Teach English in Yaoji Zhen - Xuzhou Shi

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Understanding the common problems that the learners from different countries face is very important. Depending on the differences in those problems, as a teacher, you will need to learn how to confront them in different ways. English Language students from France will face very different problems than students from Japan. IN this summative task, I will be exploring the differences in language between Japanese and English and how that can cause problems while Japanese students study the language. First off, there are a lot of differences between the Latin based language of English and the Ural-Altaic based language of Japanese. The most prominent of these differences are sentence structure and grammar, written characters, and pronunciation of certain sounds. These differences come from the fact the root of the languages are almost opposite to each other. The first problem I will talk about is the grammar and sentence structure. In the Japanese language, the sentence structure is sometimes backwards compared to English, and other times can line up exactly as English does. For instance, when introducing yourself in Japanese, you start with a phrase meaning ‘hello’ which is ‘hajimemashite’, then you state you name and say a phrase that literally translates to ‘looking forward to good relations with you’ which is ‘yoroshiku onegaishimasu’ The structure of a formal introductory statement in English is very similar, for example “Hello, my name is John. It is nice to meet you.” Whereas, if you were talking about something that you like, an English sentence would begin with the subject, then the verb, and the object. However, a Japanese sentence would begin with the verb, then the object, and end with the subject; almost completely backwards to the English structure. Because Japanese is a very contextual language, meaning that sentence or word meaning is derived from the sounds or words around it, the structure of a sentence seems to change based on the situation. This may cause a lot of challenges for Japanese students where they may switch up the order to sentences. The best way to confront this problem is to very thoroughly go through all grammar lessons slowly and very intentionally. Another way to help students understand would be to have every situation that form is used as examples so that they can see how the language would stay the same or change based on the situation. This would also require a teacher to use a lot of review of grammar to make sure that students are retaining the older content as well as learning the new content with the same amount of accuracy. The second problem I want to address is all about the written characters of the language. English uses a roman alphabet consisting of letters and those letters are then put together in order to make words that form sentences. Japanese, however, is completely different. First of all, they have multiple alphabets. The first, and most commonly used, is ‘hiragana’. Hiragana is an alphabet that contains characters that each represent one sound, ‘か’ is the character in hiragana that signifies the sound ‘ka’. These characters are then put together to create a sentence and the order of the sounds or characters is what creates the meaning of the sentence. These characters are also used to help show or display how to say or pronounce the characters within another alphabet, called ‘Kanji’. Kanji is not really an alphabet, but is a group of characters that were adapted from Chinese characters. Each character, though possibly made up of multiple sounds, displays one word or idea depending on the context it is used. The pairing up of two or more of these characters can create different ideas or words. These characters are often displayed in the family names of the Japanese people and the sounds are what is important, not the meaning of the combination of the characters. There is a third alphabet, which I will not talk about too much, because it is mainly used to write out foreign words using Japanese sounds, but the characters are written in similar form to the characters in hiragana. All of this is to demonstrate the major difficulties that Japanese students could face when learning to read or write English. The best way to confront this problem will actually depend on the level of your students. If you are teaching true beginners, it would be best to teach each letter and the range of sounds it can make before teaching too much language speaking. However, if your students are more advanced in their learning, maybe a bit of review of how to write letters as well as read them would be good to help students maintain their knowledge. Lastly, I will talk about the differences between the sounds made in each language. In English, the sounds used are pretty straight forward and can be described by simply reading or sounding out the alphabet. However, the Japanese language is actually missing some of the sounds that the English language contains. The sounds ‘r’, ‘l’, ‘v’, and ‘x’ are all sounds that are not used in Japanese. However, the one sound I want to focus on is the Japanese equivalent to ‘r’ and ‘l’. This sound, displayed in the Japanese sounds of ‘ra’, ‘ri’, ‘ru’, ‘re’, ‘ro’, is very hard to write about, but also very hard to explain. Imagine combining three English sounds:’r’, ‘l’, and ‘d’ and creating one sound. It is because Japanese students are raised using this sound that makes it very difficult to say words like ‘girl’, ‘library’, ‘liberty’, and more. This problem is not only difficult to confront but it is also very bad for a students’ confidence and motivation. The best way to sensitively teach this type of pronunciation to Japanese students is with intentional study of the mouth and where sounds come from as well as choral drilling and tongue twisters that can be turned into a fun game. It is very important to not call a student out in front of the class individually, in order not to damage their confidence. Building a strong community of learning in the classroom and creating a safe and fun place for students to explore language is very important in general, but will be extremely helpful when encountering pronunciation issues. Overall, teachers must be sensitive to the differences between the mother tongue of their students when teaching English. Understanding these differences will be extremely beneficial to help students learn better English.