When learning English as a native Arabic speaker, one of the most challenging aspects is becoming comfortable using English pronunciation. Words and sentences in Arabic are approached differently than in English, requiring speakers to learn a new set of pronunciation rules in order to properly communicate using connecting sounds, intonation, and stress. When learning English, it’s important to focus on using correct English pronunciation in order to prevent getting into a habit of pronouncing words and sentences incorrectly. By overviewing the top two pronunciation problems, native Arabic speakers face when learning English, you can test your English pronunciation and see how well you speak with an English accent.
Differentiating “P” from “B”
Learning the difference between the English letters “p” and “b” can be quite challenging for native Arabic speakers, as the English letter “p” doesn’t exist in Arabic. The letter “p” is considered ‘voiceless’ because the vocal cords don’t vibrate upon articulation and learning this letter can be difficult as the closest letter that mimics the English letter “p” is the Arabic letter ب, which translates into English as the letter “b.”
Therefore, the English words pencil is often pronounced as bencil and Pepsi as bebsi. To see if you’re pronouncing the English letters “p” differently than the letter “b” using the paper test is usually a good measure.
To test your English pronunciation, place a piece of paper in front of your mouth and try saying the letter “b” out loud. If pronounced correctly, the paper should stay exactly where it is, as the pronunciation of the letter “b” does not produce an explosion of air from the mouth that may alter the position of the paper. Repeating the same process with the letter “p” and you should see the paper blow slightly upwards if pronounced correctly.
In learning that pronunciating the letter “p” there must be an explosion of air coming out of the mouth that doesn’t occur with the letter “b” the learner will be able to pronounce the words correctly and be used as a self-assessment tool to measure their own pronunciation accuracy with these tricky letters.
Differentiating “V” from “F”
Similarly, the English letter “v” doesn’t have an Arabic letter to compare it to, causing many to pronounce the letter “v” as the letter “f.” Words such as ‘very’ are often incorrectly pronounced as ‘ferry.’ While not as widespread as “p” versus “b,” the letter “v” is used in multiple words in English that are imperative to correctly pronounce in order to achieve clear communication with others.
Because the letters “v” and “f” are both spoken by placing the top teeth lightly on the lower lip and blowing, speakers must pay attention to if the voice is turned on or not. When saying the letter “f” correctly, your throat will vibrate which you can feel if you place your hand gently in front of your throat while speaking. By trying to say the words ‘fan’ and ‘van,’ you will be able to tell that you’re saying the words differently if the first word doesn’t vibrate your throat when spoken, but the second word does.
Due to the varying pronunciation problems that exist when learning English as an Arabic speaker, and the small differences that differentiate letters, working with an online Speech Pathologist is one of the easiest ways to ensure you learn English pronunciation correctly. Participating in an online educational setting, native Arab speakers can work one-on-one with an ASHA certified speech pathologist to receive a personalized accent assessment and pinpoint specific pronunciation areas that need improvement.
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