English for Urdu and Hindi Speakers: 10 Pronunciation Challenges

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Download American English Pronunciation Guide For Urdu and Hindi Speakers Click here to get PDF and Audio

In this episode, you’ll learn 10 of the most common pronunciation challenges Urdu and Hindi speakers face when speaking English. You’ll also learn how to pronounce the sounds, and how to practice your American accent effectively.

Mispronunciations happen when a sound in the target language, in this case, English, doesn’t exist in the speaker’s native tongue (Hindi-Urdu). When this happens, speakers tend to pronounce a different (but somewhat similar) sound that does exist in their language.

Scroll down to read about each challenge and download the FREE English Pronunciation guide for Hindi and Urdu speakers:

DOWNLOAD Free American English Guide for Hindi and Urdu speakers

And TRANSFORM your English

Get PDF and audio

Challenge #1: Confusing V with W

In Hindi-Urdu there is no distinction between W and V. The sound that is usually used instead is the labiodental /ʋ/, a sound that has both a V and a W qualities, where the top teeth come close to the bottom lip but not enough to create friction. Therefore, when Hindi-Urdu speakers come across a word with a V sound, it might sound like a W sound, and vice versa. So a word like ‘west’ might sound like ‘vest’ and a word like ‘adventure’ might sound like ‘adwenture’.

Download our FREE workbook to practice these challenges with our lists of words and audio recordings.

Challenge #2: Misplacing the primary stress

Primary stress is essential for clarity. It is the most dominant syllable in the word because it is longer, louder, and higher in pitch. For example, in the word ‘gratitude’, the primary stress is on the first syllable: GRA-ti-tude.
In English, the stress is not predictable so Hindi and Urdu speakers, as many other speakers of English as a second language, might either guess the stress position in a word they don’t know, or apply the stress patterns of their first language.

Challenge #3: Simplifying diphthongs

There are no diphthongs in Hindi and Urdu. When speaking English, Hindi-Urdu speakers tend to drop the W part of the OW diphthong and the Y part of the EY diphthong. In such cases, a word like ‘coat’ might sound like ‘cot’, and a word like ‘mate’ might sound like ‘met’.

Challenge #4: Applying Hindi-Urdu intonation onto English

In Hindi-Urdu, almost all content words are stressed in a sentence. This creates rhythm and intonation patterns in which almost all words are stressed, even function words. In English, however, the pitch goes up usually on the operative words – the key words in the sentence – and other words, especially function words, are weaker, or reduced. When too many words are stressed in English, it becomes harder for the listener to understand the main message of the speaker.

Challenge #5: Breaking consonant clusters

Consonant clusters are sequences of consonants without a vowel between them. Such clusters are less common in Hindi and Urdu than in English, so Hindi and Urdu speakers tend to eliminate such clusters, either by deleting a consonant or by adding a vowel before the cluster or in between the consonants. In such cases an initial cluster like ‘step’ might be pronounced ‘is-tep’, and a final cluster like ‘farm’ might be pronounced ‘farem’.

Download our FREE workbook to practice these challenges with our lists of words and audio recordings.

Challenge #6: The American R

The R in Hindi and Urdu is usually an alveolar or retroflex trill.

Challenge #7: P/T/K sound like B/D/G at the beginning of words

While in English sounds are divided into two groups (voiced and voiceless, where the voiceless are aspirated), in Hindi-Urdu certain sounds are divided into four groups: voiced (like in ‘bin’), voiceless (like in ‘spin’), aspirated voiceless (like in ‘pin’), and aspirated voiced.

When speaking English, Hindi and Urdu speakers might under-pronounce the P/T/K. At the beginning of English words, Hindi-Urdu speakers might pronounce these sounds without aspiration, which might even make them sound like B/D/G and confuse the listener. On the other hand, they might also over-pronounce the sound and add too much aspiration.

On a side note, in Hindi-Urdu there are also retroflex T and D, which sound a bit heavier than the front T and D in English (pronounced further at the back of the mouth).

Challenge #8: Mispronouncing the TH as an aspirated T or D

For the TH, the tongue has to stick out from between the teeth. Hindi-Urdu doesn’t have the TH sounds so its speakers tend to change the voiceless TH to an aspirated T, and the voiced TH to a D sound.
It is a common mispronunciation which sometimes results in pronouncing different words in the same way. For example, the TH in ‘thanks’ might sound like ‘tanks’, and the TH in ‘they’ would sound like ‘day’.

Challenge #9: Merging vowel pairs

Hindi and Urdu speakers distinguish between vowel pairs such as /u/ as in ‘pool’ and /ʊ/ as in ‘pull, and between /i/ as in ‘sheep’ and /ɪ/ as in ‘ship’. Nevertheless, they sometimes confuse them in English.

Challenge #10: /ʒ/ is confused with /dʒ/

The /ʒ/ sound (as in ‘pleasure’) is not common in Hindi-Urdu, and many speakers pronounce it as a /dʒ/ sound (as in ‘George’).

Download our FREE workbook to practice these challenges with our lists of words and audio recordings.

See our American English pronunciation guides for Spanish, Russian, Brazilian, Chinese and Korean speakers.

Liked this video?

Get a weekly bite size pronunciation lesson straight to your inbox

Don’t like it? No problem. You can unsubscribe in one click.

3 Comments on “English for Urdu and Hindi Speakers: 10 Pronunciation Challenges”

  1. Hey Hadar
    I’m an India a Hindi speaker
    You were so clear with the explanation of sounds.
    Thank you so much waiting for more

    1. Hello Hadar, I need to improve my presentation skills & have talks with some one who n English

  2. Hi Hadar !
    That’s wonderful ! Hilarious ! An absolutely amazing Performance. A real musical production. In addition, a perfect English teaching program. Let me inspire you please, as half a joke to compile and perform a language musical of Broadway style ! It could be woven together with music – but not necessarily.
    It would perhaps accelerate the embracing of New Sound by an even larger population of American.
    Forgive me, I’m not an expert but it’s so evident that you are endeavouring towards a role combined an actress and great teacher. (Maybe, great actresses are at the same time great teachers) Nevertheless, forgive me please this idea. Laszlo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *