Pronunciation problems in GreeceMy research article will take a look at the pronunciation problems that Greeks have with english
Greece is a country that has many english
speakers, it is a compulsory subject taught in school from an early age, and for most students, in after school classes also. english
is recognised as the primary bridging language for Greeks to the rest of the world. The standard of english
is therefore relatively high, but not without its difficulties. Perhaps the most noticeable flaw in the english
spoken by Greeks, is pronunciation. The greek
accent when speaking english
is usually very strong. Whilst no-one can be expected to reproduce perfectly a language that is not their mother-tongue, pronunciation is important for fluency and for being understood, and it can be improved. As detailed in the paragraphs to follow, there are particular areas that the greek
student can work on to improve their spoken english
language has a few sounds that the greek
language does not possess, and vice versa - thus giving rise to a number of difficulties in pronunciation. Greeks have particular difficulty with mastering the pronunciation of the short "i" - they tend to elongate the "i" sound, and therefore will pronounce words such as "sit" to sound closer to "seat". Greeks also struggle with "ch" and "djuh" sounds. A teacher to greek
students can facilitate an improvement in pronunciation, by pointing out these common errors and providing practical advice and exercises to avoid them. For example, to overcome the over pronunciation of the short 'i', students should relax the mouth and keep the sound short. The teacher's demonstration of the correct pronunciation, with exaggeration of the mouth movements is a key to providing the model pronunciation to be imitated. It is important to note that the over-emphasized pronunciation of a sound or word should be followed by a normal pronunciation, so that the student comes away with the appropriate idea of what is correct.
For further details of common pronunciation problems of greek
speakers of english
, please refer to the table provided in the Appendix.
To complicate things further for the greek
learner the english
alphabet contains letters that have several different sounds. For example 'g' in "giraffe" and "gate" are pronounced differently. In contrast, the greek
alphabet has a singular sound for each letter, since unlike english
, it is a phonetic language. To assist the greek
learner to identify the correct pronunciation of words, especially when they are reading them for the first time, they should be encouraged to refer to the pronunciation indicated in the dictionary. The pronunciation is provided in the international phonemic alphabet. This alphabet is phonetic and provides the written form of the correct pronunciation of all words.
No doubt many of the greek
speakers are not aware of their pronunciation errors, or just how blatant they are. I am told every now and again that my english
accent is quite obvious when I'm speaking greek
, but I have no idea which parts of my pronunciation are giving me away! I will have to research this. In any case, the point I wish to make is that one can learn a language, and speak it with poor pronunciation without really realising it. You are left to continue to do so, because you can't hear your own mistakes since you don't know when you are making them, and on the whole, native speakers are too polite to point out your inadequate pronunciation.
Pronunciation is a key part of speaking the language fluently, and is a section of language learning in its own right. Teachers should put a special focus on helping students to understand where their pronunciation errors are, and how they can work to overcome them. I intend to listen out for pronunciation errors from my students, especially those identified for greek
speakers, so that I can support them to speak a better quality of the language.
• Deliso, Christopher. Overseas Digest. "Grammatical Tangles and Pronunciation Pitfalls" 2011 - http://www.overseasdigest.com/odsamples/tchgreek.html
• Linda M. Rhinehart Neas. "Teacher Tips to Help Your Native greek
Speakers Prosper" 2011 -
• Ted Power, "english
language learning and teaching" [publication year unknown]
The table below, taken from Ted Power's website (see 'reference' at the end of this document), identifies the 29 most common english
pronuncation problems of greek
speakers. This can be used as a key reference tool for both the teacher and the student, to improve pronunciation.
29 common english
FIX PROBLEM english
SOUND - COMMON ERROR - PRACTICE MATERIALS
Relax the mouth and keep sound short. /?/ "sit" /i:/ "seat"
Keep tongue front & low and jaws apart. /æ/ "cat" /?:/ "cart" Minimal Pairs /æ/ or /?:/ practice
Tongue low central. Lips relaxed. /?/ "cup"
Minimal Pairs /æ/ or /?/ practice
Keep mouth round and tongue back. /?/ "not"
Minimal Pairs /?/ or /?:/ practice
Weak endings: e.g. "London" "England" /?/ "the" (schwa)
Practise the neutral vowel /?/
using spoken dialogues
Keep mouth open and tongue low central. /?:/ "part"
Mouth more open. Make sound longer. /?:/ "part" /?/ "pot" Minimal Pairs /?:/ or /?/ practice
Back of tongue high. Lips tightly rounded. Long. /u:/ "fool"
Minimal Pairs /?/ or / u: / practice
Fix tongue in central position. Long. /?:/ "bird"
Minimal Pairs /e/ or /?:/ practice
Minimal Pairs /?/ or /?:/ practice
Minimal Pairs /?:/ or /?:/ practice
Tongue low front to high front to centre. /a??/=/a?/+/?/ "fire"
Tongue central. Then tightly round lips. /??/ "note" /?/ "not" Minimal Pairs /??/ or /?/ practice
Tongue low front. Then round & unround lips. /a??/=/a?/+/?/ "flour"
Tongue high and front. Move to centre. /??/ "beer" /e?/ "bear"
Tongue from centre front. Draw back to centre. /e?/ "bear"
Start with lips tightly rounded. Unround. /??/ "tour"
Unvoiced. Use more air. Trap it with lips. /p/ "pit" /b/ "bit"
Tip of tongue behind top teeth. /t/ "tie" /d/ "die"
Voiceless stop: back of tongue to back roof. /k/ "come" /g/ "gum"
Voiced stop: back of tongue to back roof. /g/ "regal" /j/ "real"
Voiceless: tip of tongue behind top teeth. Friction. /s/ "mass" /?/ "mash"
Voiceless. Friction. Front of tongue to palate. /?/ "push" /s/ "puss"
Voiced: Front of tongue to palate. Friction. "beige" 129 "bays" /z/
Quickly push air from throat out of mouth. /h/ "hot"
"ch" in "loch" Minimal Pairs /h/ or silent "h" practice
British "r" is weaker & usually silent
unless followed by a vowel. silent "survivor" /r/ "Sir Ivor"
Glide /j/(i:) the tongue quickly to next sound /j/ "yam" /?/ "jam" Minimal Pairs /?/ or /j/ practice
Back of tongue to back roof. Nasal. /?k/ "think" /?/ "thing" Minimal Pairs /?/ or /?k/ practice
Start with lips tightly rounded. Unround & glide. /w/ "win"
Unvoiced: Tip to alveolar. Front to palate. /?/ "which" /t/+/s/ "wits"
Voiced: Tip to alveolar. Front to palate. /?/ "wage"