Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 1
HO CHI MINH CITY UNIVERSITY OF PEDAGOGY
Contrastive Analysis of
English and Vietnamese Consonants
Instructor: Nguyen Ngoc Vu Ph.D
Student: Nguyen My Duyen
HCMC, December 30th ,2010
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 2
Nowadays, knowing a second language is very important. To many people,
second language will help them find a better job so that they can be rich. To me, it will
help me be more knowledgeable. Over 350 million people speak English as their first
language (both in US and UK). It's an official language in over 50 countries around the
world. (speakenglish, n.d)The total number of people who can speak English, (both as
first language and second language) is over a billion. (speakenglish, n.d). Therefore, I
can read famous books from famous authors, watch TV programs, guide book from the
machine … in English. I don’t have to need help from any sources or anybody. I’ve
learned English for more than 10 years and absolutely I have had many difficulties and
the biggest problem is that: how can I speak English naturally like native speakers?
There are so many things here such as: intonation, stress, pronunciation and my
problem is the sounds especially the consonants. Sound is consisted of consonants and
vowels .I will be the English teacher in the future so I want to write this work to help me
and my readers not only pay attention to this point but also speak correctly English
consonants because I will point out some teaching Implication .I’m sure that after
reading my work, you will know more some similarities and difficulties in English and
Vietnamese consonants and the most important thing is that it’s easier for you to
communicate successfully in English if you can apply what I told you in this book.
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 3
Because of many reasons such as time, salary, equipments,…,all Vietnamese
public schools just care about grammar, vocabulary but don’t care much about
pronunciation in teaching foreign language. That is the main factor that most students
cannot speak English. To change that, I think it’s time for us, English teachers in the
future spend more time teaching pronunciation. Remember that, If we want out students
to communicate successfully, we have to help them pronounce the sounds correctly
especially the consonants. Now we can recognize that teaching consonants is very
significant. First of all, please tell me what are consonants? How can you produce
them? How can you teach your students those consonants? .Now I will give you its
definition and some examples: What is consonant? a consonant is a speech sound
that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are
[p], pronounced with the lips; [t], pronounced with the front of the tongue; [k],
pronounced with the back of the tongue; [h], pronounced in the throat; [f] and [s], which
are noisy (fricatives); and [m] and [n], which have air flowing through the nose
(nasals) (Wikipedia, par.1). And how can we produce them? According to a website (
consonants and vowels, 2007) we know that:
Consonants are defined as the sounds articulated by temporary
obstruction in the air stream which passes through the mouth. The
obstruction made by the articulators may be `total’, `intermittent’, `partial’,
or may merely constitute a narrowing sufficient to cause friction. In the
articulation of consonants almost all articulators are involved. Especially
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 4
the position of the soft palate causes the division of consonants into `oral
consonants’ and `nasal consonants’. when the soft palate is raised, `oral
consonants’ are produced; the soft palate is lowered, `nasal consonants’
are produced. In English /m/, /n/, and / ŋ /are nasal consonants and rest
of all are oral consonants. The function of vocal cords also causes the
division of consonants as `voiceless’ and `voiced’. When vocal cords are
kept apart, voiceless consonants as /p, t, k, c, f, θ , s, ʃ , h/ are produced
whereas their vibrations produce voiced consonants as /b, d, g, j, v,,z, ʒ /.
How can we teach our students those consonants? I will discuss about
that at the end of my wok.
Consonants are classified in terms of: Voicing, place of articulation, manner of
Based on voicing, consonants are classified in terms of: `voiced consonants’ and
`voiceless consonants’. Voiced consonants are articulated with the vibration of the vocal
cords. English voiced consonants are /b, d, g, j, v,,z,ð,ʒ /. In contrast, Voiceless
consonants are articulated without vibration of vocal cords or it may be said that during
the production of voiceless consonants vocal cords are kept apart. Examples: /p, t, k, c,
f, θ , s, ʃ , h/. (“Consonants”, 2010)
How about the place of articulation? Please take a look at the vocal
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 5
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 6
Based on places of articulation (“place of articulation”, 2010) , consonants are
Bilabial (or labial): Both lips as the primary articulators articulate with each other.
