Accent Reduction - Why is English So Hard For Arabic Speakers?
Oct 10, 2009 Pronunciation/Phonics 3652 Views
Because Arabic is a Semitic language, it differs significantly from English, which has a European language base. Native Arabic speakers may have a particularly difficult time with the aspects of English which do not exist in Arabic, such as certain consonants including v and g, many vowels and diphthongs, and a variety of consonant clusters.
The missing consonants v and g may be some of the easiest sounds to work on, because very similar sounds do exist in Arabic. These two sounds are the voiced counterparts to the unvoiced sounds fand k.
Both the f and v sounds are produced by placing the top teeth lightly on the lower lip and blowing. To change the f to a v sound, the voice must be turned on. When you are making this sound correctly, you will feel your throat vibrate if you place your hand on it. Try saying fan and van.
Similarly, the g sound is the voiced pair of the k sound. Make a k sound and then turn your voice on and do it again. It should sound like the g sound. Once again, if you put your hand on your throat, you should feel it vibrate when you say g. Try saying came and game.
English has many more vowel sounds than Arabic; in fact, Arabic has only 8 and English has 22 different vowel and diphthong sounds! Particularly troublesome for many Arabic speakers are the short vowels, which are rarely used in Arabic but are very common in English. Words such as can, truck, beg, sit, and on could be difficult to understand if the correct pronunciation isn't used.
Another tricky element of English pronunciation is consonant clusters - groups of 2 to 3 consonants that are pronounced as one continuous sound, without any vowel sounds between them. Since this is a foreign concept to many Arabic speakers, it is common for them to put a vowel sound between the consonants, such as saying kulock for the word clock. Practice saying consonant clusters as one continuous sound. Whether the word has the sounds kl, pl, gr, sp, st, orstr, they are all pronounced without a vowel sound between them.
If you find yourself getting frustrated trying to pronounce English, please contact a speech pathologist trained in accent reduction. He or she will be happy to help you learn to speak English in a more understandable way. You won't be losing any of your Arabic heritage, but you will be getting the best of both worlds.
Why don't you take my free online speech and accent screening at http://www.accentuatecommunication.com It only takes a few minutes, and you will get free tips on how to improve your communication skills.