Here are some brief pronunciation and delivery tips for Hindi speakers of English who want to improve their spoken English.
If Hindi is your first language (or Urdu, Bengali, Nepali, Sinhala, or Divehi - the languages are related and come from the same language family), you may be making errors in the areas that follow.
Be careful of the different sounds produced in these sets of words:
- said vs. sad
- lorry vs. law vs. lard
- tie vs. toy
Also be careful to distinguish long vowels and diphthongs from shorter vowels!
Be careful to pronounce these sounds carefully:
- pat, top, catch (you need to let your breath out as you make these sounds)
- th (them can sound like 'dem' from many Hindi speakers)
- t and d (Hindi speakers often say these consonants with a thicker, heavier sound - they need to be crisper and lighter in English)
- v vs. w (vet vs. wet)
- bridges (the 'dg' and 'z' sounds are different)
- pleasure (the s sound here is different to 's', 'z' or 'j') and pleasure vs. pressure
- r (don't let your tongue touch the top of your mouth - if you do it can sound like 'd')
- s vs sh (self vs. shelf)
- s with z sound at the end of words (walls, fees)
Be careful not to insert 'i'/'e'/'u' sounds before or between groups of consonants:
- street and station (not i-street and i-station)
- free and slow (not f-a-ree, s-a-low)
- film and toast (not fil-a-m, toas)
Delivery (rhythm and stress)
Hindi is a syllable-timed language with a very regular rhythm, whereas English is stress-timed and not always predictable. This can create problems for Hindi speakers of English:
- Make sure you know and can use correct stress in words like necessary and necessity, development and event
- record (noun), record (verb), transport (noun), transport (verb)
- Words like and, but, than, as, is, has, was, will, and would should sound weaker and less stressed than other words in the sentence (Hindi speakers often pronounce all the words in the sentence with the same strength, which can be hard for English speakers to follow well)
- Hindi speakers use a higher pitch and speed to express emphasis, but English uses heavier, slower, and lower pitch to express emphasis in most situations (and certainly formal ones). Using a higher pitch can make Hindi speakers sound over-excited or rushed/panicky when they speak English.
- English uses rising intonation at the end of a sentence to create a question, but in Hindi this rising-only of intonation is usually used to express surprise. Subsequently, Hindi speakers of English often use a rise and then falling intonation in questions.
This can be a major problem, because it can make the question sound "pushy" or even angry to standard English speakers (using falling intonation at the end of a question makes it sound like you expect something or are owed something, almost as if it is your right to get an answer and you are upset this information or action hasn't already been given to you!).
Part of this can also be lexical, as many Hindi speakers of English appear to not use devices like "Do you think you could...?", "Would it be okay if...?" or "Would it be possible to get...?" (with appropriate rising intonation at the end of the question) to make requests, and the result is they often sound pushy, over-expectant or even rude.
Can the experts add to this??
I would say English uses more, or greater, volume to create emphasis, though the overall pitch may be lower. Greater volume results in a higher pitch. I have a pronunciation student from India. I advised him to try to use a lower pitch in general for his overall intonation. In general, I think American English uses a lower pitch. Of course, this varies from speaker to speaker.
Thanks for the information about speakers of Hindi who speak English. I think it will prove to be helpful somewhere down the line.
Last edited by PROESL; 26-Aug-2009 at 06:05.