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Quirks of the English language

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Quirks of the English language

Whether you are a native speaker of English learning a foreign language or a foreigner
Learning English, your first concern should be in learning the sounds of the target language. English has some issues with sounds that foreigners have trouble coping with.

First of all is the sound of the English letter, ‘R’. It is unlike all other European languages. The letter ‘R’ in European languages is either frontal or deep in the throat. The English letter ‘R’ is a bit behind the frontal.

Frontal ‘Rs’ get a bit of a ‘tap’ when they are pronounced. For example, take the Spanish word, ‘ramo’ which means ‘branch’. The Spanish word, ‘pero’ which means ‘but’ in English gets a little tap, but the double R in the Spanish word ‘perro’, which means dog gets a strong roll. With the German word, ‘richtig’ which means, ‘correct’ and the French word ‘rouge’ which means ‘red’ in English the ‘R’ is almost swallowed.

So when a Spaniard, Frenchman or German say an English word with and ‘R’ in it he is going to transfer his native sound to English – unless he had made himself aware of the difference, and conversely, the native English speaker has to learn the correct pronunciation of the letter ‘R’ in those foreign language.

Another peculiarity of English that is quite unique and is rarely mentioned is the English use of the ‘diphthong’. A diphthong is the blending of vowel sounds. For example, when a native speaker of English says the word, ‘to’ ( or ‘too’ or ‘two ) he is actually saying two vowels sounds – ‘oo-uh’. In English we slip and slide our vowels. That’s why the Spanish say our word ‘baseball’ as ‘beisbal’ bay-ees-bahl. Granted to completely understand this you have to hear the difference.

So, native English speakers have to pay close attention to the ‘pure’ foreign vowels.
Listen to a Mexican say ‘tu’. The ‘u’ doesn’t slide, doesn’t waver. Listen to a Frenchman say ‘tu’. It’s a different sound from that of Spanish, but it’s still a pure sound. They both are only one unwavering vowel sound.

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