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Many expats living in Korea find the Hangul (??) alphabet to be incredibly easy to learn. This is due mainly to the fact that it is a phonic alphabet with little to no exceptions in its use. The letters are also exceptionally logical in their shape and many foreigners find they can learn to read at a basic level after only an hour of study. However, with more study, many an english teacher in Korea can find the root reason for their students' pronunciation problems. One of the biggest problems comes down to letter sounds, as many sounds used in english don't get used in Korean, or get confused with other sounds. A second major problem comes in the construction of words in Korean, as they follow a rigid set of rules that english does not. In order to understand a lot of the issues with words, you need to understand a bit about how they are constructed in Korean. Words in Korean are always broken up by syllables. Notice in the word for Hangul above there are two “boxes”
of letters, which is because the word Hangul is two syllables. Korean words never have more than two consonants pronounced in any syllable. This makes words like “scratched” impossible to pronounce correctly using the Korean alphabet. When instances like this happen, vowels, usually the /?/ sound, are added into the words. At the same time, final consonants are never released unless followed by a vowel and in order to release them a Korean student will usually add a /?/ or /i:/ at the end of a word. Thus, “scratched” would be pronounced as /s?k?ræt?i:d?/ (suh-cuh-rat-chee-duh) and “orange” becomes “or-an-gee”. Next we'll discuss the letters. There are many locations online where you can further read about these letter problems, but this will give you a short synopsis that can help the first day teacher have a general idea of what to expect. The first letters we'll start with are probably the most famously problematic, the L and R. In??, the L and R letters are mostly represented by the letter ?. Please consider how you construct the L and R sound for a second, then consider why having a single letter be both might cause an issue. In truth, both of these sounds are not completely the same as their english
counterpart, but because it is what the students know, they tend to fall back on it. The sound of?changes depending on its position in a word, which leads to the L and R mix up and causes students to change “rice” to “lice” and “light” to “right”. If a word ends with /r/, it is usually dropped and replaced with a /?/ sound. The “th” sound (/?/) does not exist in Korean and students will often replace it with a simple /s/ sound. This changes “think” to “sink” or “thin” to “sin”. While there are many /w/ sounds in Korean, the /w/ sounds is mostly used as a connecting sound and rarely seen at the start of a word. When it is used at the start of a word, it is generally dropped completely. Thus, words like “shower” are fine (though it will become “showa” due to the /r/) but “wolf” would become “olf” (though see /f/ in the next paragraph). There are no fricatives in Korean, so there are no matching sounds for /v/ or /f/. When using the /v/ sound students will often use /b/, thus you'll often hear students say “teacher, bery tired!” instead of “very”. For the /f/ sound students will use /p/ instead, which turns “fast” into “past” or “far” into “par”.
When combined with the lack of /?/ and the problem with ending consonants, the word “faith” becomes /peIs?/. Many students don't realize that these problems exist, mostly because they are never corrected at a young age. Students may gradually fix these problems themselves, but often they simply don't realize they are performing these mistakes and need reminded of the proper way. The best way to fix this issue for the students is through constant reiteration and practice. Never let the students fall back on mispronunciation and correct the issue whenever it arises. Sources: http://koreanalyst.wordpress.com/2009/01/09/the-korean-learner-of-english-english-korean-cross-linguistic-challenges/ http://hiteacher.com/korea/teaching-english-to-koreans.htm http://www.tesolcourse.com/tesol-articles/pronuniciation-problems-in-specific-countries/ My own experience teaching.
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