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This is how our TEFL graduates feel they have gained from their course, and how they plan to put into action what they learned:
For this essay I am going to focus on the specific country of japan. I have spent a considerable amount of time in japan, and at first I felt like understanding japanese-accented english was like listening to a foreign language. Not only was I frustrated by my incomprehension of their accents, but I also sensed a lot of frustration and shame from the japanese who attempted to speak english with me. Many of the sounds of the english language do not exist in the japanese language. In two weeks time, I will be moving Uwajima, japan to
be an Assistant Language teacher in english classrooms with the japanese Exchange Teaching Program (JET Program). It is important to me to understand the specific pronunciation problems the japanese have with english so that I can strategically target these areas in lessons; furthermore, I would like to be more sensitive to the difficulties of learning english for japanese students. The tefl course pointed out that pronunciation is often the most neglected aspect of english language teaching. One reason for this could be the lacking confidence of foreign teachers.
The JET Program warned me of a similar trend: many japanese teachers of english are self-conscious about their own poor pronunciation. In many ways, as an ALT (Assistant Language teacher), my job will be a pronunciation guide. The japanese language is very systematic, so I have a feeling they will grasp the english grammar fairly quickly. The pronunciation is another issue. The most well known challenge of the japanese is differentiation between the /l/ and /r/ sounds in english. Their tendency to confuse these sounds is often ridiculed and pointed out in comedy sketches and in other media. The japanese
language contains a combination /l/ and /r/ sound that is actually very difficult for a trained english speaker to produce. Because of this combination sound, it is not easy for the japanese to differentiate between the two sounds. Using some of the techniques shown in the tefl course (Unit 13), I plan to approach this topic almost immediately in my english classes. If it's difficult, there is no reason to avoid it. The more practice the japanese students get in making /r/ and /l/ sounds, the faster they will overcome this language hurdle. I think a very helpful tip for making the /l/ sound will be a visual tongue diagram. To produce the /l/ consonant, the tongue must start touching the back of the front teeth. This might feel awkward at first to a japanese tongue, so it is essential to train the muscle.
It is also noteworthy that the lips do not move when making a /l/ sound. In contrast, lip movement is crucial in pronouncing an /r/ sound. Try to say the following words, and note your lip movements: “roll, real, ran.” As you can see, lip movement is very important in producing this sound, and hopefully will help the japanese differentiate the /r/ sound from the /l/ sound. In addition, the /v/ and /?/ sounds do not exist in the japanese language. The japanese compensate for the /v/ sound by using the /b/ sound, which does exist in their mother tongue. I would plan a lesson differentiating between the /v/ and /b/ sounds for this reason. The key difference in these sounds is the starting position of the lips and teeth. In the /b/ sound, both lips are pressed firmly together before the plosive blast of air creates the sound. The /v/ sound, however, begins with the front teeth pressed lightly against the lower lip, and is a fricative sound. Vibrations should be able to be felt in the throat when holding out a /v/ consonant. For the
/?/ sound, it must be clearly communicated that nothing should be closed off when making the sound. In other words, your lips, tongue, and teeth do not touch. The air needs to escape through a small gap between the tongue and front teeth to produce the sound. Through extensive visuals, lots of repetition and practice, as well as plenty of demonstrations of correctly pronounced english, I plan to utilize the concepts learned in this tefl course to aid the japanese with their pronunciation problems in english language study.
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