Teach English in WulanhAda Yuanzhongchang - Xing'an Meng — Hinggan

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When it comes to common linguistic problems students must overcome, the first to come to mind are phonology and pronunciation. Specifically, the inflection, stress, and articulation that comprise them. These three areas are especially hard for students to master because of what it takes to do so. Most other assignments they encounter when studying English are the sort that require effort from the mind alone; learning new vocabulary, understanding grammar, memorizing rules, etc. Inflection, stress and articulation, however, require effort of a different sort, effort from the body, notably, the ears and mouth. The ears are where the sounds are picked up that the mouth must reproduce. The mouth is where the inflection and stress are created, and where the articulation happens. The mouth is also where the problems develop, yet not the sort of problems that can be fixed by memorizing lists or understanding concepts. These are the sort of problems that require dedication, patience, and the retraining of the vocal organs. As humans age, our vocal organs become used to producing a particular set of sounds, and they forget how to make any others. When we were young, we could and did make every sound physically possible, but as our ears learned which sounds were used in our native language, our mouths were trained to produce only those, and the others were eventually lost. This doesn’t mean that they can’t be remembered, though. Even older students of English can learn how to make the sounds peculiar to our letters with some clear examples and a great deal of practice. The teacher must keep a simple goal in mind: to help the student re-train their vocal organs to be able to create the sounds of the English language. It is a lengthy process, but definitely achievable for most. While there is no single right way to teach the different parts of phonology and pronunciation, one method is to think of the process in terms of learning a song. When you learn a new song, you first learn the melody, and afterward it’s easy to learn the words. The teaching of pronunciation and phonology can follow a similar pattern. The inflection, rhythm and stress represent the melody. Start the lesson by having the students become familiar with the sounds of English. They must know what noises they are trying to create in order to produce the right ones. They need to learn to recognize and distinguish common sound patterns in English. The teacher can talk to the students, read to them, or play recordings to help them do this. Have them listen to the stress, intonation, rhythm, and inflection placed on the words. Once they have listened to some samples, let them practice the sounds they heard. There are plenty of activities that can help familiarize them with English speech patterns. For example, drawing inflection lines over words to practice intonation, or underlining emphasized syllables to practice stress. When they’ve learned the basic melody, teach them the slurs. Joining sounds and linking speech are a huge part of everyday English conversations. Until the students learn to join words, add and drop letters, and use contractions, their speech will sound stiff and formal. Encourage them to relax and speak more casually. This could be a good time to introduce the phonemic alphabet and explain how its letters so precisely represent the sounds they have been making. Once the students can make the melody, teach them the words to the song. Teach them to enunciate and articulate. This is where the training of the vocal organs comes in and where they have to carefully focus on what their mouths are doing. During the study stage of a lesson in articulation, it would probably benefit the students if the teacher would show some drawings of the mouth, and explain what the different organs are and how they work together to produce each phoneme. If the students know the names of the different areas of articulation, it will be easier for them to recognize which one the teacher is referring to when they explain how to make different sounds. While it varies for each one, most students don’t have too much trouble making the Plosive and Nasal sounds. Some of the Fricatives, however, especially for Asian students, can be quite a problem. The letters ‘V’ and ‘F’ especially, can be difficult for them to master. They will often be able to create the sound by itself, but when using it in a word, they struggle to maintain it. The key, once again, is practice. One of the most useful techniques is for the teacher to give exaggerated examples with their own mouth, and show the students what the shapes of the sounds look like. Peer dictation and transcribing activities can be useful to help them analyze their own mistakes, and tongue twisters are a great way to add a bit of humor and real challenge to the pronunciation activities. The finishing touch to correct English pronunciation is overcoming the accent. The students may speak with perfect intonation and articulation, and may never mispronounce a Fricative, but unless they have lost the accent of their native language, they will always stand out as non-native English speakers. To solve this, their native accent must be dropped and replaced with an English one, and as always, it will take practice. Again, listening will play a large part, along with audio examples from the teacher, and aid from the phonemic alphabet, which can be used to show the student which sounds are being changed and substituted for which others. Developing an English accent may take longer than any of the other steps to fluent pronunciation, but diligent practice will go a long way to helping them achieve this final goal. The students will have successfully mastered some of the most common linguistic problems associated with learning English at this point, and will be well on their way to becoming fluent and confident speakers of the English language.