What Is Mother Tongue Interference?
Many non-native speakers of English find it challenging to articulate some English sounds correctly because those sounds are not in their indigenous languages. One of such is the /ɔ/ sound. As a result, they substitute such English sounds with similar sounds in their indigenous languages. For instance, a typical Nigerian speaker of the Yoruba tribe may substitute /tʃ/ with /ʃ/ in chair, making it sound like shair; and substitute /θ/ with /t/ in thing, so it sounds like tin. Also, an average Hausa speaker may substitute /p/ with /f/ in problem, making it sound like froblem; while the Igbo speaker may pronounce oil as oye. This is what mother tongue interference is.
You don’t need to blame or hate yourself for it, as it is natural. However, you can improve your pronunciation to sound more English than your mother tongue. Do you know how? You’re welcome here. The focus of this article is the English vowel sound, /ɔ/, one of those that don`t exist in the indigenous languages of second language users of English. Let’s talk about the /ɔ/ sound
How to Articulate the /ɔ/ Sound
To articulate the /ɔ/ sound, you should raise the back of the tongue a little higher towards the soft palate (the back part of the roof of the mouth). The lips are rounded in the production of this sound. The mouth is also slightly open, and the lips take an oval shape. Now practise articulating the /ɔ/ sound. Start by making your lips rounded — by doing that, the back of your tongue will be higher towards your soft palate. With that position, let the air come out from your lungs through your mouth and articulate the sound.
Now try pronouncing these words:
- sport: /spɔt/
- cord: /kɔd/
- port: /pɔt/
- horse: /hɔs/
- cause: /kɔz/
- caught: /kɔt/
- brought: /brɔt/
- your: /jɔ/
The /ɔ/ sound, however, differs from the /ɒ/ sound which is in spot, cod, and pot. In articulating the /ɒ/ sound, the tongue is set at a low position. The lips are unrounded and wide open, and the jaw drops. You may need to do some consistent practice to get the difference. The difference between both sounds is more qualitative than quantitative.
It is not that /ɔ/ and ɒ/ are long and short in terms of length respectively. It is, however, more of tense and lax respectively. For instance, you wouldn’t say “I saw the short girl laughing,” elongating the sound /ɔ/ for both saw and short. Erroneously, a number of people were taught that the length mark /:/ used in some transcription styles means that the sounds are longer than their short forms. Such people believe, for instance, that sit is /sit/ (with the short i ) and seat is /si:t/ (elongating the /i/ sound); or bin with short /i/and been with an elongated /i:/.
No, that is not true! Stop elongating sounds that have the length mark. The actual difference is not in length, but in quality. Now practice the /ɔ/ sound in these words:
Furthermore, because a sound that is similar to /ɒ/ is found in some indigenous languages, many Nigerian users of English use the sound wherever they should use /ɔ/. So what do we have? A total mixup of /ɔ/, /ɒ/, /3/ and /ʌ/. Here`s what I mean; try reading these:
- I cut the rope in the cot before going to the court.
- The American-born Chinese wore her hair in a bun and burnt the wool.
- I am fond of funding the event.
How did that go?
Here are more /ɔ/ words to practise with:
Would you like to do some more practice with sentences?
- I’ve told my son not to play in the sun, but he wouldn’t listen.
- Nuts are is predominantly found in the north.
- I took the second turn in order to give the torn clothes to the tailor.
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