Examples: /p/, /b/, /m/, /w/.
Labio-dental: The lower lip articulates with the upper teeth.
Examples: /f/, /v/.
Dental: The tip and the rims of the tongue articulate with the upper teeth.
Examples /θ/, /ð/
Alveolar: The blade, or top and blade of the tongue articulates with the alveolar ridge
(the upper teeth ridge).
Examples: /t/, /d/, /s/, /z/, /n/, /l/,
Palato-alveolar: The blade, or the tip and blade of the tongue articulates with the
alveolar ridge and there is at the same time a raising of the front of the tongue towards
the hard palate.
Examples:/ʃ/,/ ʒ/, / tʃ/, /dʒ/, /r/
Palatal: articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate (the
middle part of the roof of the mouth)
Velar: A glottal obstruction, or a narrowing causing friction and vibration between the
vocal cords. However, some consonants in this category may be produced without
vibration between the vocal cords.
Examples: /k/, /g/, / ŋ/
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 7
Glottal: articulated with the glottis
Based on manner of consonants are divided into: plosives’, `affricate’, `fricative’,
`lateral’, `approximant’, and `nasal’.(“manners of consonants”,2010)
Plosive : It occurs a complete closure at some point in the vocal tract,
behind which the air pressure builds up and is released explosively.
Examples: /p/, /t/, /k/, /b/, /d/, /g/.
Affricative: It is produced when a complete closure appears at some point
in the mouth, behind which the air pressure builds up; the separation of the
articulators is slow with that of a plosive, so that friction is a characteristic second
element of the sound.
Examples: /tʃ/, /dʒ/
Fricative: produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by
placing two articulators close together
Example: /f/,/v/, /θ/, /ð/ /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /h/
Lateral: a partial closure is made at some point in the mouth, the air
stream being allowed to escape from one or both sides of the contact.
Approximant: the tip of the tongue is raised towards the alveolar ridge
without touching it. The sides of the tongue are pressed against the upper back
teeth. As the sound is produced, air flows out over the tip of the tongue and vocal
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 8
Nasals: with a complete closure at some point in the mouth but the soft
palate is lowered and hence the oral cavity is blocked and air escapes through
nasal cavity it’s produced.
Examples: /m/, /n/, / ŋ /.
Manner of dental alveolar
Plosive p, b t, d k, g
Fricative f, v θ, ð s, z ʃ, ʒ h
Affricative tʃ, dʒ
Nasal m n ŋ
Approximant w r j
There are 24 English consonants ,according to Peter Roach. They are : /p/, /b/,
/m/, /f/, /v/, /t/, /d/, /ð/, /t/, /d/, /n/, /l/, /ʃ/, /ʧ/, /ʤ/, /k/, /g/,/r/,/h/,/w/,/j/,/θ/,/ʒ/, /ŋ/.See the
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 9
In contrast, according to Doan Thien Thuat, there are 30 consonants in total.
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 10
However, there are 2 kinds of consonant : initial consonants and ending
consonants. There are 22 initial consonants. They are: Those are /b, m, f, v, t, t’, d, n, z,
ʐ, s, ş, c, ʈ, ɲ, l, k, χ, ŋ, ɣ, h, ʔ/
Le Quang Thiem, p. 105
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 11
Point of articulation
Manner of articulation Flat Retroflex
Voiceless t ʈ c k ?
