Sunday, January 27, 2008

Teaching "N," "L" and "R" to ESL Students

Penny from the U.S. writes:

Please help! I am a former French teacher volunteering to teach English to foreign adults. My Chinese lady cannot pronounce the nasal "N" as in nose. She says "L" instead. Is there some way to help her hear and say the sound?

Hi Penny,

Thank you for your email. L, N (and ng) and R are really difficult for Asian language speakers. I've even read that they (some Asian language speakers, Japanese, I think) cannot actually hear the difference. In my experience, I don't spend time training them to hear it, but rather, to say it.

What I do is use pronunciation books that have pictures of what their tongues, breathing, lips, etc. need to do to make each sound. I highly recommend the pronunciation book I refer to on this page ESL Textbook Evaluation. It has great drawings (I can't even figure out what some other books are trying to show), and explanations. It also shows you which sounds to teach first (e.g., N, then L, then R).

Good luck,

ESL Tutor
Teaching ESL to Adults

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