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Tips for Teaching Pronunciation to Native Speakers of Arabic

by May Salameh | 27 May 2021
Resource Description: This resource includes some pronunciation problems Arabic speaking students face when they learn English. It also includes some suggested tips and ideas for teachers to help their students.  
Audience: Adult, Elementary, Secondary, Teacher Training, University
Audience Language Proficiency: Advanced, Beginner, Intermediate
Teaching Tip:

Challenges, Tips, and Recommendations:

Challenge-Arabic does not have the same sounds in its alphabet as English, which confuses the students and may lead to frustration. There are no /p, ŋ, dʒ/ sounds. Students sometimes confuse the pronunciation of (ch, ʈʃ) as (sh, ʃ) and vice versa.

Tip-Place of Articulation: I tried explaining to my students how sounds are produced in English by showing or touching the place of articulation on the throat, teeth, lips and tongue. The making of voiced and voiceless sounds can be tricky for Arabic speaking students. The students can feel the vibration of the vocal cords when producing voiced sounds, which makes them relate to its production and they understand how to make the same sound.

Challenge-Arabic does not have silent letters as English does, and it does not have diphthong vowels.

Tip-Teach and focus on sounds that are not found in Arabic: Since Arabic does not have the same sounds as English, the teacher should highlight more work on sounds like / p, v, ch, and sh/.”

2-Tongue twisters: These twisters ae designed especially difficult. Using this fun technique could assist the students to pronounce difficult or similar words in a funny way. Examples:” Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”, or “How can a clam cram in a clean cream can?”.

Challenge-Arabic does not have many consonant clusters. Students may feel obliged to add a vowel sound between consonants to reach to what they think is the desired sound. Examples: split becomes (e-spi-lit);vegetable becomes (ve gi tab ile).

Tip-Breaking down to syllables: When students have difficulty connecting vowels, consonant clusters and silent letters, I show them how to break the word down to smaller chunks and pronounce it. Example, /In-tuh-ruh-sting/ phonetic spelling. I also recommend that the students repeat correct pronunciation after the teacher and their peers more than once. The students should not worry about American or British accents, but rather, they must be helped to produce the sounds correctly.

Challenge-Students tend to over stress, under stress or incorrectly pronounce words, statements and questions’ intonations.

Tip-1-Intonation: Arabic speakers confuse word and sentence intonation. Sentences or statements can be produced as questions and vice versa. The teacher may try to over stress or highlight intonation to help his students. The teacher can also explain the difference in intonation endings for Yes/No questions, Wh-Questions and statements.

2-Rhyme and rhythm: The teacher can model a sufficient pronunciation and he may also use rhyme to make it interesting to the students, especially young ones. Example (long vowel sound at the beginning): apple, after, eye. Another example: feet, beat, seat. Car rhymes with star; cake rhymes with steak, and so on. The end result should be about the process and understanding how to pronounce words and sentences, not just a product of pronouncing single words.



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2021, from

Al-Busaidi, S., & Al-Saqqaf, A. H. (2015). English Spelling Errors Made by Arabic-Speaking

Students. English Language Teaching, 8(7), 46-56. doi:10.5539/elt.v8n7p181

Dirou, E. (2016, June 22). Tips for teaching English to Arabic speakers. Retrieved May 15, 2021,


Hancock, M. (2020, November 18). Pronunciation models and false choices [Web log post].

Retrieved May 25, 2021, from World of Better Learning. Cambridge University Press.

Phonetic alphabet - examples of sounds. (2017, August 16). Retrieved May 25, 2021, from The London School of English.

Useful Links:

Phonetic alphabet - examples of sounds. (2017, August 16). Retrieved May 25, 2021, from The London School of English.

TESOL Interest Section: Adult Education, Applied Linguistics, Bilingual Education, Elementary Education, English as a Foreign Language