Difficulties in English Pronunciation for Japanese Learners For the native Japanese speaker,
For the native Japanese speaker, English poses a couple distinct problems in pronunciation. The first being the basic pronunciation of l and r. As is stated in Nakama 1: 'the [r] sound in Japanese'is neither [l] nor [r] in English(p. 12).' The Japanese speaker has difficulty separating and pronouncing the sounds of l and r as he or she has a predisposition to pronounce them as a hybridized sound being both l and r.
Another difficulty in English pronunciation for Japanese speakers is the non-phonetic/non-pictographic nature of English. The twp basic Japanese alphabets, the Hiragana and Katakana, are phonetic alphabets, the Hiragana used for Japanese words and particles, while the Katakana is used for foreign words transferred into Japanese. Given these two alphabets, the Japanese are taught a wholly phonetic method of language eventually progressing into the pictographic Kanji. Thus it is natural for a Japanese student to have difficulties with hard consonant sounds and diphthongs as they have had no experience with them in their own tongue. The natural and unconscious reaction for them would be to end each consonant ending with an appropriate vowel sound as per their Kana sound system.
This could also lead to obvious problems in literacy. Apart from the supremely obvious fact that the alphabets are completely different, the functions of each languages alphabet are different. In Japanese, as stated above, have three separate alphabets. However, each has its specific purpose, and altogether, the Kanas are relatively simple structures to form words with as they are phonetic characters. Enter English with only one alphabet but with untold numbers of combinations and sound changes depending on the structures of the words.
Methods for alleviating these problems in the classroom are varied. The most useful would have to be drilling and mouth exercises. Have the class engage in repetition of sound structures until they are able to produce a separate r and l sound as well as cut off words at their proper endings rather than with an elongated vowel ending. Speech games and activities such as listing and naming things that start with r or l or specifically end with hard consonant sounds may be helpful as well. The importance with all class activities is not to alienate anyone and not to make anyone feel as if they are not achieving as much as they should. In this way the class wide exercises are useful.
As for the methods for alleviating the difficulties for literacy, the only true way to manage it is to keep with the subject matter and to devote a good amount of time for the class to learn the alphabet and basic rules before continuing, adding little bits as the class progresses. These methods for improvement usefully apply to any EFL class as, ultimately all students learning English as a foreign language are privy to many of the same difficulties in learning.
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