Teach English in ErfAngping Zhen - Zhangjiajie Shi

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As an EFL teacher in South Korea, I have noticed some problems which are common for learners in South Korea. Differentiating between the pronunciation of sounds /b/ and /p/ as well as /r/ and /l/ are a struggle for most Korean learners. As a result of these pronunciation issues, as well as their Korean written language patterns, spelling problems also tend to occur when using words containing the aforementioned sounds. EFL teachers in South Korea need to be aware of the native Korean pronunciations of the sounds /b/ and /p/ as well as /r/ and /l/ to be better prepared to help Korean learners. In Korean, the sounds /b/ and /p/ are combined, as well as the sounds /r/ and /l/. For Korean learners, words such as ‘bike’ and ‘pike’ are pronounced almost exactly the same; the words ‘road’ and ‘load’ also tend to sound the same when spoken by a Korean learner. EFL teachers in South Korea should be prepared for this problem for their students, and prepare phonics exercises to better help their students hear the difference. An exercise such as repeating the desired sound using nonsense words can help students to hear the subtle difference and practice forming the sounds. After repetition in a phonics exercise, students generally find it much easier to hear the difference between the sounds, as well as produce the sounds themselves. For example, an exercise I have used with my students is to have them say: “Luh, Luh, Luh, Lake. Ruh, ruh, ruh, rake” After demonstrating the sounds, and sometimes over-emphasizing them, the students start to find it easier to hear the difference in spoken English, and then also struggle less pronouncing the words themselves. Perhaps as a result of their own Korean combining of the letters /b/ and /p/ as well as /r/ and /l/, learners often also struggle with spelling. Anyone who has visited Korea has surely seen examples of these errors on street signs and in restaurants. The errors can be amusing to travelers, I once entered a café and saw a sign advertising “milk ratte” where it should have said “milk latte”, however in a classroom these errors can be a source of frustration for the learners. Unfortunately, there are not too many tricks to help learners with this spelling issue that I have found effective in my lessons. The English language has far too many exceptions and spelling inconsistencies for one activity to be effective, however, drilling phonics activities to help with pronunciation also seems to help with spelling problems. The students can recall the phonics drills that were done as a class and can consider the specific sounds on their own. As a teacher I am often asked the particular spelling of a word and my response has often been to produce the phonics drill so that the student can consider the sound and find the answer themselves. Example: Student: how do you spell rake? Teacher: ruh, ruh, ruh, rake. In conclusion, EFL teachers going to South Korea need to be prepared for the difficulties that Korean learners have with sounds such as /b/ and /p/ as well as /r/ and /l/ because the difficulties will not only present in speaking exercises, but will often frustrate learners in written work as well.