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10 English Pronunciation Errors by Korean Speakers


What are the main errors for Korean speakers in English pronunciation? Here we have highlighted the top ten experienced by Korean speaking students at Pronunciation Studio:

1. /iː/ and /ɪ/

Korean students often find it difficult to distinguish between the vowel positioning in /iː/ as in ‘seat’ and /ɪ/ as in ‘sit’:

Please sit on the seat next to the sheep on the ship.

2. /əʊ/ diphthong

The words ‘go’, ’no’ and ‘show’ all contain a double vowel sound /əʊ/ (a diphthong). Korean speakers often pronounce these words with a single vowel sound (a monophthong):

No, no! Let’s go to the show!

3. Central Vowel /ɜ:/

Korean does not have an equivalent central vowel, and as a consequence many speakers will reach for a more rounded back vowel. This can cause confusion between words like ‘work’ and ‘walk’:

Burt’s words hurt worse than Shirley’s.

4. Adding an extra vowel to a word

Korean speakers often add an extra vowel sound after a consonant in syllable final position:

My sandwich.
Look, a book!

5. /l/ and /r/ confusion

Korean speakers often replace /r/ with a sound closer to the English /l/:

Rory rarely rushed round very thoroughly.

6. ‘th’

Like many languages, the ‘th’ sounds /θ/ and /ð/ do not exist in Korean. The sound /θ/ as in ‘three’ tends to be replaced with a sound closer to /s/ and the sound /ð/ as in ‘there’ is replaced with a sound closer to /d/:

Thankfully the three brothers theorise amongst themselves.

7. Pronunciation of /v/ and /f/

Because Korean does not have the sounds /v/ and /f/, Koreans speakers of English often substitute them with sounds which are closer to /b/ and /p/:

A very nice festival.

8. Pronunciation of /w/

This sound is usually fairly easy for Korean speakers to make, but as it does not occur before /ʊ/ and /u:/ in Korean, it is often omitted completely in these positions. Words such as ‘wood’ /wʊd/ and ‘wool’ /wʊɫ/ can be challenging:

Would you buy me some wood and some wool?

9. Word Stress

In English, every word has one syllable which has the most stress. Notice how the pitch, and the length of the vowel change in these words: pronunciˈation, interˈference, ˈemphasis, communiˈcation. Unlike English, Korean gives the same emphasis and prominence to each syllable. This can make Korean speakers’ stress unclear in English:

pronunciation, interference, emphasis, communication

10. Sentence Stress

As with word stress, English does not apply the same amount of stress to every word in a sentence. Again, Koreans often find this difficult and tend to give the same emphasis and prominence to each word:

I like to go to the beach with my friends at the weekend.

How did you get on? If you fancy trying this lesson with a teacher, visit Pronunciation Studio in central London or online.


This article uses English IPA symbols – learn each of them with pronunciation notesdiagrams and audio in Pronunciation Studio’s free Starter Pack.