Wait…I Don’t Know the First Thing About Uzbek

Wait…I Don’t Know the First Thing About Uzbek

An ELL student’s mother tongue or native language (L1) is the foundation their second language (L2) is built upon.  As a teacher of ELL students, it is important you understand the linguistic differences between the student’s L1 and L2.  Educating yourself of these differences, gives you the opportunity to diagnosis language development difficulties and prescribe instructional solutions.  At a minimum, I recommend you familiarize yourself with the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and the student’s L1 vowels, consonants, alphabet, morphology, syntax and grammar as it contrasts with English.  Learning a few new things about your student’s L1 will provide you an amazing level of insight into the students L2 development.  Hint: They make language mistakes for a reason.

Vowel Contrast (Gutman et al., 2013b)

  • There are only 9 vowel sounds in Uzbek whereas English has 12 pure vowel sounds.

    Uzbek IPA Vowels
  • Uzbek pronounces each individual vowel sound rather than producing diphthongs as done in English
  • It is easier to speak of vowel sounds in terms of similarities, as there are on two Uzbek IPA vowels that correspond to English IPA vowel sounds (see green circles within chart). This poses a significant challenge as the basic orthography (spelling system) for Uzbek includes a, e, i, o and u.

    English IPA Vowels

Consonant Contrast (Gutman et al., 2013a; Gutman et al., 2013b)

  • The red circles indicate IPA contrast

    Uzbek IPA Consonants
  • Dental versus Alveolar points of articulation are likely to cause issues with pronunciation.
  • The Uzbek alphabet is missing the letter ‘w’ however the letter ‘v’ makes the /w/ sound. I have personally seen this manifest as a spelling and pronunciation error.

Common Phoneme Problems for Uzbek ELL students (тасинова & Зокирова, 2016)

  • /θ/ and /ð/ phonemes do not exist in the Uzbek language. This is respectively the voiceless fricative “th” sound in thank and the voiced fricative “th” sound in Common error is this sound with heavy voiceless stop /t/ making the work thank sound like tank or /d/ or /z/ resulting in they sounding like day.
  • In Uzbek there are not instances where the voiceless stop /p/, as in pool, is used as the initial phoneme in a word. This is most commonly replaced with a voiced stop /b/ or a voiceless fricative /f/.  This might result in the unintended word fool replacing pool.  Similar substitutions are also made for words ending in /p/.

    English IPA Consonants

Alphabet Contrast

  • The Uzbek alphabet does not have [Cc] or [Ww] however these phonemes are recognized as [Kk] and [Vv] respectively.
  • There are five additional letters or digraphs after the English letter [Zz]. The two letters circled in red represent sounds or phonemes not used in English.  The digraphs were likely added to the Uzbek Latin based alphabet because it was only recently that it was established as the national alphabet.
  • Capitalization rules are consistent with English, with the exception of languages and nationalities.

    Uzbek Alphabet with IPA symbols

Morphology/Syntax/Grammar Contrasts (Dickens, 2002)

  • Uzbek word order is Subject-Object-Verb.  Uzbek: I book wrote. Versus English: I wrote a book.
  • “Uzbek is an agglutinative language with suffixing morphology.” (Gutman & Avanzati, 2013)
    • Plurals and Verb Tenses are reflected through the use of suffixes and should not present grammatical difficulty
    • Locations and movement of objects are expressed as suffixes in Uzbek. ELL students will need to learn preposition not found in L1.
    • Uzbek uses a suffix to express possession rather than possessive pronouns.
    • Uzbek uses an additional suffix to express forms of “to be”. Uzbek: He young boy  Versus   English: He is a young boy.
  • Uzbek uses post-positions rather than prepositions, thus following the object of the sentence. Uzbek: We bread about   Versus  English:  We talked about bread.
  • Rules for capitalization are the same as those for English with the exception of languages and nationalities.
  • Uzbek does not use a form of the definite articles ‘the’ and ‘a/an’.


Dickens, M. (2002). Introduction to the Uzbek language. Retrieved November 28, 2017 from www.oxuscom.com/250words.htm

Gutman, A. & Avanzati, B. (2013a). The language gulper – English. Retrieved November 28, 2017 from http://www.languagesgulper.com/eng/English.html

Gutman, A. & Avanzati, B. (2013b). The language gulper – Uzbek. Retrieved November 28, 2017 from http://www.languagesgulper.com/eng/Uzbek.html

Тухтасинова З. М. & Зокирова Г. В. (2016). Common pronunciation mistakes of Uzbek learners    in speaking English.  Молодой ученый, 11, 1719-1720. Retrieved November 28, 2017 from https://moluch.ru/archive/115/30425/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar