Pronunciation is one of the fundamental aspects in speaking skill and should be taken as consideration by teachers and students to acquire good English communication. The way students speak tells something about themselves to surround people. It affects students’ competence and their performance. Good pronunciation can increase student’s self-confidence and creates a good impression to listeners. Students who have good pronunciation can build good communication and more likely to be understood well even though mistakes appear in some areas such as grammar or spelling. On the other hand, poor pronunciation carries to misunderstanding in communication although students speak grammatically correct. Thus, students with poor pronunciation skill are judged as incompetent and avoid speaking English even if they have a rich command of vocabulary.
Despite the fact that Indonesian have been accustomed to the English language since the Dutch introduced it during their colonialism period, mispronunciation of certain English sound still occurs. Mathew (1997) states that English was taught to elite students and the method used was grammar-translation in which the reading skill was the main focus. The aim was to enable students to access information and knowledge in textbooks and other books written in English. Formerly, speaking was not the main focus let alone pronunciation. Students were taught to be able to read and to write or to translate. The lack of listening and speaking is the reason why students still mispronounce English words.
Nowadays, People communicate in writing as well as speaking. English is used worldwide throughout all aspects of human life such as in economy, business, media, electronic, etc. Additionally, English is spoken not only by native English speakers but also non-native ones. Moreover, English is spoken more by non-native speakers rather than the natives themselves. Only a few countries in the world which English is the first language, others as second language, and most of
the others country state English as a foreign language. Therefore, it is important for teachers to focus on pronunciation to develop students’ communicative skill.
English pronunciation is varied in many aspects such as accents, dialects, and geographical influences. Roach (2000) states that accent also varied from different social classes, ages, and educational backgrounds. These differences make it difficult to identify a standardized English pronunciation. Understanding manner and place of articulation is one way to think of one possible objective method to have a standard English pronunciation. For that reason, articulation is one way to have a standardized pronunciation. It is the movement of tongue, lips and jaw all together to produce sound. The place where the air is obstructed is known as the place of articulation, and how the air from the lungs is formed and released is known as the manner of articulation.
Received Pronunciation (RP), a standardized British pronunciation and General American (GA) are considered by many as two most commonly standardized English pronunciation. Therefore, to have an objective result, the researcher adopts manner and place of articulation of both standardized English pronunciations to be applied in this study, since both phonological systems are not so different from one another. There are 24 consonants exist in English (RP and GA) and nine of them are fricatives. The nine fricatives are labiodental, dental, alveolar, palate-alveolar, and glottal. without discrediting other standardized English pronunciation, RP and GA are chosen because most of the teaching aids are American and British English.
Even though English and Bahasa Indonesia use Latin alphabets, the way to articulate the sound is not entirely identical and in fact some of English sounds are not found in Bahasa Indonesia. This missing sound clearly brings some issues to EFL learners, especially Indonesian students. For example, the phoneme /f/ exists in English and Bahasa Indonesia fricative consonant chart (as in “folder” and “fakta”) and the phoneme /f/ is pronounced the same in both languages. On the other hand, phoneme
/v/ as in “voice” and “validitas” are not similar in articulation. The letter v is used in both languages however the way the sound is pronounced is slightly different somehow there is a bilabial and gullet vibration in pronouncing the phoneme /v/.
Another example of fricative consonants in which mistakenly in a way to pronounce is the phoneme /θ/. Students would simply spell English words based on Indonesian spelling. They pronounce thinker into tinker with aspirated /t/. These two words are contrary to one another, thinker means someone who possesses knowledge while tinker means to get something done without skill. For instance, the sentence “you are a good thinker” can come to misunderstanding when students say tinker which means; you are really good to get something done without skill.
Phoneme /v/ (as in very) and /θ/ (as in thinker) are an example of English fricatives that potentially caused problems for EFL learners because the way to articulate the sound is not similar as in Bahasa Indonesia. Thus, students have problem in pronouncing the phoneme /v/ and /θ/ or other English fricatives. Students have a tendency to similarize the phoneme /f/ and /v/. Actually, the phoneme /f/ is voiceless labiodental fricative and /v/ is voiced labiodental fricative. As a result, students tend to say “vocal” /ꞌfōkǝl/ rather than pronouncing /ꞌvōkǝl/.
several previous studies have been done by various researchers such as the study of Timonen (2011) was comparing the phonological system of English and Finnish fricatives. Two participants of her study were analyzed regarding their mispronunciation of fricatives. The objectives of the study were to find out the mispronounced fricatives by the native Finnish.
To avoid miscommunication in speaking English, EFL learners should pay more attention to their pronunciation. Many of English students pronounce a word the same way as it is written, this is not how native English speakers say it. However, to sound as close as English native speakers is not the main goal of speaking. If each of the speakers understands one another and the message is received exactly what it meant to say, therefore the goal is achieved. However, is it enough to speak well if we could do better?
To imitate distinctly like English native speakers, students should go through series of practices. The possible reason why it is difficult for students in pronouncing English fricative consonant is not only because of lack of practice, but also the sound itself is not familiar to English department students.