Teach English in Heilongba Zhen - Tongliao Shi

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Are we there yet? We're almost there! Common linguistic problems Introduction In learning a new language after having learned one’s native language (L1), it is impossible not to carry the baggage or prejudices of it and inflect them onto the new tongue, especially in the beginning. Some classic examples are those of the native English speaker first learning French: je suis froid, which is incorrect. In French, feeling hot or cold is a state that is possessed rather than a coupled state in which case cold is an adjective and the verb to be is used to couple the subject to the feeling. Thus, in the example above, the correct expression is j’ai froid, whose transliteration is: I have cold. But, note, do not confuse it with I have a cold. That is a completely different idea and sentence: j’ai un rhume. It should be easy for the reader to discern now the trap that catches a native English speaker when expressing certain ideas in French. Other examples among many are the expressions that use the verb, faire (“to do, to make”). To express the idea that it is raining, the francophone may say, il fait pluvieux. The translation is it is rainy, but the transliteration is it (the weather) makes rainy. The transliteration does not work in English, because in English one does not use the verb to make, to do for expressions involving weather. An amusing example to stay with the French theme is when the native English speaker (im)politely and humorously interjects at the end of dinner: je suis plein, meaning “I’m full.” He has mistakenly stated, “I’m pregnant.” So, yes, learning a new language can be difficult, for even the easiest expressions can turn out so wrong in just milliseconds. English uses the verb to be in the above examples whereas French uses either the verb avoir (“to have”) or faire. Issues when speaking about time In recent interactions with a Bangladeshi who has been learning English as a foreign language for the past two and one-half years, I have observed facets of my native language hitherto unknown to me. Some Bangladeshis learning English will make certain common mistakes, because of the native language (L1) foundation upon which they learn the second language (L2, or English in this case). Three errors occur frequently according to Rahman and Ali (2015): 1. use of an auxiliary with the past participle 2. use of a perfect aspect when simple aspect is sufficient 3. absence of auxiliary to indicate past or present action In the case of (1) above, we find the following: Then I was taken lunch. Tar por ami lunch korechilam. The first two words in that sentence are pronounced, there-fore, which in Bengali equals then. The problem arises, because Bengali does not have auxiliaries, and so there is often confusion on how to use this element in an English sentence. Obviously, the correct sentence would employ the past tense with simple aspect as in Then, I took lunch. In (2) above, we may find a speaker stating, “I was seen and introduced with many unknown students (Rahman and Ali, 2015).” The student erroneously matches the past form of the auxiliary with the past participle, which seems logical from an outsider’s point of view, but with many languages, including English, there is no requirement for constructions that are “logical.” Finally, it is not uncommon to hear, “I going with my dad.” This sentence is an example of (3) above where an auxiliary is missing that would indicate whether the action time is present or past. Transcript of interview with male Bangladeshi aged 26 years on 17 January 2020 in Thrissur India. (Author is interviewer.) Interviewer: Your two cousins got married last night at the same moment in a double-marriage ceremony. Can you tell me what happened last night and what happened today? Bangladeshi: Yesterday, we just take the videos or we call it the party. The camera, the big camera or the small camera, DSL camera . . . we can make the video for the boy, but also the same, girl’s party—girl’s home day party—and boy’s home, boy’s party. Both are different. Interviewer: So, two parties happen at the same time, but in different locations. Bangladeshi: Different locations. Yeah. Oh, we take the . . . eat the . . . feed the cake or fruits. Like this [we do]. And, then after . . . after. Interviewer: Music? Bangladeshi: Of course. Definitely. Interviewer: Dancing? Bangladeshi: Yeah, yeah. So . . . Interviewer: How long does it occur . . . [these parties]? When does it start? Bangladeshi: It’s like it start like sometime ten o’clock; sometime at eleven o’clock PM. It finish maybe 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock. [Notice: Speaker omits inflected form for 3rd person singular verb. It is a common fault for speakers of Bengali as this language has no inflection for this person and number.] Interviewer: And why do you usually start the party so late? Bangladeshi: Because if you start the party late, because everyone is together. Oh, it very nice. Everyone is together, and everyone is one by one going to the party. [Notice: Speaker left out the auxiliary so we do not know if the action is present or past.] Interviewer: Because people are working until 8 [PM] sometimes? Bangladeshi: Yeah. Or, everything is not preparing. That’s why is we preparing at . . . at night. Interviewer: Oh, I think I understand. Bangladeshi: And, the night is finished and the day is coming, so daytime, we . . . what do we do? We just wait until until 1 AM, . . . 1 PM, then we together go to the girl’s house by car, by anything, bus. So, then we go to there; then we stay some in the girl’s house half an hour, and then we bring the girls to the boy house. Then, it start the boy house it start the party. Another party. We call? It’s like party. Everyone is eating the food, having the food. In our Cox’s Bazar district, night time for boy. In the girl’s house it morning time. It’s 10 o’clock to 1 PM . . . finish. Interviewer: Okay. So, let me see if I understand. . . . And, then you eat at the boy’s home? Everyone? Bangladeshi: Yeah. Interviewer: You have an imam who marries the two people? Bangladeshi: Yeah, when . . . we call it the atto. Atto. It’s Arabic word. It’s not Bengali. Imam is getting them together there. So, atto / imam . . . sometimes it’s late night like 10 PM, anyone. If there is lot of people, they cannot do it. And the day after tomorrow . . . day after tomorrow they can do it. Together, the imam come to the house, and the imam say something, and then they together. [Notice: Speaker omits the copular (linking) verb to be in the preceding sentence.] Interviewer: Okay, so, thank you so much. Bangladeshi: You’re welcome. Concluding remarks As you can see from the interview with a Bangladeshi of high school education having learned English for two and one-half years, the speech is not yet at an intermediate level of accuracy. We find the typical errors of a person whose L1 is Bengali made by this particular Bangladeshi during the 6-minute interview about his cousins’ recent marriage party and consecration/hallowing. Personal note I have been speaking with this young man for the past two and one-half years. In the beginning he understood about 10 percent of what I had said in those conversations though he led me to believe he had understood far more than that. He persisted, however, and continued speaking with me, because he wanted to learn this language, and I was a native speaker of English from whom he could obtain the right speech patterns, syntax, grammar, and lexical aspect. He’s improved remarkably with listening comprehension, but as one can readily see, he has not progressed greatly in terms of proper English sentence construction. Teaching English as a foreign language must be terribly challenging for a teacher. The more I learn about teaching English as a foreign language, the more I know I need additional skills in order to teach this topic well, and this is said from a professor of biological sciences at two universities in Queens New York USA. Richard Bennett PhD Coimbatore India 17 January 2020. Work Cited Rahman, M. S., & Ali, M. M. (2015). Problems in mastering English tense and aspect and the role of the practitioners. IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 20(4), 131–135. https://doi.org/10.9790/0837-2041131135