3 Major Korean Pronunciation Errors in English

Korean English Pronunciation

If you wish to be understood clearly in English, then avoiding these typical Korean pronunciation errors when speaking in English is a must.

At Confidence Learning Services, we work with clients from many countries, including Korea, to help them improve their communication skills in English. Korea is a beautiful country, and Korean is one of few east Asian languages to have a simple, phonetic alphabet and lack the tonality that make Mandarin or Vietnamese so different from English. However, there are still some typical errors that Korean speakers make when learning English, and making sure that you avoid these mispronunciations is important.

Korean Pronunciation Error #3

Korean English Pronunciation

Some English sounds simply do not exist in Korean, which include many friction sounds such as /f/, /v/, /z/, and /ð/.  Because of this, it can be difficult for Korean speakers to differentiate between these three words. “Live from the newsroom” and “Lies from the newsroom” have two drastically different meanings, so it’s important to avoid this typical Korean pronunciation error.

Korean Pronunciation Error #2

Korean Pronunciation Errors

Korean words never have more than 2 consonants pronounced in one syllable. In this word, there are 3 consonants in a row, followed by a vowel and then two more consonants together. Thus we encounter the resulting Korean pronunciation error. In English, the word ‘Sprint’ is just one syllable, while in Korean it would have three or possibly 4.

Korean Pronunciation Error #1

Korean Accent Reduction

In Korean, consonants are not released unless they are followed by a vowel in the same syllable (eg 맛이 – mashi ), and word final consonants are never released (eg 맛 – mat). Because of this, Koreans learning English often add an extra ‘u’, or ‘i’ vowel to the end of each English word that ends with a consonant.Thus “Fish” may become “Fishy”, a word with a totally different meaning.

Most of our Korean clients enjoy great success in improving their pronunciation and accent, and are able to communicate more clearly and confidently after just one 12 week session.

If you would like to learn more about improving your communication skills in English, contact Confidence Learning Services at 1-865-226-9477 for a free English Pronunciation evaluation. We will assess your pronunciation of every sound in the English language, at no cost or obligation to you, in the convenience of your own home or office via Skype.

6 English Words that Chinese Speakers mispronounce

Knoxville Chinese English

Which English words are most difficult for Chinese Speakers to pronounce?

Recently, Confidence Learning Services featured some of the most commonly mispronounced English words, when spoken by Spanish-speakers. Of course, Spanish-speakers are not the only ones learning English, so we decided to do another round of mispronounced words, this time focusing on words that Chinese-Speakers mispronounce.

Since there are millions of Chinese-speakers who have studied English, this topic is important for many people. English is a very difficult language to pronounce, and perhaps one of the most difficult languages for Chinese-speakers to learn (but also one of the most popular). Through our advanced English Pronunciation courses, tips and videos on Accent Reduction, we have helped many Chinese-speakers communicate more clearly in English. Our courses are personalized for each client (meaning we plan our lessons based on an in-depth, one-on-one evaluation with you), but there are some aspects of English pronunciation that are difficult for almost all Chinese-speakers.

“Standard Chinese” has around 6 vowels, while English has around 12. This difference makes differentiating between English vowels very difficult for Chinese-speakers. Also, common English sounds, like voiced fricatives and affricates (“v” “th” “z” “j”) do not exist in Chinese.  These result in some common pronunciation difficulties, so let’s take a closer look at the Top 11 English words that Chinese-speakers mispronounce when trying to learn English.

6. Very/Wary

The problem here is the /v/ sound, which is a voiced fricative. Most Chinese speakers struggle to get the correct position (top teeth touching bottom lip) and maintaining friction and voicing long enough to make a true /v/ sound, which makes “very” sound like “wary.” But the words have two very different meanings.

5. Seen/Sing

knoxville chinese english

Word-final nasal sounds (like /n/ and /ŋ/) are much shorter in Chinese than in English. As a result, English-speakers may not be able to identify which sound is being produced, if any at all, at the end of the word.

4. Ship/Sheep

We mentioned this pair previously as difficult for Spanish-speakers, but it is also difficult for Chinese-speakers for the same reason, because of the differences between Chinese vowels and English vowels. Chinese-speakers tend to replace the relaxed “i” /I/ with a tense “e” /i/, making it “sheep”. Chinese-speakers often make vowel sounds tense, or “long,” and confuse pairs of “short” and “long” English vowel sounds like “ship” and “sheep” both in comprehension and speaking.

knoxville spanish accent

Just imagine how this works for “sheet” and …

3. Usually

Perhaps because this word features several difficult sounds – the “L” /l/ sound, which is sometimes pronounced by Chinese-speakers to sound more like an “R,” the voiced fricative /ʒ/ sound represented by the “s” in this word, and the various vowel sounds in the word.

