Research in Language


This article presents and discusses a mixed-method study that seeks to establish a set of words in the English language that in-service primary school teachers consider difficult to pronounce by young learners of English whose first language (L1) is Norwegian. In the study, 26 in-service primary school teachers of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) are asked to write a reflective essay with a list of phonetically difficult words (henceforth PDWs) in English that they think are difficult to pronounce by young EFL learners. Additionally, the in-service primary school teachers (further – participants) are requested to reflect and comment on PDWs, and explain the reasons why they think they are phonetically difficult. The participants’ individual lists of PDWs are compiled into a corpus which is processed in the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) in order to calculate the frequency of PDWs. The participants’ comments and reflections are subsequently analysed qualitatively in order to establish the sources of PDWs. The results of the investigation reveal that the corpus of PDWs is comprised of 257 lexical items. The most frequent PDWs are associated with those sounds of the English language that are absent in the young EFL learners’ L1, Norwegian, e.g., /θ/ in birthday, /ð/ in this, /z/ in zoo, etc. Other frequent PDWs are related to English spelling conventions (e.g., fruit), the word-initial position of affricates (e.g., chocolate), and word stress (e.g., window). These findings and their linguo-didactic implications are further discussed in the article.


English as a foreign language (EFL), in-service EFL teachers, phonetically difficult words (PDWs), young EFL learners


Bakken, Anja Synnøve, and Ragnhild Elisabeth Lund. 2018. Why should learners of English read? Norwegian English teachers' notions of EFL reading. Teaching and Teacher Education 70, 78-87.

Brinton, Donna, Celce-Murcia, Marianne, and Janet Goodwin. 2010 (2nd ed.). Teaching pronunciation: A course book and reference guide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Copland, Fiona, Sue Garton, and Anne Burns. 2014. Challenges in teaching English to young learners: Global perspectives and local realities. Tesol Quarterly 48(4). 738-762.

Drew, Ion. 2009. Using the early years literacy programme in primary EFL Norwegian classrooms. In: Early learning of modern foreign languages: Processes and outcomes, se. by Marianne Nikolov. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 108-120.

Drew, Ion, Oostdam, Ron and Han van Toorenburg. 2007. Teachers' experiences and perceptions of primary EFL in Norway and the Netherlands: a comparative study. European Journal of Teacher Education 30 (3), 319-341,

Howell, Peter, James Au-Yeung, Scott Yaruss, & Kevin Eldridge. 2006. Phonetic difficulty and stuttering in English. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics, 20 (9), 703-716.

Iverson, Gregory K. 1983. Korean /s/. Journal of Phonetics 11, 191-200.

Jarosz, Anna. 2019. English Pronunciation in L2 Instruction. The Case of Secondary School Learners. Cham: Springer.

Mellegård, Ingebjørg, and Karin Dahlberg Pettersen. 2012. Curriculum practice: English teachers’ understanding and realisation of the new national curriculum, LK06. In: The Young Language Learner. Research-based Insights into Teaching and Learning, ed. by Angela Hasselgreen, Ion Drew and Bjørn Sørheim. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget, 207-218.

Neville, Colin. 2010 (2nd ed.) The Complete Guide to Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Olsen, Sonni. 1999. Errors and compensatory strategies: A study of grammar and vocabulary in texts written by Norwegian learners of English. System 27(2), 191-205.

Porzuczek, Andrzej. 2015. Handling Global and Local English Pronunciation Errors, In: Teaching and Researching the Pronunciation of English: Studies in Honour of Włodzimierz Sobkowiak, ed. by E. Waniek-Klimczak and M. Pawlak. [Second Language Learning and Teaching] London: Springer, 169-187.

Porzuczek, Andrzej and Arkadiusz Rojczyk. 2017. English word stress in Polish learners’ speech production and metacompetence. Research in Language (15) 4. 313-323.

Research in Language. 2019. Internet site at Sciendo [accessed on 1 August 2019];

Rogerson-Revell, Pamela. 2011. English Phonology and Pronunciation Teaching. London, UK: Continuum.

Rugesæter, Kåre Nitter. 2014. Difficult contrasts: an analysis of phonemic distinctions in the English of young Norwegian learners seen against the backdrop of incidental foreign language learning. Acta Didactica Norge 8 (1). 1-20.

Rugesæter, Kåre Nitter. 2012. Phonological competence in English among Norwegian pupils and implications for the teaching of pronunciation in the English classroom. In: The Young Language Learner. Research-based Insights into Teaching and Learning, ed. by Angela Hasselgreen, Ion Drew and Bjørn Sørheim. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget, 119-130.

Scheffler, Paweł, May Olaug Horverak, and Anna Domińska. 2018. English Instruction in Polish and Norwegian Secondary Schools: Convergent goals, divergent means. In: Challenges of Second and Foreign Language Education in a Globalized World. Studies in Honor of Krystyna Droździał-Szelest, ed. by Mirosław Pawlak and Anna Mystkowska-Wiertelak. Cham: Springer, 131-149.

Speitz, Heike. 2012. Experiences with an earlier start to modern foreign language other than English in Norway. In: The Young Language Learner. Research-based Insights into Teaching and Learning, ed. by Angela Hasselgreen, Ion Drew and Bjørn Sørheim. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget, 11-22.

SPSS IBM. 2011. IBM SPSS statistics for Windows, version 20.0. New York: IBM Corp.

Szpyra-Kozłowska, Jolanta. 2012. Mispronounced lexical items in Polish English of advanced learners. Research in Language 10 (2), 243-256.

Szpyra-Kozłowska, Jolanta. 2011. Phonetically difficult words in intermediate learners’ English. In: Speaking and Instructed Foreign Language Acquisition, ed. by M. Pawlak, E. Waniek-Klimczak, & J. Majer. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 286-299.

Tergujeff, Elina. English Pronunciation Teaching: Four Case Studies from Finland. Journal of Language Teaching & Research 3 (4), 599-607.

Trecca, Fabio, et al. 2019. Segmentation of Highly Vocalic Speech Via Statistical Learning: Initial Results From Danish, Norwegian, and English. Language Learning 69 (1), 143-176.

Walsh, Steve. 2011. Exploring classroom discourse: Language in action. London/New York: Routledge.

Wingate Marcel E. 2002. Foundations of stuttering. San Diego: Academic Press.

Zhang, Shumei. 2009. The role of input, interaction, and output in the development of oral fluency. English Language Teaching, 2(4), 91–100.

First Page


Last Page