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Pronunciation is the most difficult part for second language learners (non-native speakers) to learn and also far more incomprehensible to understand for ESL teachers to teach because though native speakers who speak and use the same mother tongue living in the society. They still have more or less differences in their speech characteristics such as intonation, accent and so on. Basically, it is very hard to try to find the reasons why they are from the same linguistic background, and they come up with the various problems in pronunciation patterns or characteristics. Perhaps it might be due to cultures, personal characteristic, geographical regions, feelings, and other factors which can influence the quality, or variations in pronunciation.
Interestingly, getting to know about the causes for the variation in pronunciation, especially EFL/ESL learners, one students, who was chosen to read a passage given called "The Cat and the Mice" intentionally, name Phearun. He was born and gown up in Siam Reap province, and two years ago he moved from his hometown to Phnom Penh city in order to peruse his further study in university level at Institute of Technology of Cambodia for engineering in the second year. Besides study different subjects in his major, Phearun is also studying foreign languages like French and English, and the reasons why he studies dual languages at the same time because first most of the documents at ITC are in French language, and secondly English language is very important for communication, and job in the future. He has been learning English for three years, two years at Siam Reap province with Cambodian English teacher, and a year at private English school at Cambodia Institute Cooperation Institute (CICI) as a part time student. In order to get the data, the reader was told in advanced in getting him more relax and feel free to read the text, and then I used my own PC to record his voice in a quiet room at school (ITC). The recorded sound lasts about one minute and thirteen second length of time. Moreover, Based on the requirement that needs to choose the standard set of pronunciation as the unique tool to analyze, compare and make a discussion of the causes for the variation in pronunciation, so that American English standard set (Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary - 3rd Edition) is chosen to comply with the practitioner.
First of all, thought groups are interestingly pointed out as variation in his pronunciation while he was reading the passage. As Goodwin (2001) states, "In natural discourse, we use pauses to divide our speech into manageable chunks called thought groups." (p.119). Additionally, thought groups or breath groups are more likely the same as the use of punctuation in the reader process written discourse; moreover, most of the ESL learners seem to divide their speech into unmanageable, messy chunks or pauses as what they want to. It is very hard for ESL/EFL learners to divide their speech into manageable and more standard chunks comparing to the native speakers. furthermore, in Khmer language it seems a bit strange in speaking when we need to make the speech up into small chunks in order to help the listener understand the messages that express an idea or though. Most of the English teachers perhaps don't really know or unsure about pronunciation in the thought group because what the learners and teachers are doing in their classroom just based on the ready-made course books that focus only on how to read the passages and write accurately to avoid grammatical mistakes; however, it sounds or feels useless, exhausted, boring and lost attention from students when the lessons talk about pronunciation like stress, intonation and so on.
For example, from the recorded sound in the passage give about thought groups.
A certain house was overrun with Mice. / A Cat, discovering this, / made her way into it, / and began to catch / and eat them one by one. / The Mice, being continually devoured, / kept themselves close in their holes. / The Cat, no longer able to get at them, / perceived that she must/ tempt them forth by some device. / For this purpose / she jumped upon a peg, / and, suspending herself from it, / pretended to be dead. / When the Mice came near she pounced among them / and killed a great number. / Pleased with the success of the trick, she tried another. / She whitened herself with flour, / and lay still on the heap of bags, / as though she was one of them. / The young Mice crept dangerously near her, / but an old one / peeping / stealthily / out said: / "Ah, my good madam, / though you should / turn into a real flour-bag, / I will not come too near you."
The speaker seems to slow down his utterance into many chunks intentionally that is not his natural discourse because he found some difficulties in content words like peeping, and stealthily, which forced him to pause into many chunks like the sentences in line 8 and 9: The young Mice crept dangerously near her, / but an old one / peeping / stealthily / out said: / "Ah, my good madam, / though you should / turn into a real flour-bag, / I will not come too near you." Moreover, thought groups are divided up into small chunks not only in content words, but also in the long sentences that have a lot of function words (the, a, and). Within each thought group he emphasizes the content words, giving special stress to the focus word, and after the focus word he pauses briefly before the next thought group begins. From these errors, I can just say that these are the variations that lead him to less fluent speaker because of pausing too frequently; however, sometimes the speaker can divide their sentence(s) into more different chunks based on their intended meaning relatively in different settings.
The next variation discussion is about the standard set of pronunciation, American English accent mentioned above, and surprisingly after recording the voice and listening to it repeatedly, I found that there are some changes or variations in pronunciation unintentionally from the reader in British English accent to American English accent or vice versa. As the standard to transcribe the English consonants and vowels sounds, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is used to represent the most common spellings. Before let the speaker to read the passage given, I asked him whether he likes British or American pronunciation in his speaking, and then he said "It's very difficult to distinguish between the two similar accents, but I prefer British English to American's accent." For the following example illustrates the variation in his intended British's one. The word Certain in line one transcribed in standard set in American English in the IPA is like this /ËˆsÉËtÉ™n/ but the reader's IPA represents like /ËˆsÉœË.sÉ™n/. From what I have learned in Phonetics and Phonology with lecturer Chea Kagnarith, so I will use lines / / to mark off symbols to represent phonemes. In fact, the two phonetic symbols sound and look contrasting in terms of consonant sounds / t / and / s /. When we talk about consonants' sound, there are three main characteristics: place of articulation (bilabial, labiodental, dental ...), manner of articulation (nasal stop, stop, fricative ...), and voicing (vibrating or not). The symbol [t] is shown in voiceless alveolar stop in the consonant chart, but [s] is shown in unvoiced alveolar fricative that
When Americans speak they divide longer sentences into phrases called "thought groups ".
Within each thought group we emphasize the content words, giving special stress to the focus word. After the focus word we pause briefly before the next thought group begins.
Many non-native English speakers fail to use thought groups when they speak English. For many people this causes their speech too sound too fast for American listeners to understand.
There are no solid rules for dividing longer sentences into thought groups. It really depends on the idea that you are trying to convey.