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Why should language learners read aloud?

Why should language learners read aloud?

How often in your daily life do you read aloud? Unless you have small children, the answer is probably “not often”. For most of us, the vast majority of the oral reading we did was back in the early years of elementary school, when we were still learning to read. At that stage, it was important to read aloud in order for teachers to grasp our strengths and deficits as developing readers. With this information, they could provide the assistance needed to address the issues preventing fluent reading.

As we grow older, and the mechanics of reading are presumed to have been mastered, reading is assessed through comprehension. We read a passage, and then answer questions to demonstrate that we have read well. Assessing comprehension can alert teachers to reading problems, but it cannot shed much light on the nature of the problems. In other words, while teachers might know that their students are not reading well, with only comprehension scores to go on, they are none the wiser as to why. Read More »

10 Best Animated Movies for Learning English

10 Best Animated Movies for Learning English

My son was less than two years old when our family moved to Japan. Now, there are many things to be concerned about with a child that age, but we were particularly eager that he learn to speak Japanese. After all, this wasn’t an extended holiday. We intended to settle down. 

Fast forward a year and we found ourselves worrying that our son might not be able to speak English, the language we’d assumed would be native to him. We did our best to talk and read to him in English, but we sometimes worried that we weren’t doing enough. We didn’t want to turn our home into a cram school, but thankfully we discovered an activity that could entertain us all and provide our son with some much needed English input, watching movies. 

I like documentaries and my wife is partial to romantic comedies, but we were pretty sure that neither of these would go down well with a three-year-old. Thankfully, the school where I was working at the time had a great selection of English animation movies. We probably watched 50 or more of these over the next few years. Some had a greater effect on my son’s language development than others.  Read More »

Transcription for Language Learners: Is what you’re saying the same as what I’m hearing?

Transcription for Language Learners: Is what you’re saying the same as what I’m hearing?

I’ve been teaching English language learners in Japan for more than a decade, and in that time I’ve developed a keen sense of their strengths and weaknesses in the language. Not all learners are the same, of course, but there are patterns that I know will reliably surface with each new batch of learners. For a long time, however, there was a particular problem that I was reluctant to take on in my classes, pronunciation. 

Not to make excuses for myself, but because I’ve been teaching homogeneous groups for so long, I’ve grown accustomed to the first language interference that affects Japanese speakers’ pronunciation of English. In other words, I’ve stopped noticing the systematic flaws in the pronunciation of my students. 

A lot of those I teach end up studying overseas in America or the United Kingdom. Students returning from these experiences often reported some kind of failure to communicate that stemmed from poor pronunciation. Most recently, a student told me of how his attempt to order a soft drink, “Coke, please”, resulted in him being handed a cookie by the staff at the counter of a fast food restaurant.  Read More »

5 Strategies to Improve Pronunciation

5 Strategies to Improve Pronunciation

One of the most difficult aspects of learning a new language is mastering the pronunciation. Sometimes the new language contains sounds (phonemes) that don’t exist in the learner’s native tongue. Sometimes patterns of intonation are unfamiliar and difficult to imitate. Sometimes the learner transposes features of pronunciation from their first language to the new language. Whatever the challenge, these five strategies can help your learners to dramatically improve pronunciation. Read More »