10 Problems for learners in VietnamThe vietnamese
language has a few noteworthy characteristics for teachers of english
. All of the words in the vietnamese
language are composed of only one syllable and it is a tonal language. These two qualities of the language are important for teachers to be aware of because they present challenges for learners of english
The word structure of vietnamese
is monosyllabic, with vowels present in either the front, middle or end of the word. vietnamese
also has some particularities different from english
that can pose pronunciation problems. There is no “p” as an initial sound and there are only eight different sounds that words can end in: c, ch, m, n, ng, ng, p, and t. Because vietnamese
speakers do not use other sounds at the end of words, hearing and then producing these sounds is a challenge.
differs from english
in that it is a tonal language. While the same words or phrases can convey a wide array of meanings in english
based on how they are said, this is different than a tonal language. Changes in intonation indicate the intention of the speaker, for instance adding question marks or exclamation points to the word (Now! Vs. Now?). However, these intonation changes do not alter the basic meaning of the word or utterance, as they would in a tonal language. Tone differences in vietnamese
indicate different words altogether. Often times, vietnamese
speakers will overemphasize the intonation in english
because of this background of a tonal language. Stress on particular syllables in english
can be hard to teach because vietnamese
words only have one syllable. Teacher should teach the stress of the word right along with the spelling, pronunciation, and meaning.
There are a number of sounds in english
that are not found in vietnamese
. These sounds are: “th” as in “thin” may be confused with “tin” or “sin”
“th” as in “then” may be confused with “den” or “zen”
“j” as in “jump” may be confused with “zhump” or “chump”
“zh” as in pleasure may be confused with “pleajure” or
“I” as in “hit” may be confused with “heat”
“a” as in “pat” may be confused with “pet” or “pot”
“oo” as in “book” may be confused with “buck”
It is important to address these kinds of common errors in the correct way. First, the teacher and student must both identify the mispronunciation. If the student is making the error, it is because he or she cannot hear the differences in sounds. To help the student hear the differences, something called “minimal pairs” works well. Minimal pairs are single syllable words that isolate the target sound, such as “thank” and “tank” or “bath” and “bat.” With these pairs of words said together, confusion can be illuminated. Next, the student should work to recognize the differences by using flash cards with pictures of the different words to show how they are different and reinforce the sound difference with the picture difference. Once students can associate different pictures with different sounds, they will start to hear and be able to say those sounds. Then, the learner must be able to produce the sound. The teacher can work with tongue positioning for sound formation and use the sound in familiar words with out other pronunciation issues. The real challenge for students is producing the sound in the context of other vocabulary or conversation, not just in isolation. Teachers must keep in mind that writing down the letters for how the sound is written only confuses the students more.
A consonant clutter is perhaps the most pervasive challenge for vietnamese
speakers learning english
. A consonant clutter is when there are two or more consonant sounds produced with no vowel in the middle. Examples of consonant cluttered words in their initial sounds are: pray, try, please, strike, snow. Examples of consonant cluttered words in their final sounds are: told, sent, vowels. There is a grammatical origin for many of these consonant clutters, which complicates their instruction further because students must learn the grammatical concept as well as the pronunciation. Grammatical concepts that contribute to the multiple consonant sounds by adding a final “s” are plural words, possessive words, and verbs in the third person singular. Regular past tense words that add an “ed” and contractions also create consonant clutter.
In general, teachers should use minimal pairs, rhyming dictionaries, regular dictionaries, pronunciation drills, and be aware of not over correcting. Most importantly, a teacher should be care to not become accustomed to hearing the mispronunciation and not noticing it anymore.