Teach English in YishAn Zhen - Lianyungang Shi

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In South Korea, the national language is Korean and the written alphabet is called “Hangul”. This writing system was created in the 15th century by King Sejong, in order to promote literacy among the common people. Before the creation of Hangul, Koreans used a derivative of Chinese characters, which made it difficult to attain literacy for lower classes, due to the large number of characters that needed to be learned. Hangul, however, provided and alphabetical writing system of 28 letters. King Sejong’s goal was realized and Hangul spread literacy throughout all class ranks in Korea and today some linguists even consider Hangul one of the most phonologically accurate alphabets. However, this does not make the Hangul alphabet foolproof as students still face stumbling blocks with pronunciation of sounds that do not exist in the Korean language. Some of the most common stumbling blocks stem from the fact that the English alphabet and Korean alphabet are not directly interchangeable, and some sounds overlap. For example, the Korean letter ㄹ is used for both /l/ and /r/ sounds in English. This leads to some words, that would be distinctly different for an English native speaker, sounding the same for a Korean English learner, such as the words “right” and “light”, as both words would be written out the same using Hangul. This same problem arises in other sounds such as /f/ and /p/ as they overlap in the character “ㅍ”. In Korean, the sound for /f/ does not exist, so when faced with it, it is often substituted with the sound for /p/ which is closer to “ㅍ”. This leads to words such as “feel” being pronounced closer to the similar sounding, but completely different word “peel”. This problem could be easily tackled by focusing on the sounds specifically through activities and drilling. Especially in the case of very young learners (such as kindergarteners), the sounds could be practiced and perfected through engaging activities such as chants, music or songs. With knowledge of what sounds are difficult to the students, the teacher could find material specific to the difficult sounds, so that students could become more familiar and comfortable with its pronunciation. Visual aids are another approach that could be taken to teach this skill. With older age groups, diagrams of the place of articulation for the individual sound would be useful. Younger age groups may not understand the diagrams as well but could respond to demonstration and the use of mirrors to study their own mouths as they make the sounds. In English, knowing where to put stress on a word can play a huge part in understanding and being understood, as there are many words that, while spelled the same, change their meaning depending on which syllable is stressed. Korean, on the other hand, does not have the same concept of stressing syllables within a word. Instead, in Korean one could run into a similar problem with knowing how to properly space the words of a sentence. Since spacing and stressing are not the same, an ESL learner in Korea could have problems knowing that present (stressed on the first syllable) and present (stressed on the second syllable) are in fact not the same word. An approach that could be used for this could be poems, specifically ones that focus on words that are spelled similar but pronounced differently. The poems could be practiced by reading them aloud in pairs or small groups. Additionally, tapping with a pencil, pen or finger could be added before and during the exercise to help remember where to stress the word. For example, tapping lightly on the unstressed syllable and tapping harder on the stressed one. Being linguistically different languages, learning English for a Korean speaking student seem quite hard at first with so many new sounds to get accustomed to. However, with the right approach, these pronunciation problems can be easily resolved with the right knowledge and tools provided by the teacher.