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TEFL Problems facing learners of different nationalities
I am a ?Purist? at heart. For me the only acceptable, the only correct, the only ?propah? way to speak (and spell) English is as illustrated in the Encyclopedia Britannica ? the British English, so to speak. I have always been a staunch champion of Dr. Doolittle and all the other guardians of the English language.
However, being a teacher of the English language, I can no longer turn a blind eye to the ?globalization? of English, which is - ?now a mish-mash of words incorporated from over 350 languages, and is still undergoing constant change, with hundreds of words/phrases coming into existence every year, some fading away, but many finding their way into dictionaries and thesauruses! One can pronounce words in many different ways and still be understood!! The emergence of so many varieties of English is now causing linguists to question the use of a native speaker ?pronunciation? models in teaching the language.?
Not only geography, but factors such as social class, ethnic grouping and sex affect the language being used in all English speaking countries. So, for those of you, who thought that English can either be American or British, think again! Braj Kachru (1985: 12-15) suggests the division of the English- speaking world into three concentric circles. In the first ?inner circle? Kachru puts countries like Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Britain and the U.S, where English is spoken as a first language. In the second ?outer circle? are all the countries where English is spoken as a second or a significant language, such as India, Singapore, Pakistan... In the ?third ?expanding circle? we find countries where English has acquired cultural or commercial importance (China, Sweden, Japan, Greece?)
Expanding circle (China, Russia
100-1000 million) Outer circle (India, Singapore Inner Circle 150 ? 300 million) (USA, UK 320 ? 380 million)
THE TASK A TEACHER FACES ?
All said and done, an English teacher, therefore, faces the massive task of dealing with the innumerable problems and issues related to the teaching of English, and more so, the problems faced by a non- native English speaker, who is strongly influenced by sounds that are native to his language. In a world of so many ?Englishes?, we therefore, have to consider which variety we should encourage our learners to aim for.
Having taught English to students whose first language was Hindi or one of the many regional languages of India, gave me the opportunity to observe how their learning got affected and obstructed by the grammar structure, pronunciation, stress and intonation of their first language.
?As an English teacher, it made me aware of the fact that the learner is inundated with not only a deluge of English vocabulary, but also has problems mastering its grammar structure. There is an invariable tendency to carry over what comes natural to them, i.e. the grammatical patterns, sentence structure and the pronunciation, from their native language, to English. To learn a new language, they first had to unlearn all the structures they knew so as to start afresh, with a clean slate. Moreover, while some grammar rules are straightforward and fairly easy to teach and grasp, many are complex, and some do not fit into any general category!
?Pronunciation is another problematic spot. Certain sounds and syllable clusters present pronunciation issues to some learners. For example, a study based on non-native English learners found that Spanish students have difficulties with /b/ and /v/ ; Thai and South East Asian natives have problems with /r/ and /l/ ; the French, Spanish and Polish stress the 2nd or 3rd syllable, while the Czech, Latvian, Swiss-German and the Finnish stress the 1st syllable always.
WHAT A TEACHER MUST BE AWARE OF?
Unless the teacher understands how the student is using his speech organs in producing a native language sound and what he should be doing to reproduce the foreign language sound acceptably, he cannot help the student beyond a certain stage of earnest but inaccurate imitation." [Wilga Rivers - Teaching Foreign Language Skills]
Keeping the above issues in the picture, good English teachers therefore, must not only have an in-depth knowledge of the complexities of the English language, but they also need to familiarize themselves with the language pattern, the structure and the culture of their students. This will enable the teacher to comprehend -
?why the learner is unable to grasp a certain grammar point or pronunciation and
?How to tailor the teaching task to that particular group of learners.
Furthermore, a teacher must realize that age, motivation and aptitude are some other factors which play a significant role in the learning graph of a beginner.
HOW I ADDRESSED THE ISSUE?
It was while browsing over the net that I came across TEFL and the ESA methodology, which was being applied to teach English to non- native speakers.
The course not only armed me with various techniques and practical ideas on how to go about my ?battle-to-teach-English? in a classroom of confused learners, it also streamlined my teaching abilities in a guided, comprehensive manner.
THE HEART OF THE MATTER?
The ESA methodology, with its ?straight arrow? approach, is, as I found out, a very effective way to teach vocabulary and grammar:
?The ?target vocabulary? is first selected ? it must be appropriate, need based and functional.
?The teacher then deals with its meaning (context / collocation), spelling and pronunciation.
?This can be taught through picture, charades , real objects, crosswords, choral drilling, gap-fill exercises, debates, discussions and role plays, to name a few.
?A similar method can be applied to the grammatical structures as well, so as to make the student familiar with its meaning, pattern and usage.
While vocabulary and grammar are no doubt, the framework of the English language, it is pronunciation, stress and intonation which give it flavor and life. Sounds are the backbone of speech. Since the meaning and context of a word, a phrase or a sentence depends on how it is said; a language teacher must be familiar with the general guidelines while dealing with all the various aspects of phonetics. Pronunciation may vary vastly from region to region, but the International Phonetic Alphabet ? a set of symbols, represent individual sounds which are pronounced identically everywhere.
THE FINAL WORD....
The biggest problem most beginners face, in learning a new language is their own fear. They worry that they won?t say things correctly or that they will look stupid, so they don?t talk at all. A good teacher must realize this and the first few classes, as such, should be devoted to getting to know the learners, establishing a good rapport with them and getting them to be comfortable with you. Once the learning begins, a teacher must also help and guide the student to become an autonomous learner (J.Harmer). Remember, a good learner reflects an efficient teacher.
Article by: Devanshe Chauhan
Author: Devanshe Chauhan
Date of post: 2007-01-08