10 English Pronunciation Errors by Greek Speakers
[ssba] If your mother tongue is Greek, you may find certain sounds in English more difficult than others. Here we present to you some of the common errors made by Greek-speaking students at Pronunciation Studio:
1. /s/ vs. /ʃ/
Greek-speakers often find it difficult to produce the difference between /s/ and /ʃ/. They may choose the wrong sound in a word, or use the Greek ’s’ sound, which lies between English /s/ and /ʃ/:
So, this is from Greece.She should go to a shop.
Choosing the wrong sound can be confusing, or even embarrassing if a phrase like “sit here” is mispronounced!
N.B. The same problem occurs in making the difference between /z/ and /ʒ/.
Greek does not contain the /h/ sound in /house/. The closest sound is the ‘χ’ in ‘ευχαριστώ’, but the English sound is much more gentle:
for him, hotel, history
The Greek equivalent of ‘r’ is a made by flapping the tongue behind the top teeth and is pronounced wherever it is written. In English, however, the tongue does not touch anywhere when saying /r/ – this gives a smoother sound:
Ruby’s red caravan looks really ridiculous.
In fact, the letter ‘r’ is often silent:
My sports car won’t start and its doors are stuck!
You can read more about ‘silent r’ in this blog post.
4. /tʃ/ and /dʒ/
Sometimes Greek students make these sounds with the tongue too far forward in the mouth. This makes it sound less clear to native listeners:
/tʃ/ change, each, watch/dʒ/ June, gym, edge
5. /i:/ vs. /ɪ/
English has two close vowels: /i:/ and /ɪ/, where Greek only uses [i], so Greek-speakers need to learn to make the shorter, more relaxed sound /ɪ/:
This is Phil’s ring.
6. /æ/ vs. /ʌ/
It is difficult for Greek-speakers to hear and pronounce the difference between the vowel sounds in ‘cat’ and ‘cut’. Greek students will use the Greek version of ‘a’ for both, because this is the closest sound that matches. However, this means that both words end up sounding the same. Try spreading the lips and keeping the tongue forward in the mouth for /æ/:
cat /kæt/, cut /kʌt/nan /næn/, none /nʌn/match /mætʃ/, much /mʌtʃ/
7. Long vowels
In English, it is important to make some vowels quite long. Sometimes Greek-speakers don’t do this, which makes it more difficult to understand:
We’ll eat Greek food.We bought meat.
In Greek, the /p/ sound is softer than in English. In English, we let extra air come out of the mouth just after we say the /p/ sound – this is an ‘aspirated p’ and makes words sound very British! This also applies to the /t/ and /k/ sounds:
We purchased some terrible cakes.
9. Weak words and weak syllables
English native-speakers say many function words in a weak way in connected speech. They also make some syllables within individual words weaker than others:
What’s the best way for us to learn a language? (Bold words are weak schwa function words).secretary, chocolate, collector (Bold sounds are weaker syllables).
10. Spelling to Sound
The sounds represented by Greek spelling are mostly consistent, whereas in English they are less so. Greek-speakers should learn the silent letters in words such as:
half, receipt, salmon
It is also important to realise that although English has borrowed many Greek words, we definitely do not pronounce them in a Greek way!
psychology, chronic, democracy
This article uses English IPA symbols – learn each of them with pronunciation notes, diagrams and audio in Pronunciation Studio’s free Starter Pack.