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Three of the Most Commonly Mispronounced English Sounds for Chinese Speakers

Three of the Most Commonly Mispronounced English Sounds for Chinese Speakers


In Asia, the number of English-users has surpassed 350 million, equal to the number of people who live in countries where English is the dominant language: the United States, Britain and Canada. More Chinese children now study English — about 100 million — than there are Britons.

 Our Chinese and other Asian students live in:

  • Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado; California, Oregon, Washington State, Washington, DC, Virginia, New York, etc.
  • Canada, Australia, Luxembourg, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, … all over.  

Why Chinese people have such  difficulty with English pronunciation?

  •  Like all people learning another language, Chinese people will use the pronunciation from their native language on their English speech.  That’s what people call accent—Chinese-English accent (Chinlish!).  Not native accent.
  •  Because the roots of their language is so different from English, the speech sounds are also pronounced very differently.
  • Different position of the tongue, lips, teeth, jaw.
  •  Different muscle strength.
  •  Different speed of muscles for speech sounds.

 What are the three most difficult sounds for our Chinese student to say accurately in English?

    • “r”  


    • “L”  


    • Short vowel “a” as in “hat”  


Why are these the most difficult?

  • To make these sounds accurately takes particular and difficult positions of the tongue
    • The position of the tongue is so difficult that the “r” is also the most difficult sound for native-born English speakers to say.  Some children don’t master this sound until they are seven years or older
    • To make an accurate “L” consistently means to train the tongue to push out to the lip, and most languages do not require this movement.
    • To make a accurate  short vowel “a” as in “hat” also requires the same strong “push tongue” muscles as for the “L.” Most languages do not require these muscles to be strong.

Surprise! (Smile!) That also means, of course, that these  sounds are also difficult for many people who speak one of the 4000 languages of the world!

Next week’s blog will cover the most difficult clear English sounds for people born in India. 

Be sure to watch our English Speech Tips videos (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2EFE0544AA7222F8) and Accent Reduction Tip videos (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEqcWG754u86nmYRHQ95AD8RM5n5DwNAu) for more English pronunciation and accent reduction exercise.

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