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I am a Brazilian speaker, and I'm having trouble understanding the difference between the pronunciation of the words cheating and teaching.


migrated from english.stackexchange.com Aug 13 '14 at 20:46

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

locked by Community Aug 14 '14 at 9:49

why wouldn't there be? – sgroves Aug 13 '14 at 20:27
Any reason you think these two words in particular should sound similar? Note that "cheat" starts with a "ch" and ends with a "t", while the reverse is true of "teach". – Dan Bron Aug 13 '14 at 20:27
For future reference, finding a common pronunciation of [some word] can be done by Googling "define [some word]" and then clicking on the audio symbol next to the phonetic spelling in the definition box that comes up. (Not sure how well this works if you're using a non-English Google.) – Pockets Aug 14 '14 at 1:27

In English, cheat /tʃit/ and teach /titʃ/ are pronounced differently.
For one thing, the first syllable phoneme in each word is aspirated:

  • teach /titʃ/, phonetically [tʰitʃ]
  • cheat /tʃit/, phonetically [tʰʃit]

Why this might be a problem for some learners has to to with at least two things

  1. /tʃ/ is an automatic pronunciation for /t/ in some languages when it comes before /i/
    (Italian or Japanese, for instance)
  2. final /t/ in some languages is automatically converted to /ti/, and then to /tʃi/
    (Brazilian Portuguese, for instance)

That means that speakers of languages with these features will have difficulty hearing
-- and therefore in producing -- these words. Similar phenomena occur with all English palatal consonants: /ʃ, tʃ, ʒ, dʒ/.

I didn't know any of this (unsurprisingly), but at least I can now see why the question is "meaningful", and why this answer could be very useful to some learners. Initially I just thought it was trivial in the extreme. – FumbleFingers Aug 13 '14 at 21:29
There's a whole area of applied linguistics called "contrastive linguistics" that deals with this kind of language-learning stumbling blocks due to dysfunctional habits from earlier languages learned. ESL teachers need to know this even more than students. – John Lawler Aug 13 '14 at 21:44
thanks for the help John Lawler! Indeed i`m a brazilian,i guess that is the reason for this silly question! – davi Aug 13 '14 at 22:38
@davi - If John Lawler took the time to educate so many of us in the community, this is NOT a silly question (although it may have received a better reception had you included some more background information in the question itself). – J.R. Aug 17 '14 at 9:06

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