2. Sink/Think

In English, our letters “th” represent a sound made with the tongue between the teeth. However, this sound is very difficult for Chinese-speakers to pronounce, so it is often replaced with an “s” sound. But if you say “I sink” instead of “I think” your listeners will definitely have a different picture in their minds!

1. Dark/Dock

This is a common mispronunciation for many Chinese-speakers learning English.That’s because r-vowels (ar, er, ir, or, ur) are typically pronounced without the strong “r” sound that Americans use. This pronunciation can be even more difficult for Chinese-speakers who have studied British pronunciation, in which these sounds are not produced.

Knoxville Chinese English

Are you guilty of any of these? Have you heard any of these before? Chinese-speakers can learn to speak English fluently, and master the American Accent, by starting with a free consultation or assessment! Contact us at 1-865-226-9477 to schedule your free session with a language instructor today.

Who learns languages best?

learn portuguese

What type of person makes the best language learner?

Recently, one of my clients in Knoxville, Tennessee asked me what traits our most successful clients at Confidence Learning Services had in common. I thought this was a fantastic question, so I figured I would share my observations. I’m not here to tell you whether men or women, Americans or Chinese, or doctors or engineers make the best students, but I hope the following observations will help you

5. People who learn languages best communicate with native speakers regularly.

This might be great news for you if you want to improve your accent, and you are the only one at work who is not a native English speaker. However, it might be difficult news for you if you are practicing English in a town in which not even the teachers are native speakers, or if you are in Knoxville, Tennessee trying to learn a language like Romanian. This principle holds true even if you are living in an English speaking country, but most of your interactions (with coworkers, family and friends) are with non-native English speakers, even if you usually communicate in English. The good news is, native speakers are just a computer screen away with many websites devoted to finding language partners. Additionally, if you really make an effort, you may be surprised at what you find in your own town. For example, even in Knoxville, Tennessee, there is a Romanian church that would probably provide great opportunities for language practice if you decided to get involved. But speaking with native speakers usually requires you to be…

4. People who learn languages best are outgoing.

That may seem harsh, if you are an introvert, and it’s actually a bit deceiving. You see, people who are outgoing will produce more language output. That means they will produce more correct output, and more errors, than introverts. However, errors are some of our best learning opportunities, and if you refuse to take a chance on what you think might be the word you need to use, you will never know if you were right or wrong. If you are outgoing, you will make a mistake and learn right away. So force yourself to come out of your shell a little bit, (yes, research shows a little alcohol helps). Say hi to people in the community. After all, you are learning a language so that you can communicate with others, right?

spanish class in knoxville tn

3. People who learn languages best take advantage of every opportunity.

That means they go above and beyond their assigned practice. Sure, these students complete their pronunciation practice to learn the difficult English “th” sounds, but then they listen for that sound when they are speaking with friends. They watch for that sound while watching TV at night, and they repeat words with that sound when they hear them on the radio. If you are studying Spanish, you might start reading the Spanish list of ingredients on your food packages, or paying closer attention to signs that you see on the street in Spanish, or turn on the Spanish radio (yes, there are Spanish radio stations in most US cities, even one in Knoxville). Everything is a lesson to be learned.

2. People who learn languages best practice – a lot.

Yes, it sounds obvious, and while the majority of students do practice, you might be surprised at how many clients I have had who sign up for an Accent Reduction, English, or Spanish course but then do not complete the assigned practice. Some clients truly did not have the time in their schedule to make the commitment when taking into account work and other demands in their lives. Others simply chose not to practice, or to practice something else that they deemed more beneficial or interesting, rather than follow the prescribed practice. I usually recommend an hour of practice each day. Without fail, my clients who have demonstrated the most improvement have practiced more than an hour a day.

bilingual kid

And you’re never too young to get those practice hours in.


1. People who learn languages best know that attitude is everything.

The common attitudes I see among successful language learners are, “If others can learn this language, so can I.” and “What’s left to learn?” It’s important to remember that it is possible to learn English, Spanish, improve your Accent, or whatever your goal may be. After all, thousands of people have already done so, why can’t you?

