English Pronunciation for Mandarin Speakers

Areas of Difficulty for Mandarin Speakers

I.   /p/, /t/, and /k/ in word-final position
Pronounce the final sound in these words carefully:

Carp          snap     flop      flap      flip       strap    strip     shrimp
Flat            beat      taught  caught  might   right     fight     blight
Back          smack  Jack     stack    milk     flick     flak      rack

II.  /b/, /d/, /g/ vs. /p/, /t/, /k/ in word-final position:
Pay special attention to the final sound in the following minimal pairs as you pronounce them:

Cab/cap     nab/nap            gab/gap            rib/rip              nib/nip
Mad /mat   wed/wet           sad/sat             said/set            made/mate
Bag/back   rag/rack           wig/wick         wag/whack      lag/lack

III.   /v/, /TH/, /z/, /Z/, /dz/
As you pronounce the following words, make sure you pronounce the voiced consonants clearly:

vent           vote     love     video   vile      rave      vexation           river    
these          them    breathe             bathe    clothe thereby            fathom
zoo            lose      rose                 rise      size       buzz                amaze
beige          negligee           lingerie garage           mirage             barrage
smudge      badge               cage                 rage     judge              ridge

IV.   /l/ vs. /n/ in word-initial position
Practice distinguishing between /l/ and /n/ in the following word combinations:

Light/night slow/snow       slide/snide   lame/name    lead/need

V.  /l/ vs. /w/ in word-final position
Pronounce the dark /l/ in word final position, and distinguish between the dark /l/ and /w/:

Mole          call       fall       fail       mail     nail      coal      ball      small
Mole/mow     goal/go        veal/view         feel/few           old/owed 

VI.   th/ and /TH/\

Distinguish between the two sounds in the following pairs:

breath/breathe        bath/bathe        cloth/clothe      with/wither

Now try this tongue twister:

Those three thieves threw thirteen things in the thicket of thorn trees.

VII. /r/ vs. /w/ in word-initial position
Distinguish between the following word-initial consonants:

rail/wail                 rate/weight       rind/wind         rain/wane

VIII.   /w/ vs. /v/ in word-initial position
Make the distinction between /w/ and /v/ using minimal pairs such as those below:

West/vest   wine/vine         went/vent         wail/veil           wend/vend

IX.  /y/ in word-initial position

Practice pronouncing the word-initial /y/ in the following words:

east/yeast               ear/year            eel/yield           early/yearly

X. /m/, /n/, and /N/ in word-final position

Pronounce the following word-final nasal consonants clearly:

seem          gleam               bam                 rim                   wham 
seen           glean                bane                 rain                  wane 
sing           fling                 bang                ring                   wing

XI.   Consonant Clusters

Consonant clusters do not exist in Mandarin in word-initial or word-final position.  As a result, Mandarin speakers of English, tend to delete one of the consonants from the cluster.  Practice pronouncing these clusters in word initial and word final position.

Pleasure                 pleasant           Plymouth         plight               plenty 
Present                  prudent            pregnant          prayer              pride
Blatant                   blame               blither              bland               bloom
Brew                     brisk                brawl               brainy              brink
Treasure                trash                trawl                trekker             trim
Twister                  twins               tweak               tweeter             tweed
Drain                     dream              dreadful           drudgery          dragnet
Clean                     clump              clasp                cloud               climb
Cream                    crammer          Creole              crispy              crowd
Queen                    quail                quaint              quality             quirky
Gleam                    glaze                glistening         glamour           glitz
Grammar               grail                 grilled              grotesque         grasp
Flame                    flask                flipping            flap                  flout
Frame                    frisk                 frown              frivolous          freed
Thrash                   three                thriller              through            throw
Slither                    slowly             slide                 slaughter          slimy
Spittoon                 special             spangled          sprinkle           spend
Stone                     stumble            studious           stinging           steam
School                   scholastic         scholar             schematic         schema
Smoldering            smiling smudge            smelting           smut
Snort                     snowing          snack               snicker             snuck
Sphere                   sphinx            
Shriek                    shrink              shrouded         shrimp             shred
Splice                    splinter            split                 spleen             
Spring                   sprain              sprayer            sprout              spring
String                    strainer            strumming       stream              striker
Screw                    scrawny           scream             scrooge            scrub
Squint                    squirt               squeak             squeeze           
Stump                    bump               clump              hump               dump
Rant                       grant                pant                 scant                mint
Hand                     grand               brand               bland               blind
Tense                     fragrance         commence       competence      fence
Tenth                     plinth               fifteenth           sixteenth          ninth
Wrench                  stench              bench               brunch             lunch
Strange                  arrange            derange            scrounge          lounge
Think                     blink                sink                 brink                stink
Help                      kelp                 yelp                
Welt                       smelt                kilt                   knelt                belt
Old                        gold                 cold                 child                wild
Milk                      silk                  sulk                 bulk                 bilk
Harp                      carp                 slurp                burp                 warp
Art                         smart               start                 fart                   cart
                              Cord                      gourd               afford              board               ford
                              Serve                     nerve               starve               horse d’oeuvre
                              Earth                      hearth              birth                 mirth                firth
                              Course                   force                remorse           hoarse              Morse
                              Arch                      starch               birch                march              lurch
                              Barge                     surge               merge              splurge            forge
                              Arm                       farm                 squirm             firm                 worm
                              Barn                      fern                  stern                burn                 worn

I.   /I/ vs. /i:/
Make the distinction between the short and long vowels in the following minimal pairs:

Hit             fit         sit        fill        live      sill       pill       skit
Heat           feet      seat      feel      leave    seal      peel      skeet  

II.    /e/ vs. /ei/
Distinguish between the short and long vowels in the following minimal pairs:
Met            red       led       fed       wed     med     set        fret
Mate          raid      laid      fade     wade    made    sate      freight

III.   /U/ vs. /u:/
Pronounce the short and long vowels in the following word pairs carefully:
Full            foot      should             book                pull
Fool           food     shoot               boot                 pool

IV.   /e/ vs. /@/
Distinguish between these two vowels in the following words:
Ten            bend    men     send     lend     fret       bet       blend
Tan            band    man     sand     land     frat       bat       bland