Common errors made by Bulgarian learners of English

SmilingInPrague

New Member
English
Hello. I am applying to a program that would bring me to Bulgaria to teach English. I am currently in a master's program in TESOL, so I'm interested in what problems Bulgarians typically have with respect to learning English. For example, are some phonemes especially difficult? Are some syntactic errors very common?

Any information you can provide in this regard would be tremendously helpful.

Thanks ahead of time,
MF
 
  • Kartof

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian & English
    The 'th' phoneme doesn't exist in Bulgarian and is difficult for many Bulgarians to pronounce.

    Bulgarian vowels are short and concise. Many Bulgarians would have trouble with English diphthongs, as well as the slight 'w' sound that follows most vowels in English.

    Spelling would be especially difficult as Bulgarian spelling is typically one-to-one, phoneme to sound.

    Other than that, general word order in Bulgarian is similar to that in English and Bulgarians are familiar with the English use of prepositions and complex verbs.

    Bulgarian has definite articles (like the) but they're used more often than in English. Also, Bulgarian lacks a (true) indefinite article (a/an) which might be tricky for some to understand as a concept since, in Bulgarian, a noun without a definite article implies an unwritten indefinite article.
     

    Arath

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I will elaborate on what Kartof said.

    Bulgarian does not distinguish vowel length. So pairs like hit/heat, pull/pool, cot/caught are usually pronounced the same. Hit and heat can be pronounced differently by Bulgarian speakers because we have a similar opposition in Bulgarian би/бий, пи/пий, but instead of /hɪt/ and /hiːt/, they are pronounced more like /hit/ and /hijt/, so hit sounds like heat to native speakers.

    The vowel of trap is pronounced either as /ɛ/ or /a/ or even /ja/ so cat becomes кят /kjat/.
    The vowel of strut is pronounced either as /ɤ/ or /a/.
    The vowel of father does not exist in Bulgarian and is substituted with /a/.
    Bulgarians usually don't have problems with the schwa /ə/ and the vowel of dress.
    Reduction of unstressed /ɛ/ to /i/ or /ɪ/, although present in the Eastern dialects is stigmatized so people avoid it in English, too. This leads to realizations like /sɛ'kjurəti/ and /rɛ'spekt/, instead of /sɪˈkjʊrəti/ or /səˈkjʊrəti/ and /rɪˈspɛkt/.
    In Bulgarian, all voiced consonants at the end of words are devoiced. So cut/cud, dick/dig, thing/think and so on are homophones. The most famous example of this is the ending -ing, which is universally pronounced as -ink: workink, doink.
    Even the diphthongs are pronounced distinctly shorter: /aj/, /ej/, /ɔj/ instead of /aɪ/, /eɪ/ /ɔɪ/.
    The vowel /oʊ/ (AmE) or /əʊ/ (BrE) is pronounced as a diphthong only in open syllables, so go and no are /goʊ/ and /noʊ/, but don't and won't are /dɔnt/ and /wɔnt/.
    Bulgarian lacks aspiration, so t, p and k are never aspirated.
    The consonant /h/ is substituted with /x/.
    Bulgarians have difficulty distinguishing between cold/called, bold/bald and so on.
    If a verb ends in -y, when adding -ing one syllable is lost, so bullying /ˈbʊlijɪŋ/ becomes bulling /'buliŋk/.
    The vowel of strut, when spelled with and o (as in love and done), is very often pronounced with and /ɔ/, so won, among and encourage become /wɔn/, /ə'mɔŋk/ and /en'kɔritʃ/.
    Longer words like demonstration and information are not pronounced with a secondary stress.

    In English one uses the zero article with uncountable and plural nouns when one talks generally about people or things.

    Love will save the world.
    Milk is good for your health.
    Life is unfair.
    People are selfish.
    Teachers like having long holidays.

    In Bulgarian, in these cases the definite article is required so Bulgarians (zero article again) very often put it there when they speak English.
    In indirect questions the word order remains the same as in direct questions (I don't know what is this.)
    Improper use of many and much.

    I might think of something else, meanwhile you can listen to native Bulgarians speak English on YouTube, search for Meglena Kuneva, Kristalina Georgieva, Ivailo Kalfin.
     
