Teach English in Tongshi Zhen - Yueyang Shi

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English presents a particular difficulty to new learners and therefore a challenge to teachers of these learners. Living abroad and teaching this language, I have seen examples of the way this presents itself in everyday language. This probably begins with the history of the English language, which has French, Latin, German, Greek, Scandinavian, and Sanskrit influences. It is also a language that has gone through many periods of changes: Proto-English, Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English and now Modern English. During all of this time, the English language has gone through changes in its vowel sound, spelling of its words, and its pronunciations. Even as a native speaker, I’ve even observed changes to the language in recent years with the prevalence of online subcultures with their own colloquialisms that then spread to the larger English-speaking community. Teaching Spanish speakers, one might assume that the shared Latin base would make the job easier. However, because certain words and phrases are shared, the peculiarities of the English language make it so that those differences can often harm the learning experience instead of helping it. Learners will often assume that a certain practice or form will be the same, when English actually has its own unique pattern or usage. During the TEFL course, I thought multiple times of how difficult certain facets of the language that seem natural and obvious must be to learners. This included the tenses, pronunciation, and conditionals. Pronunciations seem to be the hardest thing for learners to pick up. Recently, I had an experience with a fellow teacher who confused the pronunciations of love, loft, and loaf, because they did not sound distinct to her. Famously, the “ough” sound changes pronunciation depending on its prefix: bough, rough, though, through and cough. Another difficulty that pronunciation might possess are silent letters like knight, tsunami, and island, where the “k”, “t”, and “s” are not pronounced. Besides pronunciation, students might have problems learning tenses, which are different for all languages. Additionally, the abundance of tenses in English – at least twelve – might be difficult to explain to students. English also has exceptions to spelling rules. For example, the rule “I” before “E” except after “C” or when sounding like “A” as in neighbor and weigh. This rule, which is common for students is a good example of things which are difficult to native English speakers and increases in difficulty for learners. The most important reminder for me in realizing the unique properties of the English language is the risk that my students are taking in trying to learn. It is a difficult language to learn, but also an increasingly important one. That my students and their parents are making sure this is a priority and that they are trying at all is an enormous first step. Hopefully, I can instill confidence in my students to try these pronunciations and spellings, even if they might fail. I am grateful to be teaching younger children, because the mistakes that could get ingrained in older speakers can be ironed out. Hopefully, those peculiarities that seem natural to me will also become natural to them.