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Sounds You Can’t Pronounce

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tanya b
Senior Member
United States
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Speaks: Russian

 
 Message 1 of 51
10 November 2012 at 2:36am | IP Logged 
I guess the consensus among learners that the 2 most difficult sounds are the consonant clusters "kh" and "gh", which abound in IE languages like Persian, Pashto and Armenian. The "kh" sound is also very prevalent in Greek, Semitic, Slavic, Celtic and Caucasian languages, but in very few others that I'm aware of.

Is it that those sounds are so unnatural that most of the world's languages have steered clear of them entirely?

Have any of you out there ever shied away from learning a language because you thought the pronounciation would be too much of a stumbling block?

My advice for pronouncing the "kh" sound is to remember the word "yecch" which is the standard expression of disgust in the English-speaking world for those who want to be really eloquent. The "cch" in "yecch" is essentially the "kh" sound, which I thought was impossible to pronounce without pulverizing my sinuses, but eventually I was able to gradually refine the "kh" sound to a heavier "h" sound.

Conversely, it seems that many Russian speakers are suffering from the opposite problem and are unable to pronounce the "h" sound so when they say "happy ending" it sounds like "kheppy endink".

My advice for the "gh" sound is to remember how the French pronounce the "r" in Paris, and that is a close approximation.

The fear of the "kh" sound does not just afflict English speakers. My Lebanese Armenian friend said that none of the female students wanted to say it when they were learning Arabic, thinking it too harsh, even though Armenian has tons of words with that sound--

khkhoonch (snail)
kheeghtsh (conscience)
khrrmphots (snore)

In addition to harsh consonants, Farsi has something called the "hamze" which indicates a vowel sound--

ma' mulan (usually)
ra' uf (kind)

For my money Welsh is the most difficult of all to pronounce--

Sut rydych chi? (How are you?)
Rydw i'n byw yng ynghymru. (I live in Wales.)

(The secoind sentence had 2 nasal mutations.)

Finally, I know that Mandarin even has one word "hei" (black, dark) which has kind of soft "kh" sound.





r
fe rYY s Ithe Km KH'

Edited by tanya b on 10 November 2012 at 2:41am

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Arekkusu
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Canada
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 Message 2 of 51
10 November 2012 at 2:55am | IP Logged 
I don't think there is such a consensus. French R is hard for many learners, so are
Mandarin x and q, Czech ř, Russian shch, etc.
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tanya b
Senior Member
United States
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Speaks: Russian

 
 Message 3 of 51
10 November 2012 at 3:11am | IP Logged 
Consensus or not, in the English-speaking world many find the above mentioned sounds very challenging.

My understanding is that the French "r" and "gh" are very similar. I remember the first time I tried to pronounce "ghooghan" (rolling pin) in my Armenian grammar book and it was really difficult to get the hang of.

The "shch" sound in Russian is easier than "kh" or "gh" in my estimation, I actually find it quite beautiful, especially when followed w by a soft sign "vyeshch'" (thing)
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limey75
Senior Member
United Kingdom
germanic.eu/
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Speaks: English*
Studies: German, Norwegian, Old English

 
 Message 4 of 51
10 November 2012 at 3:59am | IP Logged 
Quite many non-natives fail to get the English "th" sound exactly right. Though Icelanders have no problem with it :)


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liddytime
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mainlymagyar.wordpre
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Speaks: English*, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Galician
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 Message 5 of 51
10 November 2012 at 4:39am | IP Logged 
I'm seconding the Czech ř ! Impossible for me...like trying to say r -dz and zh all at once!
The Mandarin retroflexed r is also really tough! It feels like a mix between an r, w and oo sound to me.
I haven't found the gh or kh ( from my Arabic studies) nearly as difficult.
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Medulin
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Croatia
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 Message 6 of 51
10 November 2012 at 6:16am | IP Logged 
English TH between consonants, especially between two S's in fast speech:

this iS THE City I like

The isolated TH sound is easy, but the one within a consonant cluster is not.

Edited by Medulin on 10 November 2012 at 6:17am

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Ojorolla
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Groupie
France
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 Message 7 of 51
10 November 2012 at 7:15am | IP Logged 
I can't pronounce the French version of Spanish 'rr' at will. Sometimes I can, sometimes not.
Non-Koreans seem to have to struggle in order to enunciate 'k' vs 'kk' & 's' vs 'ss' etc. correctly.
The few people I have seen seem to have no problem pronouncing the Mandarin 'x'.
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limey75
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United Kingdom
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 Message 8 of 51
10 November 2012 at 7:40am | IP Logged 
Medulin wrote:
 English TH between consonants, especially between two S's in fast speech: this iS THE City I like
The isolated TH sound is easy, but the one within a consonant cluster is not.


Germans I knew always had trouble with "clothes" - they pronounced it "cloezes".


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