    Last edited:

    osemnais

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    From my experience I can tell we usually pronounce ɤ instead of ə and ʌ
    Also its difficult for us not to pronounce b d g as p t k in the end of the word
     

    Kartof

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian & English
    Do you also tend to pronounce word-final v and z as f and s?
    Yes, in fact, names that end with a 'v' in Bulgarian such as Атанасов(Atanasov) would be pronounced Atanasoff, hence the spelling of John Atanasoff's name in English. This was an older tradition in Bulgarians who immigrated to English speaking countries and now the ending -ov/-ev is typically used instead of -off/-eff. Note that feminine names aren't affected by this since they typically end in -ova/-eva which allows the 'v' to remain voiced since it doesn't end a word.

    An example of devoicing from 'z' to 's' would be in the first person singular subject pronoun 'аз'(az) pronounced more closely as 'as'. The 's' at the end of the English word 'as', ironically, becomes voiced as 'az'.
     

    Tjahzi

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    A bit off topic, but does anyone have an explanation for why the -ov suffix is transliterated as -off, that is, with double f?
     

    Christo Tamarin

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    A bit off topic, but does anyone have an explanation for why the -ov suffix is transliterated as -off, that is, with double f?
    This is a common problem for both Russian and Bulgarian.

    First, in Masculine, it is really heard -of/-off, and not -ov. Second, in German, if the spelling was -of, then the wovel would be closed and long (as in German Bahnhof) which is not the case: we have here an open and short wovel so we need double f in German spelling.
     

    Tjahzi

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    Ehm, this has nothing to do with German. My question was, to be a bit more precise, why do we suddenly apply a spelling convention, inconsistently employed by some European languages using Latin alphabets, for a single suffix? When we hear, what some languages would consider a short vowel, we never double a single following consonant when transliterating. So why in the case of -ov?
    (I can think of two explanations, old bad habits and lack of knowledge.)
     

    Duya

    Senior Member
    Whatever
    I'm not sure that it has "nothing to do with German", on the contrary. At the time, German was a dominant language of the central and eastern Europe, and as such it was a frequent source of Slavic transliterations into other western languages. Furthermore, Germans themselves have a plenty of surnames of Slavic origin, which most frequently got germanized using -off or -eff, and that tradition simply continued for "non-native" surnames, such as Bulgarian or Russian.

    At least, that is my conjecture...
     

    Bog Svarog

    Member
    Macedonian, Dutch
    I will elaborate on what Kartof said.

    Bulgarian does not distinguish vowel length. So pairs like hit/heat, pull/pool, cot/caught are usually pronounced the same. Hit and heat can be pronounced differently by Bulgarian speakers because we have a similar opposition in Bulgarian би/бий, пи/пий, but instead of /hɪt/ and /hiːt/, they are pronounced more like /hit/ and /hijt/, so hit sounds like heat to native speakers.
    Here you are already making some mistakes that are typical for a Bulgarian.
    hit/heat
    This has nothing to do with being able to distinguish vowel length, regardless of how the English (or you) might want to call it (and the Dutch have these ridiculous and unlogical names as well).
    The ea from heat and the i from hit are not two versions of the same sound, period.
    Turning hit into hiit will not yield heat, as they are different vowels. You can stretch i from hit in any way you like, but it won't ever turn into the ea from heat, and to me that's the end of it. They might as well be calling oo a long e, for crying out loud.

    The very same can be said of pull, which is an even better example.
    Contrary to what you are saying, Bulgarians can actually just pronounce them without too much difficulty (not perfect but still good enough)
    Пъл/пъъл vs пуул. There you go.


    I've always found it fascinating how Bulgarians (and Macedonians for that matter) actually think that these sounds are the same, when they are very clearly not alike at all.
    Macedonians from Skopje are an even greater enigma, because they have the English i from hit in their everyday speech (and THAT is a stretched short i!), while when having to say hit in English, they still pronounce it as heat. Sigh...
     

    Tjahzi

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    I'm not sure that it has "nothing to do with German", on the contrary. At the time, German was a dominant language of the central and eastern Europe, and as such it was a frequent source of Slavic transliterations into other western languages. Furthermore, Germans themselves have a plenty of surnames of Slavic origin, which most frequently got germanized using -off or -eff, and that tradition simply continued for "non-native" surnames, such as Bulgarian or Russian.

    At least, that is my conjecture...
    You have some points. Thanks for sharing.

    (That said, I'd say my two reasons listed above are still valid.)
     

    tuplemix

    New Member
    Bulgarian
    I do realise this is an old thread, but just wanted to point out that Bulgarians tend to use dark l instead of light l in words like loo, loud, look, lost and law.
     
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