Oral exams are an important part of every language course for students because this allows both students and parents to see if they are starting to master the language.
In Singapore, oral exams are important in a child’s English Language course, especially if they are taking their PSLE or their GCE. For PSLE, oral exams are worth 15% of your child’s English grade while it will be 20% of their GCE ‘O’ Levels grade.
Unfortunately, oral exams can be tricky because there are words that can trip your child by accident and affect their overall results.
Why is Pronunciation important in Oral Exams?
Out of all the errors that can be spotted in oral exams, pronunciation errors are common.
If it is recognised by the examiner, they will take off points from the student easily. One reason why students make pronunciation errors is probably due to their bad habit of speaking Singlish at home. Here is how you can articulate the words at home using phonics.
Although Singlish is mostly English, there are words which are pronounced differently that have a hint of Malay or Chinese dialect in them. Others may have issues with their pronunciation because they are words with multiple pronunciations.
Common Mispronounced Words
As a part of exam preparation including English Oral exams, here are some of the most common mispronounced words and how to get past the mistakes when using them in oral exams:
- Wrong pronunciation: Selm-uhn
- Correct pronunciation: Sam-uhn
When saying the word “Salmon”, you do not include the “L” when you say it orally because it is a silent letter. While this is not usually used in sentences, it may appear in your child’s Reading Aloud section. Knowing this in advance will also help in the long run.
- Wrong pronunciation: Tuh/Dee/Duh
- Correct pronunciation: Thee/Thuh
“The” is one of the most commonly used English words that can be tricky to pronounce. There are at least five different ways on how people pronounce it, with two the only correct ways to do so.
The reason for the confusion can be caused by two reasons: when the word is used before a word that starts in a vowel sound and how Singaporeans say “th”.
For example, you would use “thee” when you are saying words that come with a vowel sound like “the uninjured”, while you use “thuh” when saying words with a consonant sound like “the usual”. The “U” in the word “usual” is pronounced as “yu”, while the “U” in the word “uninjured” is pronounced as “ahn”.
For the second reason, many Singaporeans find it difficult to say words with soft “th” in them. Usually, you will hear them saying the “T” hard or “tuh.” The reason for this problem is caused by a dental fricative, words with a consonant sound that is pronounced with the tip of the tongue touching against a person’s teeth.
The problem with pronouncing “The” is also shared in words with “th” sounds like “Clothes” or “Others.” To get rid of the problem, get your child to read aloud with these techniques.
- Wrong pronunciation: Chew-ren/Chil-ren/Chew-dren
- Correct pronunciation: Chi-L-dren
Surprisingly, the word “children” is also a common problem for some students to pronounce.
The “L” in the word is not a silent letter and must be enunciated when spoken. Usually, chewing adolescents make this mistake. While their pronunciation is cute, it is not something that you should let them continue with this habit. This is why phonics classes are important at a young age as shown here.
Aside from the “L”, another problem students have when pronouncing the word is the “d” sound in the middle. Students tend to swallow the sound when pronouncing, as a result, it sounds like it is a silent letter. Like the “L”, the “d” sound must be pronounced when saying the word.
- Wrong pronunciation: Wen-nes-day
- Correct pronunciation: Wens-day
The problem with this word is caused by the fact it is often pronounced incorrectly. As a result, some students find it hard to pronounce correctly.
When pronouncing the word, the “D” and the second “E” are silent which is why the correct pronunciation, and the faster way to say the word, is “Wensday”.
- Wrong pronunciation: Proh-noun-see-ey-shen
- Correct pronunciation: Pruh-nuhn-see-ey-shen
It is actually quite tricky to pronounce the word “pronunciation” and even teachers find it tricky to do at times.
The reason for this is the word’s root word, “pronounce”, which is said as “proh-noun-ss”. When you try to say “pronunciation”, some sounds are replaced to make it “pruh-nuhn-see-ey-shen.”
- Wrong pronunciation: Pooh-lees
- Correct pronunciation: Puh-lees
The usual mispronunciation of this word is actually rude for the people who are referred to with the word. The first sound “Pooh” sounds like “poo” and it is very rude to refer to people as such even if they are a group you don’t like.
- Wrong pronunciation: Pi-cher
- Correct pronunciation: Pik-cher
When Singaporeans pronounce the word “Picture”, they usually ignore “c.” However, this is not correct because it is not a silent letter.
When your child says this word with the wrong pronunciation, it will lose them points and make a bad impression at the same time. There are ways to encourage your child to improve himself better.
- Wrong pronunciation: “irregardless”/ Ee-ree-gahrd-luhs
- Correct pronunciation: “regardless”/ ree-gahrd-luhs
This word is not usually a problem with mispronunciation, but incorrect usage. When it is used in your child’s oral exams, it will be disastrous if they use the wrong word.
Singaporeans often misuse the word “regardless” and “irregardless” and use them interchangeably. However, when you say “irregardless”, you are negating the statement. Teach your kids the right way to use these words and prevent them from using the words interchangeably.
If you want to assist your children with their pronunciation, you can help by regularly using the words in daily conversations and letting your child hear the right pronunciation as you use it in your responses.
You can also introduce other mispronounced words in your conversations to help them get familiar with these words and practice them regularly. Making pronunciation mistakes is common if you are still learning a language, but it can be improved on with some practice. If your child needs professional help, we are happy to assist.
So, before your child takes on their English oral exams, practice their oral skills at home as much as you can. Constant practice will help them get used to oral exams and score better in the future.
For more articles on improving oral skills, check out these articles: