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How mother tongue can cause difficulties in acquiring English vowels and consonants?

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chinmoy | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 3, 2009 at 4:33 PM via web

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How mother tongue can cause difficulties in acquiring English vowels and consonants?

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ivana | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted September 3, 2009 at 7:23 PM (Answer #1)

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The way we pronounce words of an foreign language is almost always influenced by our mother tongue. Most of the languages have an unique phonetic structure that can differ significantly from other languages.

When studying English as a foreign language pronunciation is what many students find especially trying because of the way English phonetic system differs from that of their mother tongue. Therefore, the mother tongue of the student can cause difficulties in number of ways depending on the way its phonetic system differs from that of English.

 For example, Croatian language has 33 phonemes, only five of which are vowels. So, the number of vowels in English is one thing that can cause difficulties for someone who is used on using only five vowels.

 The situation is very much the same with any learner of any foreign language. The student of a foreign language always has a challenge of adaptation to the new system.

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marilynn07 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted September 6, 2009 at 11:53 AM (Answer #2)

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English has 26 letters and 44 distinct sounds. English also contains dipthongs which are two vowel sounds blended together.

A toddler has 50% more synapses in his or her brain than an adult. This allows the child to build neural pathways as a response to the environment. The human brain expands by 300% from birth to adulthood.  So, language acquisition is a large part of what humans do in their childhood.  The language window is open from birth to about age 13. So, learning a new language will be easier for a child than for an adult. After that, the second language is truly a challenge, and may never be spoken as fluently as the mother tongue.

A child of Chinese parents will jabber in the rhythm and intonations of the Chinese language.  A child of Spanish speaking parents will jabber in the rhythm and intonations of the Spanish language. A child who is isolated from language will not learn to speak.  Spoken language is a response to the environment, an effort to get basic needs met, and a way to communicate with others in the group.

A bilingual child will probably be silent for a longer period of time than a monolingual child, however, when that child begins to speak, he or she will most likely speak fluently in either language.  The mother tongue is a huge influence on how we hear language and thus attempt to speak.

French has no /th/ sound, so many native French speakers use the /z/ or /d/ sound to attempt to make the /th/ sound.  English dipthongs such as How (short a---long u) or Joy (long o---long e) are somewhat challenging for speakers of other languages because in most languages, vowels are what they are and are not pronounced in blended combinations.

The best way to acquire English sounds is to listen to speakers of the language and attempt to copy the intonation and sounds of the language.

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