Do you want to be TEFL or TESOL-certified and teach in E'erdong Zhen? Are you interested in teaching English in Wulanchabu Shi — Ulanqab? Check out ITTT’s online and in-class courses, Become certified to Teach English as a Foreign Language and start teaching English ONLINE or abroad! ITTT offers a wide variety of Online TEFL Courses and a great number of opportunities for English Teachers and for Teachers of English as a Second Language.
One of the greater struggles in language teaching in general is teaching students how to discriminate between sounds that either don’t exist in their language or are allophones and are thus not consciously discriminated. Specifically, English – a very difficult language to learn for individuals coming from phonetic alphabet languages – presents unique struggles. Monolingual Japanese speakers particularly struggle with learning to hear the difference between [ɹ] and [l]. Production of the two sounds is also a great struggle for them. Japanese also struggle with interdentals like [θ] and [ð]. There are a number of learning barriers involved here, especially for students over the age 14, when language acquisition becomes much more difficult. First, many students have ingrained habits formed by poor English teaching. I have spent some time with Japanese middle school and high school students, looking at their textbooks and workbooks for English, and there is often a mixing of British English grammar with American English spelling. This can make the first real authentic English spoken language contact of these students very confusing, as their will typically be a mismatch in word choice or grammar. Second, as listening skills aren’t really focused on in Japanese schools in the first place, many of these students can’t really understand spoken English, despite understanding grammar and being able to read. These are important to consider because pronunciation issues in this student population are directly related to production issues. While not every student who can hear the difference between [l] and [ɹ] can produce those sounds, it has been my experience that students who cannot hear the difference absolutely cannot produce them. In the case of these Japanese students, learning to map sounds to groups of letters is a very difficult task, as they are moving from phonetic alphabets to the Latin alphabet, which is not phonetic. Pronunciation must be focused on because without it, students do not have the listening tools they need when encountering new and unfamiliar language. Then the question is raised: how do teachers teach these pronunciation skills? One possible answer is listening/speaking exercises with minimal pairs. In a straight arrow lesson, the engage phase would consist of students being asked to list shout some English words that sound almost the same when spoken aloud, which the teacher would then write on the board. Then, in the first part of the study phase, the teacher would use images to teach the different meanings of some minimal pairs (look rook lack rack, race lace, lice rice). This would be followed by choral drilling of the minimal pairs, side to side. Next, students would then be given a handout with a number of minimal pairs listed on it. Student would then be tasked with listening to an audio clip and circling which of the two words they had heard. For the activate stage, students would be asked to discuss and list with a partner 5-10 more minimal pairs and their meanings. The choral component of this lesson is especially important for building listening-production/articulation tuning feedback skills. Pronunciation is inseparable from listening, which is inseparable from production. When a person is in a very loud environment and cannot hear their own speech during production, that speech becomes less comprehensible. Additionally, students who are learning new phonemes, even if they can discriminate the differences between two sounds, still use auditory feedback in tuning articulation. In order to give Japanese students the tools they need to progress in English language learning, students must be taught proper pronunciation along with phonics, or else higher level tasks like transcribing from listening become very difficult for a lack of fundamental listening skills.