TEFL Elkhead Oregon



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japan with its 127 million inhabitants consists of four main islands (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu) and more than 6000 islands . japanese is the official language and spoken all over the islands. There are many dialects which are not easy to understand even by the japanese themselves (for instance, japanese from western japan are not able to understand people from the northern areas ). The japanese language is very complex and probably be related to Korean and Manchurian . english, on the other hand, is an Indo-European language and belongs to the Germanic language, which makes it easy for Dutchmen (for instance) to study english. japanese people studying english face many problems. In this article I will show some reasons which are related due to differences between both languages, english and japanese. I will focus on four areas: alphabet, pronunciation, grammar (some points) and cultural differences. ALPHABET The japanese writing system consists of three different scripts: hiragana, katakana and kanji (chinese characters). Hiragana and katakana are so-called syllabaries. Hiragana is usually used for grammar particles whereas katakana is used for foreign words and names. Modern japanese also uses romaji, the Latin script, for advertisements, etc. japanese children are taught the japanese writing system as well as romaji at elementary school. Therefore writing is not such a big problem for the japanese, although they need more time and a lot of practice. GRAMMAR In general, the japanese language has two tenses: present tense and past tense. This makes it easy for people studying japanese, but it is very difficult for the japanese to deal with twelve tenses (including progressive forms). japanese learners of english make mistakes which are encouraged by the grammar. For example, the usage of present tense for the future: He sees her tomorrow. Further problems can be seen by “occasional confusion between progressive and perfect forms” . In japanese there are no auxiliary words like have/has which makes it difficult to form perfect tenses. As articles (definite, indefinite) are also unknown, they are very often omitted: I bought new car. PRONUNCIATION In japanese there are no consonant clusters (e.g. brush). Therefore japanese learners “often tend to break them up by inserting short vowels” and/or add a vowel after a word ending with a consonant. They use katakana (e.g. burashu) to write down the pronunciation of a word. Although some teacher know about the phonemic alphabet, it is not very easy to convince the students to use it. Therefore a lot of exercises are required to help the students with the pronunciation and to encourage them to speak english. CULTURAL DIFFERENCES Politeness and respect are very important issues in japan. The language used for politeness is “so finely graded that an out-of-context fragment of dialogue can tell the eavesdropper a great deal about the age, sex, relationship and relative status of both speakers.” Therefore japanese learners are afraid whether their politeness in english is sufficiently. They usually use the word ‘sensei' which means teacher instead of the name. In addition, for the students it is not very easy to use the word you to strangers. In japanese there are many words for you depending on who they speak to and what kind of relationship they have to the speaker. I think a lot of patience and understanding of japanese culture is needed to teach english in japan. REFERENCES Thompson, I., japanese speaker, IN: Swan, M. & Smith, B. (ed.), Learner english, A teacher's guide to interference and other problems, Cambridge university press, 2. Edition, 9th printing, 396 pages, 2007 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/japan, 22/08/2012 http://esl.fis.edu/grammar/langdiff/japanese.htm, 21/08/2012 http://www.jref.com/japan/language/romaji.shtml, 22/08/2012