Voiced b d
Sonant (Nasal) m n ɲ ŋ
Voiceless f s ʂ x h
Voiced v z ʐ ɣ
Sonant (Lateral) l
There are 8 ending consonants and ending consonants are classified into 2
kinds: 6 consonants : p, t, k, m, n, ŋ and 2 semi-consonants (semi-vowels) : •-
Má, lá, chợ, thơ : no change in final phoneme’s timbre -> zero ending consonant
- Mai, tai, đau, thau: change in final phoneme’s timbre (closing) -> ending consonants
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 12
Le Quang Thiem, p.106
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 13
Le Quang Thiem, p.101
Contrastive Analysis of consonants of English and Vietnamese
There are 3 ways of classifying consonants of English they are voicing,
place of articulation, manner of articulation, while there is just 1 way of classifying
Vietnamese consonants: the position of the consonant. Based on the place of
consonants, Vietnamese consonants are initial ( there are 22 consonants such as /b, m,
f, v, t, t’, d, n, z, ʐ, s, ş, c, ʈ, ɲ, l, k, χ, ŋ, ɣ, h, ʔ/) and ending consonants (there are 8
such as : /p, t, k, m, n, ŋ/ ). However, we can see in the above table, in the initial
Vietnamese consonants, there are some more small groups. In initial Vietnamese
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 14
consonants there are 2 big groups they are plosive (tắc) and fricative (xát) .In each
groups has 2 more small groups they are Obstruent (ồn) and Sonant Lateral vang
bên) (such as /l/) for fricative or sonant Nasal (vang mũi) (such as /m/, /n/) for plosive. In
Obstruent of Plosive, there are 2 smaller groups they are Aspirated (/t’/)and
Unaspirated and in Unaspirated, there are voiced (/b/,/d/) and voiceless consonants
(/t/,/c/,/k/…). How about In Obstruent of Fricative? There are just voiced ( such as /v,
/z/…) and voiceless consonants (such as /f/, /s/…). In another words, Vietnamese chart
is more detailed than English chart. There are more categorizing criteria for manner of
articulation in Vietnamese consonants than English consonants. In contrast there are
less categorizing criteria for place of articulation in Vietnamese consonants than English
In English, consonants can be at initial, medial and final positions while in
Vietnamese there are the positions of the consonants as we can see above (22 initial
consonants and 8 ending consonants) and there are some changes in the spelling in
the combination of the Vietnamese consonants and Vowels ( according to Mr.Ngo Nhu
Binh) for example:
The phoneme /k/ is represented by the character c before the mid and back
vowels, by the character k before the front vowels and by qu in a labialized syllable.
The final consonants /k/ and /n/ are indicated by the characters c and ng
respectively after the mid and back vowels and by the characters ch and nh after the
front vowels: các, cáng, cách, cánh.
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 15
In another words, in Vietnamese, syllables contrast by ending differently
Some endure and preserve the timbre of the main phoneme: má, cho, đi
.There is no ending consonant
Some end by changing timbre at the last phoneme due to closing of the
articulators: semi-consonants: / / (tai), / / (đau) and Consonants: /n/ (chân),
/k/ (khóc), /t/ (suốt).
In Vietnamese consonants, we pay more attention to tongue position such as
Flat ,Retroflex or Dorsal (môi,đầu lưỡi, mặt lưỡi,gốc lưỡi or thanh hầu …).How about
English consonants? We pay more attention to other articulators such as
Dental,Alveolar or Palatal alveolar (răng, lợi or ngạc …)
In English consonants sometimes with the same consonants we write differently
such as /k/ in cake and unique or /f/ in fish and laugh. That case always causes
troubles to non-native speakers when pronouncing the words.
There are some English consonants that Vietnamese consonants don’t have
such as / θ, ð , ʃ, ʒ , tʃ, dʒ , p/ so it’s hard for Vietnamese to speak these sound
correctly. However, the way of pronouncing some these sounds is similar to some
Vietnamese consonants. We can imitate. And /w/ and /j/ don’t exist in Vietnam.
In English consonants, there are consonant clusters while in our consonant
system there is no that situation such as street /str/, speak /sp/…When we
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 16
,Vietnamese people meet words with consonant clusters, it’s not easy for us at all
because it’s totally different from pronouncing mother tongue.
Based on the manner of articulation English consonant alveolar Lateral is
/l/ and glottal fricative is /h/ and Vietnamese consonants have the same like that.
