Teaching Initial Consonant Clusters

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In a successful communication, anyone taking part in the communication has to understand what their partner speaks. That a speaker mispronounces a word is likely to cause difficulties for other people to comprehend the message he wants to express. Clearly, a proper pronunciation can never inhibit successful communication. Particularly in the context of learning English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL), native – like pronunciation surely helps the native people understand what English learners speak. Without doubt, a learner who consistently mispronounces a range of phonemes or inaccurately makes use of suprasegmental elements, such as stress or intonation, has difficulty in understanding and being understood by a native speaker. Consequently, teaching pronunciation plays a paramount role in ESL/ EFL classroom and also an extremely thorny task for all English teachers. In fact, Avery and Ehrlich (1995: xiii) confirmed that in the teaching of pronunciation “biological, socio-cultural, personality, and linguistic factors” should be taken into consideration preliminarily because these factors are known to “affect the acquisition of the sound system of a second language”. Thus, the factors occupy a crucial role because they affect greatly the way a learner acquires a second language. Take the linguistic factor for example. It is understandable that a learner encounters some kind of difficulty because “the rules of combining sounds into words are different in the learner’s native language” (p. xv). The mentioned - above sounds are speech sounds. They can go together to make words which is comprised of syllables. Therefore, that the way to form a syllable in a language is different from one of another language causes many problems for both native speakers from two these countries. For instance, Avery and Ehrlich (1995:60) stated that “In Vietnamese, words are normally of the shape CV or CVC, being composed of a syllable”. However, many English words have a CCVC, CCCVC or CCVCC syllable. Thus, two differences arising between two languages are that there are no consonant clusters in Vietnamese (Bùi Tất Tươm, Đinh Lê Thư and Đoàn Thiện Thuật) but a lot in English and that Vietnamese words have one syllable while English words have one or more than one syllables. It is perfectly understandable that Vietnamese people find it extremely difficult to develop native – like pronunciation in ESL because of the consonant clusters. As a result, they make English words conform to the pattern of Vietnamese ones by inserting the schwa /ə/ between the consonants or deleting one of the consonants. This makes the communication of Vietnamese learners with English native speakers unsuccessful.

Particularly, first year English majors at Ba Ria Vung Tau Teacher Training College also have difficulty producing initial consonant clusters of English, especially the blends in which stops, /p/, /t/, /k/, /b/, /d/, and /g/ are followed by /l/ or /r/. As a last resort, to ease articulation of these blends, they insert /ə/ between two consonants to make a new syllable. Here are some instances, driver /dəraiv/, clean /kəli:n/, or grow /gərəʊ/. Clearly, students have formed Vietnamese – English. The teachers, however, pay a little attention to this problem and have even the feeling of doubt as to how to teach them. The quite basic reason is that the instructors of pronunciation do not have a good grounding in aspects of sound system of the English language. It is Vietnamese – like pronunciation that encourages me to find an effective method to teach consonant clusters with the hope of erasing their wrong pronunciation and replacing a native – like one. However, owing to the limitation of a term paper, I would like to write a final paper on the topic “How To Teach VOICED PLOSIVE + /r/ INITIAL CONSONANT CLUSTERS To First – Year English Majors Of Ba Ria Vung Tau Teacher Training College”. This paper provides teachers and students with...
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