10 English Pronunciation Errors by Thai Speakers

[ssba] If your mother tongue is Thai, you may find certain sounds in English more difficult than others. Here we present to you some of the common errors made by Thai-speaking students at Pronunciation Studio:

1. /l/ vs. /r/

Thai speakers of English often confuse the lateral alveolar approximant /l/ with the alveolar approximant /r/. For native English speakers, these two sounds are very distinct. Can you hear the difference?:

2. Consonant Clusters

Thai does not contain as many consecutive consonants (consonant clusters) as English. Because of this some speakers separate clusters with extra vowels. Instead of saying the clusters ‘dr’, ‘sm’ and ‘kr’ as the sentence below, a Thai speaker of English is likely to say ‘da rive’, ‘sa-moke’ and ‘ca-rime’:

3. Dropped Consonants

Since Thai does not contain clusters at the ends of words, consonants are sometimes dropped entirely:

4. /tʃ/

Words beginning with /tʃ/ such as ‘church’ are particularly problematic for Thai speakers of English. The sound is often replaced with either /ʃ/ as in ‘shoe’ or /s/ as in ‘see’. To pronounce /tʃ/ place the tongue on the alveolar ridge and whilst releasing a ‘t’ sound glide your tongue backwards to make the /ʃ/ sound. Listen the recording and try to mimic this sound:

5. ‘th’

The sounds /ð/ as in ’the’ and /θ/ as in ‘three’ do not exist in Thai. As a result, some speakers replace with /θ/ with /s/ and /t/ and /ð/ with /z/ or /d/:

6. Nasalised vowels

Some Thai speakers sound quite nasal when they speak English. This is because Thai vowels are typically produced as nasal, unlike English vowels which are typically oral (the air is realised through the mouth). The 12 English monophthongs are pronounced as follows:

Keep this red bag (front vowels: /i:, /ɪ/, /e/, /æ/)
The bird runs fast (centre vowels: /ə/, /ɜ:/, /ʌ/, /ɑ:/)
Who took Paul’s Watch? (back vowels: /u:/, /ʊ/, /ɔ:/, /ɒ/)

7. /əʊ/

The double vowel (diphthong) sound /əʊ/ as in ‘show’, is sometimes replaced with the single vowel (monophthong) /ɔ/, which can sound closer to the English /ɔ:/ or /ɒ/:

show /ʃəʊ/, short /ʃɔ:t/, shot /ʃɒt/
coat /kəʊt/, caught /kɔ:t/, cot /kɒt/
note /nəʊt/, nought /nɔ:t/, not /nɒt/

8. Final Syllable Word Stress

The most common error made by Thai speakers is to stress the final syllable of every word. Word stress varies in English. Notice the different stress patterns in these words:

pronunciˈation, ˈsyllable, intoˈnation, ˈnasal, ˈconsonants, reˈview

9. Weak Forms

Thai speakers of English tend to put too much stress on words that should be pronounced as weak. In English, many function words are unstressed in natural speech. Notice how ‘we’, ‘are’ ‘with’ and ‘her’ are unstressed in the recording:

10. Intonation

In Thai, equal weight and timing is given to each syllable. In English, some words are more stressed than others. Notice how ‘what’ is the most stressed word in this sentence:


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