It’s also important to remember that there is always more to learn, even in our native languages. We can always improve and grow, and as long as you keep this in mind, you aren’t likely to hit a road-block in your language learning experience.

Do you think you have what it takes to be a successful language learner? Contact Confidence Learning Services today to try out a free, one-on-one consultation in English, Spanish or Accent Reduction.

I don’t have an accent – or do I?

American English Pronunciation Knoxville

Every week at Confidence Learning Services, I interact with people who have various accents, either from different regions of the country, other English speaking countries, or other language backgrounds. And yet it always seems that the majority of people think they do not have an accent.

I’ve encountered one professional from another country with a particularly strong accent that impacts how others understand him. He insisted that he did not have a foreign accent, and that he had even successfully learned to speak with an American Southern accent.

Another speaker with an accent that causes her to regularly repeat herself believes that she does not have an accent, because others from her same language background have told her she does not – meaning at least that her pronunciation is better than theirs.

Then there’s always the story of the old, Southern lady speaking with a strong drawl, expressing how much she wishes she had an accent when meeting someone from another country.

And my husband’s family from Ohio would probably suggest that their entire state is devoid of any accent!

So, do you have an accent? And if so, why can’t you hear it?

Accent Reduction Rule #1 – Everyone has an accent

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Yes everyone. Even the President of the United States, the Queen of England, and myself. Everyone speaks with an accent, rules governing their pronunciation of different vowels and consonants. Accents that sound “stronger” or “heavier” than others are simply further from your own pronunciation.When you learn to speak with a “Standard American Accent”, like we teach in our Accent Reduction courses, people will likely understand you better. You’ll repeat yourself less, and you might get people to focus on what you have to say, instead of how you say it. But you will still have an accent – just a Standard American Accent, which will allow you to be better understood throughout North America, but might not improve your communications in other English Speaking Countries.

Accent Reduction Rule #2 – You probably can’t hear your own accent

American English Pronunciation Knoxville

Unless you spend a lot of time thinking about your accent or others’, you probably don’t notice your own accent. Why is that? Surely, we think people like Arnold Schwarzenegger would notice their own accent. But that may not be the case. Often, we don’t notice aspects of ourselves that we live with day in and day out. You may not notice, for instance, how long your hair has grown until someone comments on it, or that you have gained or lost a little weight, or gotten a tan. And you might not even think about your tattoo or nose ring throughout the day, until someone points those things out. That’s because we’re focused on other things – what to eat for dinner, highway traffic, or our big presentation coming up next week.

Accent Reduction Rule #3 – Your brain is working against you

accent reduction brain

The language center of the brain.

When we are infants, we can hear every sound in every human language and differentiate all of them. The difference between the vowels in “beat” and “bit”, the difference between /r/ and /l/, or the difference between the two Arabic “s” sounds are all very clear to us. But as we grow, our brain starts narrowing down to focus only on the sounds that are present and meaningful in the language we are exposed to. Meaning that if you are exposed to Mandarin as an infant, you notice tonal differences, but your brain throws out the difference between English /r/ and /l/ since that’s not useful. If you’re exposed to English, you can hear all 11 vowel sounds, but your brain learns to ignore any difference between different “s” sounds.

By the time we reach puberty, the language section of our brains changes significantly. The languages we were exposed to as children solidify, but those we weren’t exposed to become harder to learn. So if you are reading this as an adult, you likely can’t hear all of the sounds in your new language clearly, meaning you don’t notice when you pronounce “beat” and “bit” the same, because you can’t hear the difference between those vowels, while native speakers can.

Accent Reduction Rule #4 – Your social group matters

learn english in Knoxville

Most of the speakers I encounter who recognize they have an accent and are seeking Accent Reduction services, spend a lot of time among native English speakers. By comparison, they realize their accent is different from their peers, and they may hear comments on their accent, or be asked to repeat themselves regularly. Many who recognize their own accent actually have a relatively “mild” accent, compared to other non-native speakers, but their desire is to learn the Standard American Accent.

Most of the non-native speakers I encounter who do not recognize their own accent, spend more time among non-native English speakers. Compared to other speakers who are still struggling to speak English, they think their English sounds great. In fact, other non-native speakers may ask them for help or compliment them on their English. This gives them confidence in their speech, and when they encounter native speakers who regularly ask them to repeat themselves, they make excuses in their mind for the lack of understanding. “It must have been a poor phone connection, or perhaps they don’t understand my word choice, because I definitely don’t have an accent.” Typically, these speakers have a stronger or heavier accent than those belonging to the first group.