According to Peter Roach, all consonants, except for /h/, are
distinguished fortis or lenis depends on prior vowel ( short, long or diphthongs):
- Long vowels -> weak final consonant (lenis): heard /hɜ:d/, hers / hɜ:z/,
rye /rai/, rise /raiz/
– Short vowels -> strong final consonant (fortis): hurt /hɜ:t/, right /rait/,
hearse /hɜ:s/, rice /rais/
There are some similar consonants of English and Vietnamese we have to pay
attention to pronounce them correctly: /m/, /v/, /f/, /s/ in Vietnamese and / ʃ / in English,
/w/ in English and /k/ in Vietnamese ( some such as quả,quan…), /s/ in English and /x/
Those are some points I found about the similarities and the differences in
English and Vietnamese consonants. The last point I want to show here is the teaching
First in first, from my opinion the possibility of speaking English of the
Vietnamese students is limited because we have much time teaching speaking in class
especially the pronunciation of the sounds. Moreover, as you know, all the English
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 17
exams in our public schools just focus on the grammar and vocabulary so English
teachers think it’s unnecessary teaching speaking lessons the most important is how to
teach them the grammar points and vocabularies so that they can get high scores in
the exams. It’s totally wrong. If we just teach them the vocabularies grammars not
pronunciation, they cannot apply what were taught in their real life, they just know the
theory. Vietnamese students are not confident enough to speak in public so we should
design some games to encourage them to speak. Or even we use bonus marks to help
them get involved in the speaking lessons
Secondly, when we do the same thing so many times, it will become a
habit. When the child is not taught pronouncing a word correctly, he will
pronounce it incorrectly for ever after. Speaking another language is the same. If
we,the English teachers don’t correct mispronouncing, our students will
mispronounce and it’s too hard for them to change their habit.
Thirdly, we are English teachers, we’re the models, too. Therefore, we
should speak English in class so that our students can get used to listening and
reacting in English. Every times you suspect your pronunciation, you should
check immediately in dictionary to make sure that what you have known are
correct. Remember that if you pronounce the words incorrectly, your students
seem as parrots, they will mispronounce them, too.
The forth point I want to mention here is that we should play some tapes
with native speakers’ voice so that our students can imitate the voice, the
intonation or the stress.
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 18
Last but not least, as I have mentioned above, there are some similar
consonants in English and Vietnamese ( of course there are similar vowels, too), if we
can help our students to compare these similar sounds, they won’t mispronounce
because they can imitate from their mother tongue.
Being an English teacher in the future, I have to master all areas of English such
as grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation… However, the time I spend for speaking is not
long because when I was in high school, I never speak English. Therefore, I have had
many difficulties in speaking. That is also the reason why I choose this topic. I want to
know the similarities and differences between English and Vietnamese consonants so
that I can pronounce them and teach them correctly. Moreover, I hope that I, myself
and my students can speak English to foreigners confidently and successfully because
the final purpose of pronouncing the words is communication in real life. I hope that ma
work so far so good helps you understand more about the system of English and
Vietnamese consonants and their similarities and differences. From this you can
realize the significant role of teaching pronunciation in high school.
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 19
Âm vị và các hệ thống âm vị tiếng Việt (2006). Retrieved December 17th 2010
Consonants( 2010). Retrieved December 17th 2010
Consonants and vowels ( 2007). Retrieved December 17th 2010
Manners of consonants (2010). Retrieved December 17th 2010
Place of articulation (2010). Retrieved December 17th 2010
Speak English! (n.d) Retrieved December 17th 2010
Criss JP (2010). Pronunciation. Retrieved December 17th 2010
Contrastive Analysis of English and Vietnamese Consonants 20
Lê Quang Thiêm ( 2004). Nghiên Cứu Đối Chiếu Các Ngôn Ngữ. Hà Nội : Nhà xuất bản
Đại học quốc gia Hà Nội
Ngo Nhu Binh (n.d). Harvard University. Retrieved December 17th 2010
Roach, Peter (1983). English Phonetics and Phonology. Cambridge