Many English teaching experts say that Vietnamese English students will have more pronunciation problems than speakers of almost any other language. When I visit medical offices, I know that the staff have studied English for a very long time. Nevertheless, the nurse at FV Hospital asked me several times if I had a pen or a horse. I had no idea why she would be asking for such strange items! Finally, she pointed at the word “pain”. She wanted to know if I had any pain, or if I hurt. Many students understand a large vocabulary but have difficulty saying simple words so that they can be understood. Let’s look at some things that you can do, if you’re in this situation.
One of the biggest problems that many language learners have is final sounds. Vietnamese words are only one syllable long and they rarely have a distinct final sound. Tones of each short word convey meaning. In order to be clearly understood, you MUST focus on the final sounds and practice them, especially the final “s” sound in plurals and third-person singular present tense verbs. Not only do we make these sounds in English, but we often link the final consonant sound with the beginning of the next word, especially when it begins with a vowel.
Another difficulty can be consonant blends (not common in Vietnamese), especially when they contain the letter “p”. In Vietnamese, p is almost always used in “ph” to make an “f” sound. It’s very confusing for English speakers to hear someone ask for “helf”. If you notice that your listener seems confused about what you say, ask for feedback about what they didn’t understand. Find out more about how to pronounce those sounds. Until you have clear pronunciation, your excellent English skills cannot be recognized and appreciated.
Here is a Vietnamese speaker who explains pronunciation in detail.