Teach English in Gonghe Zhen - Huai'an Shi

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As a native speaker, English appears to be one of the easiest languages to learn, when compared to languages like Japanese, Chinese, and more. However, once I had experiences abroad both as a student, and as a teacher, I realized that English was not as straightforward as I once thought. There are a lot of aspects about English that make it extremely difficult for non-native speakers to learn it. Many of these are not obvious to native speakers, and only become clear once you teach English or even simply interact with non-native speakers. English is a very peculiar language for many reasons, but in my time spent abroad as both a student and a teacher, I have encountered a few rather commonly. The emphasis on “equality” in the English language, along with the multiple pronunciations of letters and sounds makes it a very peculiar and difficult language for people to learn. In the English language terms like “he”, “she”, and “you” can be used freely and equally in English, but this is not often the case in many other languages around the world. In English we can use he, she or you with anyone regardless of their age, and their status. However, in many other countries this is not the case. For example, in Japanese, you translates into “あなた” or “anata.” But it is considered rather rude and robotic to use this term when speaking to someone. In order to make it appropriate, you have to attach a suffix for example, “君” or “kun” which is used towards men who are younger than you, or who hold an inferior position to you. There are also versions of you in Japanese, which if used imply status over or under someone. I encountered the same when learning Korean. There are different ways to say you, and it is necessary to switch between them depending on the age or status of the person being spoken too. When explaining how you is used differently in America, many of my Japanese students were shocked. They believed that using terms like he, she, and you with anyone regardless of age or status was simple, and convenient. But because of that, it appeared rude. When compared to what they were used to, it wasn’t that English was too complicated or complex. In this situation, it was far too simple. They were afraid that it was so simple, that they were being too informal or casual. Not only has this helped me realize that this is rather unique to English, but it made me realize something about teaching language as well. Concepts don’t always have to be complex in order to be difficult, sometimes they can just be too simple. However, this isn’t always the case. While teaching English, very quickly you realize that what seems straightforward and simple, can often prove to be rather challenging for students. Another peculiar aspect of English is the fact that some letters and words are pronounced differently, even though they are spelled or look the same. This is very complicated for students to grasp when they are first learning English. For example, words like “alive” and “apple.” In this situation the “a” sound is completely different, and nothing about the word itself indicates that. Another example being “b.” When you say the word “dumb” the b is silent. But when you say the word, “bomb”, the b is pronounced. Students often asked why this is, and what is used to indicate this. Because this doesn’t exist in Japanese and many other languages for that matter, the only possible answer was that they simply had to know and memorize it. This is one of the struggles of teaching English to students, but also for learning it as well. The concept of silent letters and this difference in pronunciation are very normal for English speakers, because their knowledge of language is based on English. But for Japanese students or Korean students, when they turn to their base in language, there is no similar concept to fall back on. This is what makes English such a peculiar language, but it also makes teaching and learning it rather challenging as well. English is a very popular language. In many parts of the worlds where English is not the number one language, its just as important to learn as the native language. However, it is not as simple as many native speakers tend to believe. English has a lot of unique traits that separate it from many languages, but also make it challenging to learn as well. Terms like he, she, and you in English are difficult for many learners because status, gender, and age in many other countries hold more importance. This continues further when students run into issues with pronunciation, which involve nothing more than simply knowing and memorizing the correct sound. Students often don’t have a similar concept in their native languages to draw a similarity. Because of this, outside of properly planning, introducing, and practicing concepts, its also quite important to keep in mind cultural and language differences. This will allow for teachers to ease in unique traits of English, and help students slowly understand and eventually become comfortable with them.