Unusual pronunciation errors of English Department students. Reasons and solutions

Academic Paper, 2019

12 Pages


Table of Contents

1. Error correction

2. Contrastive Analysis Hypotheses (CAH)

3. The importance of pronunciation teaching

4. Research Design

5. Analyses

6. Conclusion

7. Suggestion

8. References

Analyzing Unusual Pronunciation Errors of Third-Semester Students of English Department of Languages and Translation of Misrata University Libya.

By: Abdalkareem A. Binmustafa.

Najah A. Aljarooshi.


This paper aimed at highlighting the background fundamental of the errors, and the studies conducted in the field of error analysis and to explore the pronunciation errors which made by the third semester students of Languages and Translation Faculty, at Misrata in terms of consonants, vowels, and diphthongs and find out the reason of the students pronouncing the words in such a way. It also tries to help teachers and learners of English as a foreign language, to know about the most common errors made by the learners of English as a foreign language (EFL), and some very important issues of understanding the importance of correcting error in the process of acquiring a second language (L2) such as the number of errors must be corrected, and at what stages the teacher must correct the error and how the teacher can correct the error of the learner without frustration.

To achieve these elements the third-semester students of English and Translation department at Languages and Translation Faculty of Misrata University were interviewed, and given a number of English words, to explore their correct, and incorrect pronunciation. Those errors, are analyzed. Data was collected and analyzed with the guidance of phonemic transcription in the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary.

The results revealed that the errors in producing the consonants were 27%, the vowels were 34% and the diphthongs were 39%. The students pronounced the errors in such a way due to the unfamiliarity with the words, lack of practicing English words and understanding the pronunciation subject.

Keywords: contrastive analysis (CA), error analysis (EA), interstitial errors, nonverbal errors.

1. Error correction

Errors as a phenomenon are very common in classrooms, and they can be a good facility to create an educational situation, which can be used by teachers in the teaching field. No doubt, that teachers can benefit from knowing the probable errors that learners make (Ellis, 2008),and all teachers should help their students in the correction process because, as Long (1996) stated, feedback provided through verbal interaction can facilitate the second language (L2) learning by connecting form and meaning; however, it should be noted that correction of errors can be done based on learners’ preferences; But the crucial point, we think, is what type of errors that should be used; How and when such errors should be corrected.

As teachers of English for more than twenty years, we can't deny that correcting the errors, which made by students when they speak or write is one of the difficult tasks.

Many theories and schools performed in linguistics and language learning that aimed to explore learners’ errors and to decode their foundations. Among those schools, is the behaviouristic school. In the field of foreign and second language learning, error analysis (EA) and contrastive analysis (CA) has been considered as the two main bases. Generally, as Keshavarz (1999, p. 11) stated, "…there have been two major approaches to the study of learners' errors, namely Contrastive Analysis and Error Analysis." The CA hypothesis tries to study the students' errors by study the similarities and differences between both, first language(L1) and second language (L2) then compare them.

In the case of the students who study in English, Translation Department of Languages and Translation Faculty, at Misrata University, it is often noticed that they fail to pronounce most of English words correctly, despite they have studied English phonetics I and II; and CA seems, to be not enough to explain some unusual errors which are produced by those students. Therefore, this essay will describe briefly, the theoretical and practical principles of the CA Hypothesis, and to what extent, it contributes to analyzing the pronunciation errors.

The researchers’ main concern here is the way CA analyzes the pronunciation errors (i.e., unusual pronunciation errors). Finally, a more productive and interesting way of teaching pronunciation in a natural context will be suggested, that is by presenting the English alphabet letters by their two copies of sounds (name and sound) through full words' graphemes.

The paper started, with a brief description of CA Hypotheses, followed by the importance of pronunciation. As researchers, we also tried to conclude by a critical discussion of some students' errors and gave some techniques to correct and teach pronunciation.

2. Contrastive Analysis Hypotheses (CAH)

The contrastive methodology was explicitly formulated after the Second World War, when the importance of foreign language learning was recognized in the US, and when research on immigrant bilingualism emerged (Weinreich 1953, Haugen 1956). CAH was used widely in the field of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) in the 1960s and early 1970s, as a method of explaining why some features of target language were more difficult to acquire than others.

According to the behaviorist theories prevailing at the time, language learning was a matter of habit formation, and this could be reinforced or impeded by existing habits. Therefore, the difficulty in mastering certain structures in a second language (L2) depended on the difference between the learners' first language (L1) and the language they were trying to learn. The most interesting criticism of the contrastive analysis hypothesis for the researchers was the ‘subtle differences” version of the contrastive analysis hypothesis proposed by Oller and Ziachosseiny (Brown 2007 p253). They claimed that more interference between the L1 and target language may occur not when there is a large difference between a structure in the two languages but when learners are required to make more subtle distinctions between the languages. In our own experience, there is very few cognates between English and Arabic.

Another interesting criticism of the contrastive analysis hypothesis is the case of interlingual errors. Those types of errors, which were source came from within the target language. For example, overgeneralizing a rule such as the plural ‘s’ and saying ‘mans’ instead of ‘men’ What is interesting to us about this type of error is that it shows how the regularity of the target language is used by the learner. This will lead to some errors, but overall the regularity of the target language will facilitate learning. Most of the time applying the rule of adding an “s’ to form the plural will work.

