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 »
As any good language teacher knows, learners cannot improve their speaking without abundant opportunities to practice. One-on-one, unrehearsed conversation is the best method for improving speaking across all levels of proficiency. However, most learners have limited opportunities for this. One-on-one instruction may take place once or twice a week (if at all), and so other methods are needed if learners are to improve fluency and accuracy in the new language.
Structured output activities are designed to encourage learners to use newly acquired vocabulary and sentence patterns productively (i.e., through speaking or writing). For the purposes of this article, we will focus on speaking. Structured output activities have two distinguishing characteristics: Read More »
Recording is a great way to help language learners focus on their speaking, reading, and pronunciation skills. Listening to themselves speaking is a great reflective practice for students of all levels which helps create awareness of strengths and weaknesses in the new language. Here are 10 fun ideas using recording that you can incorporate into your lessons. Read More »
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 »