Teach English in Qidong Jingji KAifAqu - Nantong Shi

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Many consider English a hard language to master. This is especially true for Japanese speakers as there is great disparity between English and Japanese in terms of grammar, lexicon, and phonetics. English has more distinct sounds and sound combinations than Japanese. Hence, they have difficulty in accurately perceiving and reproducing certain English sounds. Lip and jaw movement are minimised in Japanese speech, and, often soft speech is required in social settings. This often carries over into English and affects their pronunciation as well. [Swan and Smith, 2001] Age may also be a factor in acquiring proper pronunciation. Some scholars purport that the younger a person is, the better he/she will be at correctly perceiving the sounds of a new language. Some even say that due to biological changes, people lose certain abilities in this regard once puberty hits [Kenworthy, 1988]. Many Japanese speakers do not actively study English until they are in high school or later. Therefore, in line with the aforementioned theories, many Japanese speakers would have pronunciation difficulties. One pronunciation error that Japanese speakers make is adding vowel sounds to the end of words. This is due to many English words have been assimilated as katakana words. Katana characters have a vowel sound at the end of a syllable. This results in words such as ‘and’ becoming ‘and-o’ or ‘kiss’ becoming ‘kiss-u’. Another error they make is when pronouncing minimal pair words. Minimal pairs are words that differ in only one sound, with that sound being in the same position. This is especially hard when the sounds are not distinctive in Japanese. Examples include the ‘ship/ sheep, ‘caught/ coat’ and ‘vote/ boat’ [Swan and Smith, 2001]. The /th/ sound is not in the Japanese language. Therefore, many students find it difficult to pronounce. Many use the closest approximate sounds from the Japanese language – /sa/ (unvoiced /th/) and /za/ (voiced /th/). This results in ‘thing’ becoming ‘sing’ or ‘those’ becoming ‘zose’. Additionally, Japanese speakers often mispronounce consonant cluster. A consonant cluster is 2, 3, or 4 consonant sounds in a row e.g. strong. Consonant clusters do not exist in Japanese. English, on the other hand, has over 160 consonant clusters in the final position of a word, and over 40 in the initial position of a word. This presents a magnitude of difficulty for Japanese speakers to master all these sounds. Japanese speakers often pronounce such words with intervening vowel sounds. This means ‘table’ becomes ‘teburu’ [Swan and Smith, 2001]. In English, stress is placed on particular syllable in long words. However, in Japanese, each syllable is given equal stress. This means Japanese speakers have to consciously learn intonation and stress patterns that give English its rhythm when speaking. Perhaps the most notable error Japanese speaker make is with the /r/ and /l/ sounds. The English /l/ sound does not exist in Japanese. They have trouble distinguishing between the English /l/ and /r/ sounds. As a result, /l/ and /r/ tend to be pronounced like the Japanese /r/ which often sounds like a combination of the /l/ and /r/ sounds to the English speaker [Kenworthy, 1988; Swan and Smith, 2001] Therefore ‘glamour’ becomes ‘grammar’ and ‘left’ becomes ‘reft’. By and large, a lot of Japanese speakers have problems with English pronunciation because of their desire to Japanese sounds. Also, they must train themselves to listen better so they can make distinction between the different sounds in English in order to accurately reproduce them. References Kenworthy, J. (1988). Teaching English pronunciation. New York: Longman Group. Swan, M., Smith, B. (2001). Learner English: A teacher's guide to interference and other problems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.