The investigation of Chinese TFL learners’ abilities to distinguish Thai initial consonant sounds

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Orrathip Geerativudhipong
Songsri Soranasataporn
Vannaporn Phongpheng


This study investigates the ability of Chinese learners of Thai as a Foreign Language, (TFL), to distinguish between pairs of Thai initial consonant sounds. There were two groups of participants: (i) Chinese undergraduate students and Thai language instructors participated in a survey and; (ii) Chinese undergraduate students took part in listening experiments to explore these potential challenges. Research instruments included: (i) needs analysis questionnaires, one for Chinese TFL undergraduate students and another for Thai language instructors, to assess perception of difficulty, and; (ii) a minimal pair listening task. The results identified the Thai initial consonant sound pairs /ŋ/ and /ʔ/, /d/ and /t/, /b/ and /p/, and /r/ and /l/ as being difficult for Chinese TFL learners to be distinguished, whereas /t/ and /th/, /k/ and /kh/, and /p/ and /ph/ did not present serious problems for this group of Chinese students. In terms of underlying causes of Chinese TFL learners’ listening and speaking errors, the interference from Chinese phonology and the irregular learning of Thai phonology are the two main causes for their listening and speaking errors. These findings may prove useful for teaching the Thai language to Chinese TFL learners, especially in the design of learning materials to improve understanding of Thai initial consonant sounds.


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