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There are so many Chinese students studying abroad today, that they’ve become the #1 largest group of international students at American universities. I’ve had many Chinese English students, and they have been wonderful! The pronunciation issues that come up don’t apply to every single Chinese student, but there is a definite pattern of lessons needed.
English Pronunciation Lessons for Chinese English Language Learners (ESL & EFL)
The English pronunciation issues that Chinese English language learners should focus on include:
1) Stress and rhythm
Speak with the music of English! It’s so important for Chinese English language learners to:
- lengthen content words; and
- de-stress function words
in order to be better understood when speaking.
Chinese English language learners need to get comfortable with moving their mouths into what may feel like strange, exaggerated positions to pronounce vowels correctly. Specifically, they should:
- open their mouths more to distinguish the [æ] vs. [ɛ] (“bat” vs. “bet”) vowel sounds;
- round their lips more dramatically for [ow] (“show”) and [uw] (“shoe”) vowel sounds; and
- pull their lips back more to pronounce the [iy] vs. [ɪ] (“deep” vs. “dip”) sounds
Again, the important lesson for Chinese English language learners is to get comfortable with uncomfortable mouth positions. This means:
- put the tongue between the teeth for the “th” sounds [θ] (vs. [s]) and [ð] (vs. [z]) (“thanks” or “those”)
- not inserting a [ə] into consonant clusters.