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
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
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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,
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,
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,
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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