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The Diphtongs: the Obstacles for

Indonesian Speakers of English

Desri Maria Sumbayak

Background of the study
There are often learning and production problems when
L1 differs from target L2. The degree of differences
between a learner’s native language and the target
language can lead to greater difficulty (Lightbown and
Spada, 2006).
Phonology is the distinctive area in which one’s native
language often interferes with one’ attempt to acquire
English as second language (Carr, 1999).
Background of the study
Diphthongs (centering and closing) seem to
be the most difficult ones to be produced
by many speakers of other languages
(Kelly, 2000).
For Indonesian speakers, there are
possibilities for the learners to have
problems in diphthongs which are not
found in Bahasa Indonesia: /ɪə/, /ʊə/, /eɪ/,
/eə/, and /oʊ/ (AGPS,1986, Yong, 2001)
Literature Review
• Hart (1965) discovered that Malaysian students
whose mother tongue is Malay or a southern
Chinese dialect had problems with pronunciation of
English tense markers and lax vowels due to the
interferences of Malay, Hokkien and Cantonese.
• Yong (2001) claims that due to the different
phonological system between Malay/Indonesian and
English, there are serious problems that can cause
confusions in pronunciation.
• Alip (2007) points out that Indonesian speakers
tend to pronounce English diphthongs in a lax
manner but diphtongs in English should be tense.
Literature Review (cont.)

Mathew (2005) carried out research on

the mispronunciations of English
consonants for learners whose first
languages are Indonesian, Gayo and
Acehnese. She argued that transfer,
developmental factors, spelling
interference, general processes and
communicative strategies were the
factors leading to the mispronunciations.
Literature Review (cont.)
• Deterding (2003) conducted an
instrumental research on the quality
and length of monophthong vowels
of Singapore English. The interview
was recorded in the Phonetics
Laboratory of the National Institute
of Education. The data was
transcribed and compared to the
recorded data of BBC broadcasters.
The measurement was done by using
computer-based spectrograms.
Literature Review (cont.)
• Deterding (2008) conducted an
extensive study which investigated
the pronunciation of Hong Kong
English. Fifteen fourth-year
undergraduates at Hong Kong
Institute of Education. Interview was
done to get the data. The most
salient feature in this study was the
use of [f] for initial TH in content
words and the use of diphthong for
words FACEand GOAT which were
Literature Review (cont.)
• Tsukada (2008) an acoustic
comparison o English monophtongs
and diphthongs produced by
Australian and Thai speakers.
Participants: 6 Australian students of
psychology and 15 Thai speakers.
Reading list of words for five times,
the participants were recorded by
reading was digitized by using
CoolEdit program. The vowel
duration and quality were analyzed
Research Questions:

Are the Indonesian speakers able to

produce diphthongs /eɪ/ and /oʊ/

Is there a difference between students

and spouses in producing
diphthongs /eɪ/ and /oʊ/ accurately?
 Group of students (four females and
one male) who were studying as
postgraduate students at University
of Canberra with advanced level of
English proficiency.
 Group of spouses (four females and
one male) who were joining their
partners as postgraduate students at
University of Canberra. Their level of
English proficiency is mostly
intermediate to upper-intermediate.

Careful style: the participants were

asked to read two lists of words. The
lists contain the target diphthongs and
Semi-careful style: the participants
were asked to read a story which was
written by the researcher.
Data Collection and
 The data was collected by recording
the participants in reading the lists
of words and a story.
 The diphthong productions were
justified by two Australian native
speakers; one was an English
teacher at CIT and another one was
postgraduate student at UC.
 The interrater reliability was
measured by using Cohen’s Kappa.

50 Spouse
40 Student
/e?/ /o?/ /e?/ /o?/
Result (cont.)

50 Spouse
40 Student
/ e?/ / o? / / e?/ / o? /
Interrater realibility

Pr( a ) −Pr( e)
1 −Pr( e)

Pr(a) − Pr(e) 0.69375− 0.49015 0.2036

κ= = = = 0.39933≈ 0.4
1 − Pr(e) 1 − 0.49015 0.50985

The result confirmed that there were

difficulties for Indonesian speakers to
pronounce English diphthongs which
are not found in Bahasa Indonesia
(AGPS, 1986, Yong,2001).
The participants tend to realize
diphthongs /eɪ/ and /oʊ/ as long
vowel /e/ and /ɒ/.
Discussion (cont.)

For Indonesian speakers, diphthong /oʊ/

seemed to be more problematic than
diphthong /eɪ/.
Students were able to produce more
accurate diphthong /oʊ/ than the spouse.
Speakers tend to produce more
diphthongs accurately in careful style
rather that in semi-careful style.
 There were difficulties for Indonesian
speakers to pronounce English
diphthongs /eɪ/ and /oʊ/ which are
not found in Bahasa Indonesia.
 There was a tendency that
diphthong productions were
substituted by long vowels.
 The ability to pronounce diphthongs
was influenced by English
 Careful style gave more opportunity