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  1. #1
    98055760 is offline Newbie
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    Default Thai student pronunciation problems – advice needed

    I am currently working with a Thai student and would be grateful if anyone could enlighten me as to the reasons behind the following errors:

    The student says weading instead of reading. I read that r often presents a problem to Thai speakers even in their own language. My understanding is that Thai speakers often substitute it with I, however the student is substituting it with W. What is the reason?

    Student says e instead of we. What is the reason?

    Student can’t pronounce th in maths and says marts or some other strange variation . I am aware of the problems Thai students have with consonants, however I have read that Thai students don’t specifically have a problem with th unvoiced pronunciation. So what is going on here?

    The student told me they studied German in Thailand (when I asked them what they studied), however I know this is defiantly not true (I can speak German and the student can’t say anything in German). Any idea what they were trying to pronounce? They seem to really struggle pronouncing the word German – what do you think they meant to say? Is there a subject in Thailand that sounds like German?


  2. #2
    Munch's Avatar
    Munch is offline Member
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    Default Re: Thai student pronunciation problems – advice needed

    The student says weading instead of reading. I read that r often presents a problem to Thai speakers even in their own language. My understanding is that Thai speakers often substitute it with I, however the student is substituting it with W. What is the reason?
    This substitution is called "Gliding of Liquids". I have heard some Thai students substitute W for R. but it is very common in native English speaking Children too. Think about Elmer Fudd and that “waskally wabbit”. Thai has an L sound (ล) very much like our English L, but they also have an “R” sound (ร) which is quite close to the L sound (NOT the same as the English R sound). In everyday speech, they often use (ล) in place of (ร). See here for more details on Thai consonants.

    Student can’t pronounce th in maths and says marts or some other strange variation . I am aware of the problems Thai students have with consonants, however I have read that Thai students don’t specifically have a problem with th unvoiced pronunciation. So what is going on here?
    There is no “Th” sound in Thai, so you will have to teach it from scratch. In my experience, almost all Thai students have huge problems with “th”. Even fluent adult speakers sometimes slip and substitute “t” or “d” sounds. I taught maths to Thai kids (in English) and I would hear them say “maat” almost every day, no matter how many times I reminded them.
    The student told me they studied German in Thailand (when I asked them what they studied), however I know this is defiantly not true (I can speak German and the student can’t say anything in German). Any idea what they were trying to pronounce? They seem to really struggle pronouncing the word German – what do you think they meant to say? Is there a subject in Thailand that sounds like German?
    The Thai word for German is something like “Yer-a-man”. Foreign language education in Thailand can be terrible. Just because they studied German, it doesn’t mean they can speak even a single word.

    I expect you will encounter more pronunciation issues too. Of the top of my head: consonant clusters (huge issue), SH/CH, V/W, problems with final "S", "L", "J", "V", sounds. Good luck!
    Last edited by Munch; 24-Dec-2010 at 09:10.

  3. #3
    98055760 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Thai student pronunciation problems – advice needed

    Thanks for your explanation. I looked up the "gliding of liquids" and I think that is definitely what is happening. Just one last question:

    Why do you think the student says e instead of we? They can obviously pronounce W as they say weading for reading. How do you think the students native language is interfering with the correct pronunciation?

    Thanks so much

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Thai student pronunciation problems – advice needed

    When they say weading, are they aware of the sound they're making, or do they think it's /r/?

  5. #5
    Munch's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thai student pronunciation problems – advice needed

    Quote Originally Posted by 98055760 View Post
    Why do you think the student says e instead of we? They can obviously pronounce W as they say weading for reading. How do you think the students native language is interfering with the correct pronunciation?
    That is a strange one, because Thai has a W sound and even a word or two that sound just like the English "we". It sounds just like a peculiarity of that student and not an issue of Thai language interference. I don't think I ever heard a Thai speaker drop a W either.

    I think I see what Tdol is saying, but Thai speakers don't drop the L or R at the start of a syllable, only when it is immediately after another consonant.

    For example:

    krap -> kap (dropped r)
    rian -> lian (r changes to l)

    But never:

    ling -> ing
    rian -> ian


    L and R here refer to ล and ร, not the English L and R.

  6. #6
    98055760 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Thai student pronunciation problems – advice needed

    Hi Munch

    Thanks for your explanations. You seem to know a lot about Thai, have you lived / taught in Thailand before?

    I find it fascinating learning about how the student’s native language interferes with learning English.

    Just one more thing that is puzzling me – the student seems to add unnecessary words when speaking. As an example I asked her what she studied at college and she replied:

    "Just only Thai language"

    Any idea why she would make an error like this?

  7. #7
    mrodjr12 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Thai student pronunciation problems – advice needed

    Having worked with Korean kids for several years, I've realized that theirs and several other Asian students have a problem with the letters 'R', 'L', and the sound created by the letters 'TH'.
    This is a phonics problem that they have to be taught since, in the case of my Korean students, the sound does not exist in their native language.
    I gave my students several sentences as an exercise in order to help them. One is "The girl with a curl found a pearl".
    Another is: "Though he thought he was through he threw away his thoughts".

    Once they mastered these (an a few others) I knew they had mastered the sounds.
    Hope this helps.

  8. #8
    Route21's Avatar
    Route21 is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Thai student pronunciation problems – advice needed

    Hi 98055760

    Thai is not a strictly phonetic language i.e. it's not WYSIWYG (What you see is [not] what you get).

    In addition to the standard confusion over the written vs pronounced "r" and "l" ,,,,,,,,

    Many towns/cities in Thailand contain the word "Nakhon", but the final "N" sound is written as an "R" (ร - ror rua), Whereas the "N" in the middle of "Chonburi" (the name of a city between Bangkok and Pattaya) is written as an "L" (ล - lor ling).

    The Thai language has 3 letters in a 44 consonant alphabet that translate as the English "ch", but no letters directly equivalent to either the English "th" or "sh") - despite having a previous Prime Minister whose surname was written, in English, as "Thaksin Shinawatra". Words written (phonetically) as including a "ph" are pronounced as an aspirated "P", as in Phuket (Oh, the final "t" isn't pronounced).

    Thai also
    introduces silent letters, particularly at the ends of words, which can be marked with a special symbol to note that they shouldn't be pronounced.

    Thai verbs don't change their spelling or pronumciation for tenses, plurals or 1st/2nd or 3rd person. Singular and plural nouns are the same word. This makes English grammar an uphill struggle for some Thais.

    Haven't come across the "we" problem. The phonetic sound "wee" would be written as วี i.e. the consonant "wor wen" with the "ļi" vowel placed over it, whereas an initial "ii" sound would need the "dummy consonant" Or Ang อี plus the "ii"vowel placed over it. They should therefore easily identify a difference. Just a thought, are they confusing the words "we" and "he/she"?

    Have fun!

    Best regards
    R21
    See also the recent thread "central european english pronounce"

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