Teach English in Zhuzikou Zhen - Yueyang Shi

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When learning a new language, many people strive to achieve an accent similar to that of a native speaker. Whether a student’s native language is English and they’re learning German, or the student’s native language is the Thai language and they’re learning English, many students eventually want to sound similar to native speakers. Although this is a common point of interest, it is not necessary to always focus on phonetics and phonology. In an English language classroom, phonetics and phonology should be addressed within context, as necessary, and as appropriate for different levels and ages of students. First, in order for students to not become overwhelmed and confused by learning the details of English phonetics and phonology, the teacher should work to address concerns within the context of lessons. For example, instead of focusing a lesson on the differences between the /r/ and /l/ sounds, a teacher can address these differences in relation to a vocab list that has a lot of words with these two sounds. Furthermore, this makes the correction of the phonetic problems relevant for the students, and it makes it less likely for them to get frustrated and caught up in attempting to perfect their pronunciation. In addition to addressing pronunciation within the context of a lesson, the teacher should also work to address phonetics as problems arise. This differs from addressing phonetics and phonology within the context of the lesson because, in this case, the teacher would notice problems that arise during the lesson and address them spontaneously. In other words, if the meaning of what a student is saying is unclear because of a pronunciation issue, or many students are incorrectly pronouncing something, the teacher should take the time to review these specific aspects of phonetics and phonology with the entire class. Furthermore, the teacher should be cautious of over-teaching or -drilling concepts of phonetics and phonology. As previously stated, it is important to address these issues within context and as problems arise, but it is also important—if not more so—to consider the level and age of the students when focusing on phonetics and phonology. For example, young learners would probably have a difficult time understanding the technical differences between different sounds (e.g. affricates versus fricatives), but they are at an age when they are very capable of hearing and copying sounds. Therefore, in teaching pronunciation with young students, repetition and clear demonstration is key. However, for older students, they might struggle with hearing the differences in sounds that are not differentiated between in their native language. Therefore, older students may benefit from some discussion of the technical aspects and physicality of different sounds. Not only is the age of the students important in considering how to approach teaching phonetics and phonology, but the level of the students is also very important to bear in mind. Students who are at a lower level of English might find it discouraging if their pronunciation is constantly addressed; even if they’re producing correct or understandable language, they may easily become frustrated if the teacher continually focuses on their pronunciation problems. Basically, for lower-level students, the production of language should be the goal, and then problems of phonetics and phonology should be addressed in a group setting, only as really necessary. On the other hand, more advanced students are probably more concerned not just the accuracy of what they’re saying but how they’re saying it. In other words, the teacher should be more willing to discuss and teach phonetics and phonology with more advanced students in order to continually improve their speaking. Overall, addressing issues of phonetics and phonology is important in English language classrooms, but the teacher should strongly consider the context of the lesson, necessity of the issue, and the students’ ages and levels. All of these factors affect how and how often the teacher should focus on pronunciation issues, and it is important to work to balance improvement with remaining a positive, encouraging environment. Basically, phonetics and phonology are important to the English language classroom but should not be over-emphasized: production of language and understandability should remain the overall focus.