, door, shore, torn, bored,
bought, taught, sport, fork, walk

Now compare these two sounds with the short /ɒ/ vowel:

cot, coat, caught;  stock, stoke, stork;
not, note, nought;  rod, rode, roared;
cock, coke, cork

5.  /ɜː/

The sound /:/ has several different spellings - 'ir', 'ur', 'er' and even, sometimes, 'ear' - but the 'r' is silent in every case.  The sound is just a long vowel /ɜː/.

Practise the following:

girl, bird, stir, shirt, thirsty, first;
burn, nurse, Thursday;  term, serve, germ;
learn, heard, earth

6.  /ɪə/ and /eə/

These vowels are diphthongs, and, like the /ɜː/ sound, also contain letter 'r' in the spelling.  However, it's not pronounced!  Practise the following, and remember, no 'r' at the end of words:

dear, near, hear, fear;  beer, steer;
here, sincere;  care, fare, stare;
air, chair, fair;  bear, pear, wear;  there

7.  In English all vowels are longer when they end with a voiced consonant (e.g. /v/, /g/, /b/, /d/) than when they end with a voiceless consonant (e.g. /f/, /p/, /s/, /t/).  Practise the following pairs of words - in each case the second word is longer than the first because it ends in a voiced consonant. 

back, bag;  bet, bed;  cup, cub;  pick, pig;
wrote, rode;  height, hide;  leaf, leave;
price, prize;  fate, fade;  loose, lose

Improve your confidence in spoken English with our General English course or Individual English training in our centre in London or online.

Part B: consonant sounds

1.  /p/ and /b/

The main difference between these two consonants is that /p/ is voiced and /b/ is unvoiced.  However, another very important difference is that the /p/ sound in English is aspirate - that is, there is a lot of air in the sound, especially when it comes at the beginning of a word.  You should be able to feel the breath on the back of your hand if you're pronouncing the /p/ sound correctly.  Repeat:

pea, pen, pin, pig, pit, pat, path, peach

Now contrast the following, and make sure that all the 'p' words have plenty of air:

pea, be;  pen, Ben;  pin, bin;  pig, big;
pit, bit;  pat, bat;  path, bath;  peach, beach

Now practise the following:

pip, pipe, pop, prop, pupil, prepare,
preposition, prescription

Now the following words, containing both /p/ and /b/:

pub, public, publish, publicity, probe, problem

Finally, practise /p/ and /b/ at the end of words.  Remember that, as 'b' is a voiced consonant, the vowel before will be longer than for a similar word ending in 'p'.  Repeat:

cup, cub;  cap, cab;  rip, rib;
nip, nib;  lop, lob;  rope, robe

2.  The /ŋ/ sound

In words ending in 'ng', be careful not to pronounce the final 'g' or to make a /n/ sound.  It's just one sound - /ŋ/.  Practise the following:

sing, ring, wing, long, bang, hung;
going, playing, walking, talking,
eating, drinking

3.  Letter 'r'

English 'r' is very different from the 'r' sound in Arabic.  There's no trill or /ɹ/ in English.  In fact, the tongue doesn't move at all.  The important thing is the position of the lips.  These should be rounded, and in the same position as for the sound /œ/ or /y/. 

   a)   'r' at the beginning of words:

road, rest, rice, real, really, right, wrong,
Richard, Rosemary

   b)   'r' in the middle of words:

Paris, very, carry, America, Europe,
parent, every, country, lorry

   c)   'r' at the end of words is silent.

mother, father, brother, sister, doctor, teacher,
car, bar, more, door, beer, near, fair, hair

   d)   'r' followed by a consonant is also silent.

hard, start;  girl, bird, first;  turn, nurse;
sport, form;  of course

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