Problems for learners in Slovakia People of varying countries all have


People of varying countries all have different problems associated with grammar and pronunciation. For example people from the Asian region more commonly have trouble pronouncing 'F' or 'R' whereas people from Europe can pronounce 'R' but it'll have a roll on the tongue. People from Slovakia along with the usual 'R' problem also tend to have great difficulty with the 'TH' sound, therefore pronouncing 'this' as 'zis' or 'dis' and 'that' as 'dat' or 'zat'. Along with the individual letters they also have great difficulty with 'perfect tenses'. The Slovak language only has three tenses and therefore makes it hard to grasp why we have more than the standard three let alone actually trying to distinguish the differences between their usages.

So, where does an English teacher begin you may ask' Every teacher would surely have their own opinion as where to begin and a vast amount would have positive progress.

Techniques for the 'z' sound instead of 'th' vary widely from repetition to drawing pictures to paying close attention to your teachers lips and tongue. I personally explain the positioning of the tongue between your teeth as you prepare to pronounce the sound and then pull your tongue in as you're completing the word. Then follow through with a physical demonstration with all the students watch. Sure you may state 'You'd look quite silly doing that in front of a class of twenty students' And yes you do, but that all adds to part of the fun and dynamics of the classroom. It can be very good for the students confidence when they see their teacher also making a fool of him/her self and not just us students when we're role-playing and pronouncing. After the explanations and visuals it's then a matter of practice and repetition. Now we move onto the dreaded tenses. These can be a problem even for the native speaker. 'Why do we use the perfect tense instead of the past simple'' This in itself is actually a very good question considering a lot of other languages don't have perfect tenses and we probably also, could get away without using them. For example we could just say 'I was there three times' instead of saying 'I've been there three times' and we would be able to get by with just the simple tenses. But I do feel that having the perfect tenses allows us to be more descriptive/have a broader sense of feel when we speak. For example: In Slovak you'd say 'It's raining out side' or 'It was raining outside' but you can't actually say 'It has been raining all day' you would say 'It rained all day'. Now to me that just doesn't have the same feel as the perfect tense.

So how do you teach the perfect tense to people that have no prior knowledge about it'

I've actually found that teaching the present tenses first prior to any other tenses to be the simplest way. Use a time chart to explain the present perfect and lots of examples. Once the students have understood the difference between all the present tenses including perfect and continuous, the past and future perfect tenses are a lot simpler to comprehend, as you just add a 'will' for the future perfect and use 'had' instead of 'has/have' for the past perfect. The time scale drawn on a board showing a point in the past to now (for the present perfect) is a very good visual aid to assist in the comprehension of the perfect tense.

There are various books you can use help in the teaching of the perfect tenses, so I won't go into too much detail in this article, but the main point is, that if the present tenses are taught first and clearly understood, then the rest of the tenses are a lot simpler for the student to understand. Many books seem to jump around from the past simple to the present continuous to the past perfect. I personally don't find this to be a good idea as it just helps complicate things for the student.

To summarize once again, stick to the present tenses first, keep it simple and use a time scale drawn on the board.

All the best to all the future Esl teachers.

Michael Aretis