3. The importance of pronunciation teaching

Pronunciation as a productive skill is very important because the mispronunciation might lead to misunderstanding. In this sense, whether to correct pronunciation errors or not and how to correct these errors, have always been important issues for teachers in English Language Teaching (ELT), If the message is not properly articulated, pronunciation might sometimes hinder communication or convey the wrong message of what is said. Zimmermann (2004, p. 29) stated that “Pronunciation is crucially important, as it is usually the first thing people notice about the language of English learners. It is a piece of common knowledge, that many learners ignore pronunciation in language learning. Unfortunately, a large number of teachers also ignore it. However, the reasons for this negligence vary greatly. According to Szynalski and Wójcik (www.antimoon.com), almost all learners of English claim that they do not need to study pronunciation. Many of them are convinced that it is simply a waste of time. Subconsciously, listeners make quick (and often, unfair) judgments about a speaker’s English ability based on his pronunciation. No matter how accurate a learner’s grammar, and no matter how rich and expressive his/her vocabulary, is if his/her pronunciation is poor, then this immediately gives a negative impression of his overall language level. Poor pronunciation can be difficult to listen to, as it demands greater effort and concentration on the part of the listener.

In addition, poor pronunciation can lead to misunderstandings. On the other hand, if a speaker has a clear pronunciation, this has immediate benefits: listeners judge the speaker’s overall language ability much more favorably, since to the point of tolerating grammatical and other errors. Moreover, good pronunciation is an asset to the speaker himself, as it provides him with a valuable confidence boost. It is important to note here that ‘good’ pronunciation does not mean ‘native-like’ pronunciation. In fact, if an English learner aims to sound like a native English speaker he will soon be disappointed, as this is neither a realistic goal nor a necessary one. Instead, the aim should be to acquire a ‘listener- friendly’ pronunciation – one which listeners can understand without effort and which can be used to make meaningful conversation possible. If the listening task is too effortful, listeners will simply stop listening.

The way we speak immediately conveys something about ourselves to the people around us. Learners with good pronunciation in English are more likely to be understood despite they make errors in other areas of the language, whereas learners whose pronunciation is difficult to understand will not be understood, even if their grammar is perfect. We also often judge people by the way they speak, and so learners with poor pronunciation may be judged as incompetent, uneducated or lacking in knowledge, even though listeners are only reacting to their pronunciation. Yet many adult learners find pronunciation one of the most difficult aspects of English to acquire and need explicit help from the teacher (Morley 1994; Fraser 2000). Surveys of student needs show that our learners feel the need for pronunciation work in class (eg Willing 1993). Thus, some sort of pronunciation work in class is essential.

4. Research Design

Since this research dealt with error analysis, to find the answer of this research, a qualitative method was applied through the analysis of pronunciation errors made by the third-semester students of the English department at Languages and Translation Faculty. The data was analyzed by showing the dictionary transcription, and the participants’ transcription in a specific table; then they are described in words, phrases or sentences to obtain a general conclusion from the subject of the research. The population of this research was the third-semester students of Languages and Translation Faculty at Misrata University. The total number of the students as the sample of this research was 10 students. The sample was taken from the students of the English department at Languages and Translation Faculty since have been teaching at the same Faculty and taught Pronunciation “I” and “II” to the students.

In this research, the data was collected through a tape recorder, and a written document used as supporting data relating to the students’ pronunciation errors. Examples of consonants, vowels, and diphthongs were prepared, and the students were asked to make the phonetic trans words.

Lists of words represent the 44 British English sounds according to the Receptive Pronunciation (RP) consisting of 24 consonants, 12 vowels, and 8 diphthongs were given to the students.

5. Analyses

The following table presents the pronunciation errors made by the 10 students of the Languages and Translation Faculty at Misrata University:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

The data, were analyzed, and the findings of this paper were specified as follow:

-The errors made by students at the pronunciation (orally) were “54” errors in consonants’ Pronunciation with a percentage of 27%, “75” errors in vowels’ pronunciation with a percentage of 31%, and “51” in diphthongs’ pronunciation with 29% percentage.
- The errors made by the sample in the written phonetic transcription were 83 errors inconsonant with the percentage 38%, 179 vowel errors with the percentage 65% and the last were 53 diphthong errors with the percentage 85%.
- The highest amount of the students’ errors was in the diphthongs with the highest percentage, which was 85 %.
- By comparing the students’ errors in the written phonetic transcription and oral form, it could be seen that clearly, the students’ percentage of the errors in the phonetic transcription was higher than in the recorded tape. It made sense then that the students’ mistaken in the phonetic transcription lead them into mispronunciation.
- The students’ pronunciation errors in consonants, vowels, and diphthongs were due to their lack of understanding in the phonetic transcription, and interference of Arabic. However, in some cases where they were able to pronounce the words correctly though they made errors in the written phonetic transcription , because the words were familiar with them.
- The error regarding /v/ was not randomly made. The voiced labio-dental fricative /v/ does not occur in Arabic. As a result, Arab speakers could treat /v/ as a voiceless labio-dental fricative /f/. For example, most of the students pronounced ‘vase’ /va:z/ as [fa:z], or [feIz], which /v/ is substituted with /f/.
- The error that the students made in the consonant /Ɵ/ sound of the word /bəʊƟ/ was because of their lack of understanding in the way how to write the correct phonetic transcription and lack of drill to pronounce the words correctly.
- The most error in pronouncing the diphthongs was in the /au/ sound of the word blouse /blauz/. Anyhow, the students pronounce the words into /blͻ:zi/ and /blaus/. This happened because they were accustomed to hear the word pronounce in such a way.
- The last sound system is monophthongs or pure vowels. The most error in pronouncing the monophthongs was in the /ᴈ:/ sound of the word girl /gᴈ:l/. The students pronounce this word by saying /geɪl/. This happened because they pronounced the /ᴈ:/ longer.


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Unusual pronunciation errors of English Department students. Reasons and solutions
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Abdalkareem A. Benmustafa (Author), 2019, Unusual pronunciation errors of English Department students. Reasons and solutions, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/469015


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