Teach English in Zhuangmo Zhen - Xinzhou Shi

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Students learning English as a second language will always face some difficulty whether it be with pronunciation, grammatical structures, or complex phrasal verbs. Difficulties may even lie outside of the language structure itself and instead lie within the cultural differences of the country. Students whose native language is Japanese face a variety of challenges when learning English; some cultural and some linguistic. Culturally, Japanese society focuses on the needs of the many, rather than the needs of one. This means students tend to be reluctant when speaking their own opinions in front of an entire class. Students do not wish to make a mistake and embarrass themselves in front of everyone (Dunsmore, 2018). This can be challenging for both teachers and students to overcome, as lesson activities which call for English to be used in a spontaneous, flowing manor often fall flat with students. English teachers in Japan often note that classes in elementary through high school focus less on creative skills and more on lecture-styled lessons. Teachers may find students hesitating to complete creative English activities such as storytelling. Large class sizes in Japan may lead to classroom management difficulties for some teachers (Dunsmore, 2018). With typical class sizes of 30-40 students, group and pair work will, in most cases, lead to high noise levels. There are many linguistic differences between Japanese and English. One of the biggest differences lies in pronunciation. Japanese syllables end in vowel sounds, with the exception of “n” (IPA - “n”). English syllables end not only in vowels but a variety of consonant sounds. This leads to many mispronounced English words and a strong tendency to add a vowel sound to the end of a word which ends in a consonant (Stevens, 2017). For example, the word “cat” may be mispronounced as “cat-o”. Other common mispronunciations come from the English “R” and “L” sounds (IPA - “ɹ” and/or “ɻ”, and “l” and/or “ɭ”). The Japanese language does not have either of these approximant and lateral approximant sounds. Japanese has an alveolar tap (IPA - “ɾ”), which sounds very similar to both English “R” and “L” (Stevens, 2017). This often leads to a sound swap. For example, “lemon” may be mispronounced as “remon”, and “love” as “rove”. The English “TH” (IPA - “θ” and “ð”) is another sound which does not exist in the Japanese language. The “TH” sound is often substituted with the Japanese “sa” sound, as it is the closest equivalent. Words such as “than” and “think” will become “san” and “sink” (Stevens, 2017). Another major difference between Japanese and English is that they do not share the same syntax. Japanese favors a Subject-Object-Verb sentence order, while English favors a Subject-Verb-Object order. In addition to different sentence structures, Japanese grammar includes particles which define a word’s role in the sentence. For example, adding “wa” after a word indicates that that word is the subject of the sentence. This allows for a less strict word order in more complex Japanese sentence structure. English on the other hand must follow its syntax very strictly, as reordering words changes the meaning of sentences. This can lead a student placing objects of sentences in an incorrect spot. Japanese language lacks definite and indefinite articles (the, a/an) (Bryant , 1984). Students may end up omitting these in sentences, leading to mistakes such as “[ ] dogs chase [ ] cat in [ ] street.” Japanese has no singular or plural differentiation and students may not properly pluralize nouns in sentences (Bryant , 1984). In summary, Japanese learners of English face not only linguistic difficulties, but cultural ones as well. Though these may seem like barriers to learning, they can be overcome with patience, practice, and perseverance by both students and teachers. Sources Bryant, W. H. (1984). Typical Errors in English Made by Japanese ESL Students. JALT Publications, 6. Retrieved from https://jalt-publications.org/files/pdf-article/art1_21.pdf Dunsmore, L. (2018, November 3). The Most Common Problems Students in Japan Face When Learning English. Retrieved from www.teflcourse.net/blog/the-most-common-problems- students-in-japan-face-when-learning-english-ittt-tefl-blog Stevens, J. L. (2017, September 15). The 5 Most Common Pronunciation Problems for Japanese ESL Students. Retrieved from blog.talk.edu/grammar/the-5-most-common- pronunciation-problems-for-japanese-esl-students/