english difficulties

Discussion in 'General Language' started by calculations, Mar 11, 2006.

  1. calculations

    calculations Active Member

    we all know native english speakers have a hard time with the notorious ř and consonant clusters etc... but do the czechs have any sounds or phrases they have an especially hard time with when speaking english?
  2. brook

    brook Well-Known Member

    My czech students (when I was teaching) had a hard time with "th" as in "thirty three." The number 33 was especially challenging and I remember having a conversation with a czech girl about this - I thought it was funny that we both had trouble pronouncing it in each other's languages. :) Cause unless you've practiced your ř, 33 is a little difficult to say in czech when you're just starting out!
  3. Kanadanka

    Kanadanka Well-Known Member

    I find that Czechs and Slovaks have lots of trouble with vocalic 'r' -
    they have a tendency to use a hard "r" and trill it instead of using a soft English 'r', so they purse is pronouced as prrrrrrrrrrrrs or bird is pronouced as brrrrrrrrrrd. It's actually quite comical, since the English don't know that the Czech man is saying "breast" instead of a "satchel". they also often devoice word-final consonants, so that "Dog" becomes "dock".
  4. Zeisig

    Zeisig Well-Known Member

    Yes, we cannot pronounce the English r correctly (red, road, etc.), but it is not the case of the word purse, bird. We know that there is no r at all (at least in Standard English). We pronounce them like /pö:s/, /bö:d/ or more incorrectly /bö:t/.

    I have the hardest time with the consonant clusters containing the sound th (both voiced and voiceless). The words like clothes and sixth (cluster k+s+th) are really unpronounceable.
  5. GlennInFlorida

    GlennInFlorida Well-Known Member

    I think everything is pronounceable - we all just pronounce things a bit differently. Accents are wonderful, they enrich our lives. Wouldn't it be dreary if everyone who spoke English sounded like a midwestern newscaster?
    As the French say "Vive la différence". :D
  6. Kanadanka

    Kanadanka Well-Known Member

    Zeisig, in Canada we do not "cotton to" the Bostonian pronunciation, and our vocalic are is pronounced as 'r'. Only people with speech impediments pronouce it as "bo:d" or "po:s".
    As far as the "th-cluster" pronounciation, yes, it is difficult, but it's all in the slight tongue movement. sixth, you pronounce six and just continue from the alveolar ridge to the tongue between your teeth while continuing to vocalize. The reverse is true of "cloths" or even "clothes".
  7. Zeisig

    Zeisig Well-Known Member

    Thanks for explanation, but I have already capitulated.

    As for the bird pronunciation we learned the following reportedly correct pronunciation in school:

    bird - /b@:d/ (please replace the at-sign @ by upside down e)

    There is no r-like sound as you can see. The "upside down e" is not the Standard English r in any possible form.

    So this pronunciation (/b@:d/) perhaps cannot be generally considered as a speech impediment.
  8. Ceit

    Ceit Well-Known Member

    (ahem) Zeisig, I believe when you say Standard English, you mean Standard British English. And the schwa (upside down e) before r sound is part of Standard British English in words like "father", "under" or "farther", in the second syllables of all those examples. Of course, we Americans are not without our own pronunciation idiosyncrasies in our native language; a quote from Eddie Izzard: "You say to-may-to, and we say to-mah-to...you say erb and we say herb, because there's a f&(*&)%)ing H in it!"

    Oh! This thread was about Czechs' problems with English! I have to go with the vowels, although I can't pick one in particular. Only because English vowels are so darn slippery. I can't blame anybody for having some trouble with them. Both "th" sounds run a close second though, again not a problem specific to Czechs.
  9. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    In addition to those already mentioned, the short "a" and short "i" sounds are particularly difficult, e.g.: "hat" and "hit" are usually pronounced incorrectly as "het" or "heat." More subtle is the difference between the American long "o" and the Czech "o," as most Americans dipthong their long "o" (like "ou" in Czech).

    In the two years I lived in the Czech Republic, I only met two Czechs (excluding those who had spent extended periods of time in America) whose pronunciation was good enough to pass as a native English (American) speaker, and one of those had attended one year of high school here (you could actually tell what part of the country she had lived in). The other (actually a Slovak), incidentally, was told by her children that her accent in English was terrible! It's just the nature of the English language, that it's pronunciation is so difficult for foreigners to learn properly.

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