The same rule applies to regional accents as well. Those who spend their time primarily interacting with others from their same accent group or local area are less likely to notice their own accent, but those who travel throughout the country regularly or who have a more diverse group of friends will likely recognize their own accent and others’.

Accent Reduction Rule #5 – You can know for sure!

If you want to know more about your own accent, there’s great news. You can get a detailed, technical analysis of your own accent. At Confidence Learning Services, we provide an assessment that tests your pronunciation of each consonant and vowel sound in the English language as well as factors like stress, linking and intonation. Most people who get the results from this assessment are reassured – they knew there was “something” they couldn’t put their finger on, and the assessment gives them specifics that they can act on.

Ready to learn more about your own accent? Contact us today at 1-865-226-9477 to set up your free assessment.

Do I need English Pronunciation Training or Accent Reduction?

accent reduction in knoxville

“I’m sorry, could you repeat that? I didn’t understand.”
“Oh my gosh, I love your accent. Where are you from? Say something else.”

If you hear statements like this regularly, you may have been wondering what you could do to be better understood by others and taken more seriously.

Yet you’re too advanced for English classes, or maybe English is your first language. You don’t need any more grammar training, and you may have tried CD’s or DVD’s with little change in your communication skills. Most of all, even though you are a well-educated and successful professional, you wish you were more confident in who you are and what you have to say.

Confidence Learning Services’ Accent Reduction / English Pronunciation Training courses, available on-site in Knoxville TN or worldwide via Skype, may be able to help you communicate more confidently.

Let’s look at a few clues that English Pronunciation Training is right for you:

If people regularly ask you to repeat yourself in English, you could benefit from English Pronunciation Training.

Of course, everyone has to repeat themselves once in awhile. But if you have to repeat yourself more than once a day, you might need some English Pronunciation Training. In Knoxville, I have heard some speakers repeat themselves up to 10 times to make themselves understood. Try to keep a tally sheet with you, or on your smartphone, and tally each time you have had to repeat yourself to make yourself understood. If it’s more than once a day, you might want to seek further English Pronunciation Training. Coming up with excuses about why your accent isn’t “that bad” or how you wouldn’t learn anything in an Accent Reduction course won’t improve your communication skills.

English Pronunciation Training may also be helpful if you need to present a professional image without the distraction of an accent.

This applies to both regional and foreign accents. If you travel to make presentations at conferences, or communicate with clients on a daily basis, you don’t want your accent to speak louder than your words. But how do you know this is happening? If oral communication is a big part of your communication with others, you will notice if people regularly comment on your accent. Perhaps you have given a presentation on recent scientific research conducted by your group, only to have people approach you afterwards asking about your accent, how long you have lived here, and to talk about cultural questions. English Pronunciation training – even for native speakers – can help you to communicate professionally and put the focus back on what you have to say.
If your job involves little to no oral communication, you rarely interact with new people, and you don’t have to give presentations or speak with clients, then accent reduction might not be as beneficial for you. But keep in mind that even though those are not your current job responsibilities, if you are hoping for a promotion or raise, you might want to be prepared for them.

If you are a performer or public speaker.

One of the best examples of this is the character of Gregory House played by Hugh Laurie. Laurie mastered the American accent so well that most Americans don’t realize he is actually from the U.K. Incidentally, the writers of the television show “House, MD” could have included Laurie’s accent – it’s not like there are no doctors in the US with a British accent. But the writers didn’t want Laurie’s character to be immediately written off by American audiences, so they went with the American accent.
If you are a local news anchor, actor, speaker, or performer from another country living in the US, having an English Pronunciation coach may help you advance in your career as well. Likewise, if you are a performer or broadcaster from Knoxville but wanting to break into a national market, English Pronunciation Training may help.

If you are willing to put effort into improving yourself

Many people would love to lose some weight. Few people go to the gym regularly. Finding an English Pronunciation Coach is a lot like finding a personal trainer, and the practice materials provided in your sessions are a lot like your gym membership. If you aren’t willing to put the time and effort in, or if you aren’t interested in following your coach’s instructions, you won’t see the results you want.

Still not sure if you should pursue English Pronunciation Training? Contact Confidence Learning Services for a FREE evaluation.

We’ll come to your office in Knoxville or set up an appointment on Skype to give you a free, in-depth evaluation of your individual accent. 1-865-226-9477.