In general, one of my favourite pastimes is simply sitting and listening to how people talk, be it in English, Ukrainian, or Russian. When it comes to English, as that is the focus of this article, I cannot help but notice some reoccurring themes, or rather, errors in pronunciation in even the more fluent individuals that I have had the pleasure of meeting during my stay in Ukraine. With that, I have made this small, and by no means exhaustive, list in hopes that it will be helpful in improving pronunciation. The main thing is to be conscious, as accents are not always intuitive, especially when the language is not your native tongue.
/ɪ/ or the letter “I”
Mispronouncing this letter tends to be one of the strongest indicators of a Slavic accent in my opinion. Particularly for Ukrainians, I have noticed that this sound is replaced by /i/ or the “ee” noise. Instead of “bit”, I often hear something that sounds like “beet” or “beat”, both of with are entirely different words. Arguably, the/ɪ/ sound is actually closer to the Ukrainian “И” than the “І” so definitely try to keep this in mind.
“W” versus “V”
For some strange reason, English non-native speakers tend to mix up the “w” sound and the “v” sound. Instead of saying “welcome”, I often hear “velcome” or, instead of “we” – “ve”. However, before you shrug this off as just another sound that is not natural for Ukrainians and a reasonable mistake, I would like to mention that, as odd as it sounds, quite often people pronounce the letter “v” as a “w”. Instead of “very”, I hear “wery”, instead of “violin” – “wiolin”. This common mistake perplexes me to no end.
/θ/ or /ð/, AKA “th”
Honestly, I think everyone knows about the difficulties involved in learning these sounds. I have heard every possible replacement or compromise: “three” becomes “free”, “north” becomes “nort”, “those” becomes “Zose”. I would say that the Ukrainian trilled “R” would be an English speaker’s equivalent when it comes to difficultly and frequency of error. There is not much I can say besides try your hardest to master the “th” and eventually it will come naturally.
/ʊ/ or the letter“u” or “oo” sound
This example seems to be another little nuance that is overlooked. Let us take the word “put” for example; it is often mispronounced as “poot” with the sound being replaced by the Ukrainian “у”. The same goes for “foot”, “good”, “should” and so on. I think the main issue is that not everyone realises that the “oo” sound in “good” is different than in, say, the word “goose” which is closer to Ukrainian.
Truth be told, I could go on for quite a while on this topic. However, for the sake of brevity, I will only highlight these main points as the rest could be considered nitpicking. Keep these points in mind and I am certain your English pronunciation will improve.
Harvard Language Club є офіційним партнером у місті Вінниця Українсько-Польського Центру Освіти “UniverPL” - польської компанії з головним офісом у Варшаві, що допомагає українським абітурієнтам вступати до польських ліцеїв, технікумів та університетів.Read more...