Accent Errors of Speakers from South East Asia

South East Asia covers many cultures and many languages. This includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and others. While each are unique, they also share common threads.

Speakers of South East Asian languages often share common pronunciation errors when speaking English.

Speakers of South East Asian languages:

1. Don’t have aspirated consonants (pronounced with a puff of air) in their native language, and so they don’t add it in English.  They must add a puff of air to English aspirated consonants, such as in words that start with p, t, ch, k.

2. Retroflex on most consonants. This means that they curl up and back the tip of the tongue when they should not. Retroflexed consonants is a strong marker of a South East Asian accent.

3. Have tense and closed pronunciation. This, combined with retroflexed consonants, puts much of their pronunciation in the front of the mouth. They must open their mouths and loosen and relax the jaw muscles. In English, the jaw, lips, and tongue are all very flexible and active.

4. Use one sound for v and w. In English, these are 2 distinct sounds. The v is made with the top teeth touching the lower teeth. W is a rounded sound, with your lips in a circle and pushed out slightly.

5. Use intonation where they should use stress. This means that the voice is raised in pitch (goes up) when it should be showing emphasis. This adds to the sing-song sound of speakers from South East Asian languages.

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