Teach English in GAngxi Zhen - Yancheng Shi

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In a lot of non-native English-speaking countries, it is common for English to be offered as subject that students can study from as early as 1st grade elementary school. However, while English grammar is taught to these students, phonics isn’t always part of the curriculum, especially in Asian countries. There are many reasons for this, stemming from the belief that it is too difficult for students to understand, it is too timing consuming or that is unnecessary due to it being indirectly covered through the copious amounts of reading that EFL students are expected to do. However, I believe that in the EFL field, a clear understanding of phonetics is as important as grammar for building communication skills. As an EFL teacher who has been teaching for 10 years in Japan, and who has worked in both the private and public sectors, I strongly believe that understanding phonics is a core skill that is vital to becoming a proficient English speaker, and it is one that is largely ignored in the public school system, but is being embraced more and more by private language schools. There are many advantages offered to students who have a good understanding of the different phonetic sounds used in English, especially in schools that use student-centered teaching methods . Knowing the different sounds used in English pronunciation helps students to speak more clearly and accurately. As well as perceive what is being said by others more accurately and confidently too. This is a very useful skill to have in classes that use student-centered teaching as it removes the necessity for the teacher to be the one feeding the pronunciation of new words to the students, and it instead empowers the students to discover and master new vocabulary by themselves, leaving the teacher to observe and only correct if necessary. In Asian countries, such as Japan, where there are a lot of English loan-words used in daily life, the ability to identify and produce English phonetic sounds over Japanese Katakana sounds is a big challenge for EFL students. A working knowledge of English phonics can help these students avoid using Japanese phonics to produce English words, by giving them the skills to be able to see an English word and decode it so that they can produce the correct phonetic sounds to say the word accurately and without the use of Japanese phonics. It also gives them students the confidence to try and pronounce new words that they come across. Knowing English phonics can also help students improve their reading too, especially when reading aloud, as students may know certain words when said aloud but are unable to recognize them as the same word when they see them written down. By teaching students the phonic sounds used in English, students can read out written words and identify them as words that they are may already know. In addition, it helps students to decode the sounds used in a word instead of memorizing whole words individually. This then gives students the ability to decode longer and more complicated words in order to be able to use them when verbally communicating, which is a very useful skill for students when reading authentic materials, and can help build a bigger vocabulary that a student is comfortable using when speaking. The problem with the way that English is taught in current Asian countries, is that English classes are taught using rote memorization, without teaching the students the phonetic sounds used. The issue this presents is that students can only recognize individual words that have been taught to them by the teacher, but don’t understand the different phonetic sounds that are used to produce the word. The result of this is that students are unable to pronounce new words accurately or confidently without a lot of support from the teacher, which limits the amount of self-studying they can do and impedes student individual progress. Overall, I believe that phonetics is an important part of studying English as a foreign language. A good understanding of the phonetic sounds used in English empowers students to confidently use vocabulary they have read in a book in verbal communication, improves communication and pronunciation through being able to decode unknown words, helps students avoid the pitfalls of using their L1’s pronunciation when encountering new words and also gives students the skills to be able to learn independently. While I believe that understanding grammar is a very important part of learning a new language, I think that not teaching students the phonetic sounds used in English limits their potential for self-studying and future growth.