I wrote this as part of the IH Certificate in Advanced Methodology course which I’ve been following this year. It was partly gleaned from my own experience, and partly from this excellent piece of work conducted at the Pedagogical Faculty at the university in Ceske Budejovice. The only scientific research that went into it was done by the people at the university, and not by me!
Czech is one of the languages which does not appear in Micheal Swan’s excellent Learner English, which details not only pronunciation problems, but also grammar and vocabulary errors, for speakers from a variety of language backgrounds.
I hope you find it useful! (Please let me know if any of the phonetic symbols don’t show up properly and I’ll attach a pdf version too)
1.1. Vowel Sounds
1.1.1. Czech only has 5 vowel phonemes, compared to 20 in English. As Czech has a direct link between spelling and pronunciation, this can cause problems for speakers when they do not know which vowel sound to use in a particular English word.
1.1.2. In Czech all syllables are pronounced equally. All vowels are strong and no equivalent to the English schwa /ə/ exists.
1.1.3. Czech speakers find it hard to differentiate between the sounds /æ/, /e/ and /ʌ/, in pairs such as bad/bed, cap/cup
1.2. Consonant sounds
1.2.1. Neither pronunciation of the morpheme ‘th’ (/ð/, /θ/) exists in Czech. Learners have a tendency to replace them with similar sounds which do not involve putting the tongue between the teeth, namely /d/ or /dz/ for /ð/ and /f/ or /s/ for /θ/.
1.2.2. /w/ does not exist in Czech. Learners often replace it with /v/. They sometimes also use /w/ in place of /v/.
1.2.3. /r/ is pronounced in the middle and at the end of words, where it should only be pronounced at the beginning. Czechs also sometimes roll the /r/ sound, which is not necessary in English. Students do not use it to lengthen the preceding vowel sound (see 22.214.171.124).
1.2.4. /ŋ/, /g/, /k/: these phonemes are most often confused at the end of a word ending in -ing (thing/think, sing/sink). The /g/ can be lost or pronounced as /k/.
1.2.5. Voiceless /s/ and voiced /z/ are often confused, such as bus/buzz.
1.2.6. ‘ch’ exists as a single phoneme /x/ in Czech. Learners transfer this to English, especially to replace /k/ in words such as chaos.
1.2.7. The phonemes /p/, /t/ and /k/ at the beginning of a word are often not aspirated by Czech speakers of English. Alternatively, they over-aspirate the same phonemes in mid- and final positions in a word.
1.3.1. All Czech words are stressed on the first syllable. This is often transferred to English.
1.3.2. The differences between English spelling and pronunciation cause the following problems:
126.96.36.199. incorrect choice of vowel sound (see 1.1.1)
188.8.131.52. confusion when V+C= vowel sound e.g. ‘er’ in father = /ə/ not /ɜr/, ‘al’ in calm = /a:/ not /æl/
184.108.40.206. pronunciation of silent letters, such as /b/ in bomb
220.127.116.11. a difficulty in predicting the pronunciation of previously unseen words
2.1. Czech is a syllable-timed language, whereas English is stress-timed. Czech speakers of English therefore find it difficult to use weak forms of common words such as of, a, can. They tend to place equal stress on all the words in a sentence. This is further confused when contrastive stress is introduced to students and they have to decide which stress pattern to choose.
2.2. There is a much wider range of intonation patterns in English than in Czech. This can lead to Czech English sounding ‘flat’ to a native speaker.
2.3. Linking words and sounds through assimilation and elision is much more common in English than in Czech.
Reference (consulted 11 May 2011)
-, (1997/1998), ‘Most common pronunciation problems of Czech speakers of English’, Pedegogical Faculty JU , Cesky Budejovice,