Teach English in Yexu Zhen - Taizhou Shi

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For this task I am going to write about German L1 speakers as Germany is the country where I teach English and get the most insight about the typical and most common mistakes related to their L1 rather than any other factor. German speakers of English as an L2 usually have an easy time learning the language as the two languages come from the same language family and the same branch – Germanic languages. In this essay four areas of difficulty will be discussed, that is orthography, grammar, phonology and vocabulary. Orthography This area can be a challenge for German students just as for anyone else, as many times it involves a lot of practice to master spelling in English. However, mistakes that German speakers make more than anyone else is the capitalization of nouns as this is an orthographic rule in German. Furthermore, the German language is more phonetic than the English one, which is why writing ‘haus’ seems more natural and logical than writing ‘house’. (Smith, Bernard & Swan. 1987: 40) Grammar For this category I am going to talk about the present perfect, going to and articles. Germans tend to overuse the present perfect tense since in German it has quite a broad use, whereas in English it is quite limited and narrowed down. The learning slope begins from the meaning (lexis and semantics) to the form (grammar), which results in the overuse of the present perfect. (Petrescu, 2013:12) The going to form can also be problematic for Germans, as there is no grammatical form that resembles it. Therefore, Germans mostly stick to either using the present or the future tense and avoid the going to form. (Smith, Bernard & Swan. 1987:42). This has also been a very common mistake in my own classes. Lastly, articles can pose another problem for German speakers. The German language asks for a definite article when nouns are used generally. On the other hand, when it comes to indefinite articles, these are often used much less, as the german language avoids their use with naming professions or when a noun is used after with or without and as (Smith, Bernard & Swan. 1987:45). A literal translation and L1 interference result in an incorrect use of the definite and indefinite articles Phonology Germans mostly have problems pronouncing / θ/ and / ð /. They are nonexistent in German and therefore are usually replaces with their voiceless and their voiced equivalents /s/ and /z/ respectively. Another very common mistake is pronouncing /w/ with a /v/ sound. Lastly, /ʒ/ and / dʒ/ are commonly replaced with the voiceless /ʃ/ and / tʃ/ sounds (i.e. ‘mesher’ for measure). (Smith, Bernard & Swan. 1987:39) Vocabulary As mentioned earlier, German and English are both Germanic languages, thus a big amount of the vocabulary have the same origins. That being said, it is quite known that the use of false friends can be very common for Germans (i.e.: ‘bekommen’ (to receive/get sth) confused for ‘to become’ (be something in the future; etwas werden). Another very occurring mistake is creating complex nouns in English. (Smith, Bernard & Swan. 1987:50). The German language is known for its long complex nouns and its disposition to create them, however they are not always allowed in the English, nor do they make any sense. To support the theoretical part of this essay I made a small observation on one student visiting one of my classes. Although I in no way have a sample representative enough to make any statements, this is just another example of some of the typical problems German speakers have with the English language. The student whose English language skills I have decided to analyze is a male German speaker, around 60 years old. The student is retired, but he is rather extroverted and enjoys outdoor activities. When it comes to the English language, he has shown interest in carrying out discussions on various topics and he wishes to learn more and know more about other people and their cultures. He has plans to travel to various countries around and his extroversion, curiosity and zeal indicate that his motivation to learn English is intrinsic. Additionally, his regular attendance is merely another proof that this student is willing to learn and improve his English language skills. The student I am analyzing possesses very good speaking skills given the fact that the only way he had learned English was at school 50 years ago. He is taking a B2 English course once a week and is able to talk about various topics and express his viewpoints without feeling reluctant to speak out. He is comfortable using phrasal verbs, modals, relative clauses, different coherence devises (“not only, but also”; “so”), the past tenses, as well as some of the future tenses. Some examples include, “I worked as a profession advisor of some kind.”, “Have you visited the Kloster?” “I’m thinking of doing some more travelling.”, etc.. The fluency activities have so far shown that he sometimes has to stop and think about how to express his thoughts, but his speech is generally uninterrupted. 1) Type of Error: Grammatical What the student said: My daughter visited us and she stayeded at out home. Correct Utterance: My daughter visited us and she stayed at out home. Linguistic terminology: Additional –ed to a verb which is already conjugated in the past simple Reason for Error: Slip. A B2 level student knows the correct use of the past tense. This is a case of a slip, as he felt excited and nervous to talk to me in the beginning. 2) Vocabulary I don’t want to look after art and buildings all day. I don’t want to look for museums and buildings all day. Incorrect phrasal verb; incorrect translation Over-generalization and L1 interference. The student has learned that the translation for nach is after (e.g. nach dir -> after you) 3) Phonology ‘theory’ /ˈsɪərɪ/ instead of /ˈθɪərɪ/ Using a sound that replaces a non-existent sound in the student’s L1 L1 interference. The / θ / sound does not exist in the German language and students usually replace it with an /s/ sound. Word count: 1020 Sources: 1. Student interview during the first weeks of the course (available upon request) 2. A recorded conversation between me and the student for the purpose of this assignment (available upon request) 3. Petrescu, Simona. The Difficulty of Present Perfect for German L1 Speakers and Implications for Teaching. 2013. 4. Smith, Bernard and Michael Swan. 1987. Learner English: A teacher’s guide to interference and other problems. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.