English Pronunciation Difficulties for Arabic Speakers

By: Mohamed AbdelSalam Ansary


        A contrastive analysis of English and
Arabic phonology can help to identify difficulties for Arabic speakers of
English. They encounter differences in many areas including the number of
vowels and consonants in both languages, the plain and emphatic sounds in Arabic
which may affect their pronunciation and the variety of syllable structure and
prosody. Knowledge
of the contrastive phonological areas between English and Arabic aids instructors
in focusing attention on the difficulties met by Arabic speakers in general and
helps them recognize difficulties for individual students. The
question is: why are there pronunciation difficulties in the non-native speakers’
pronunciation of English? The answer lies in the fact that non-native speakers
imperfectly learn the English pronunciation either by transferring the phonological
rules from their mother tongue into English or by implementing strategies
similar to those used in primary language acquisition.[1]
They may also create innovative pronunciation of English sounds not found in
the speaker’s first language. Therefore, difficulties of English pronunciation
arise as a result.


pronouncing English, Arabic speakers encounter an array of difficulties
stemming from differences between English and Arabic sounds. The specific
difficulties met by my students can fall into two main categories: segmental and
suprasegmental difficulties. There are two segmental problems: (a)
sounds present in English but not in Arabic; (b) differences in distribution of
phonemes in both languages. First, the English consonants │n│, │p│, │tS│,
│v│ and │З│are
only present in English. Arabic students, therefore, encounter a difficulty
pronouncing them. │tS│
is confused with │S│
and │N│is pronounced as │n│+│g│. As for vowels, Arabic has
only three long vowels:  / { /, / i: /
and   / u: / and three short vowels which are the short versions
of the three longs Arabic vowels. Therefore, Arabic students encounter a
difficulty when pronouncing most of the twelve English vowels, six of the eight
diphthongs and the five triphthongs. Second, as for the different distribution
of phonenes, some English consonants can be found in Arabic.


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