Top Pronunciation Problems of Filipinos

When you learn or speak a second language, say, English, the first language always comes in the way. This is true for all of us, non-native English speakers. This is evident in our grammar slips, in our clutch words, and our pronunciation lapses. Understanding the causes of these mistakes will lead us to do something about them to improve and eventually perfect English.

Let me present to you the top pronunciation problems of Filipinos.

1. Interchanges, Defects, and Sound Substitution

The most common pronunciation problem is sound interchanges, both vowel and consonant sounds. For instance, the /p/ is seen as interchangeable with the /f/ sound; so is the long /e/ and short /i/ sounds. The same is true with the voiced /th/ and the /d/ sound, and also with the /v/ and /b/ sounds.

Why do these interchanges happen? The simple explanation is that these sounds are not found in the speaker’s or learner’s first language.

For example, the Tagalog language (not the Filipino language) does not have the /f/ sound. It doesn’t have the letter ‘f’ in the Tagalog alphabet either. So when a native Tagalog speaker encounter an English word with an /f/ sound in it, he may interchange it with the /p/ sound. For instance, the word “fify” can be pronounced as “pif-tee.”

In sound substitution, the speaker is substituting the most convenient sound to compensate for the sound that is not found in the first language. A classic example is the /th/ sound. The Tagalog language does not have this sound. So to make up for this “absence,” speakers substitute it with a sound that’s closest in tongue position as the /th/ sound. In this case, it’s either the /d/ or the /t/ sound. “Three” becomes “tree,” and “the” becomes “duh.”

2. Intonation-related

Languages have their own intonation patterns, and the English and Tagalog intonations have different patterns. Native Tagalog, Ilokano, or Bisaya speakers, when they speak English, the intonation is normally flat and monotonous. In some cases, it follows the rising pattern.

3. Stress-related

This happens especially in words with at least 3 syllables. For instance, instead of saying “a-BO-mi-na-ble” (abominable), this word goes “a-bo-MI-na-ble.” Instead of saying “CO-vet” for “covet,” the stress is on the second syllable. In this case, it’s “co-VET.”