Teach English in Siziwangqibaiyinchaoketu Zhen - Wulanchabu Shi — Ulanqab

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Puerto Rico is a predominantly Spanish-speaking island in the Caribbean situated between the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Governmentally an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico has been under U.S. rule since 1898, and its constitution classifies English as one of the two official languages alongside Spanish. However, “no more than half of the island’s residents consider themselves to have adequate English skills,” which has led Puerto Rico to suffer from a general “lack of mastery of the English language” (Pousada 1). This deficiency in English is particularly noticeable around the rural parts of the island, where English (or the United States) has little cultural relevance and where a large number of residents speak and communicate only in Spanish. Because of the island’s history with, and proximity to, the United States, most Puerto Ricans have some knowledge of English and regularly incorporate it into their daily speech, usually done by code-switching or by injecting simple English words into sentences, creating the very colorful Spanglish that is typical of the island. Moreover, since English is a required subject in schools, Puerto Rican students do usually improve their lexica as they progress through primary and secondary education; this means that it is very rare for an ESL/EFL teacher to encounter a student with zero working knowledge of English, though it does happen. Nevertheless, English education on the island is notoriously poor, the reasons for this ranging from a myriad of causes including a “lack of any consistent language education policies … inadequate training of English teachers [and] lack of sufficient certified English teachers,” among other instabilities. (Pousada 3). As a result, most ESL/EFL students in Puerto Rico do not progress beyond the pre-intermediate/intermediate language levels. The learning difficulties that plague Puerto Rican students are possibly no different from those that other Spanish-speaking ESL students encounter. For example, Spanish-speaking students often have difficulty distinguishing and pronouncing the /θ/ and /ð/ sounds, instead articulating them like the Spanish “z” or “d.” Another common error involves mispronouncing the /ɪ/ and /iː/ sounds as the Spanish “i.” Writing skills are also subpar among many residents as direct translations from Spanish is another common issue, which results in clumsy English sentence structure. Essentially, the practical issues Puerto Rican students have with English are nearly identical to those of other Spanish-speaking ESL students: errors stemming from utilizing Spanish syntax and phonology when writing or speaking English. However, I believe that what ESL/EFL teachers working in Puerto Rico need to keep in mind is that Puerto Rican culture tends to view English as the “other.” Although it is easy to be exposed to English on the island, be it by television, music or social media, there is a widespread belief that English language training is, at its core, unnecessary. Indeed, very few Puerto Ricans regularly find themselves in situations where English is obligatory, and even those who speak it well are frequently hesitant to use it. It is important for any prospective ESL/EFL teacher to remember that, because of the historical and political nexus between Puerto Rico and the United States, there will likely always remain some resentment over the usage and spread of English on the island, and this may impact how some students react to English language teaching. Works cited Pousada, Alicia. Being Bilingual in Borinquen: Student Voices from the University of Puerto Rico. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 2017.