Diary submitted by Adam Mc M, Valencia
Each region of the world comes with its own difficulties when trying to teach pronunciation in English. With native Spanish learners there are a few common difficulties to encounter such as words that start with ‘s’ (they tend to put an ‘e’ before it to make it easier for themselves) and especially ‘-ed’ endings which this reflective diary will focus on.
I would regularly have students come in, sit down in front of me, start speaking, make a mistake, have me correct them and then say, “No one has ever told me that!”. One of the most important parts of TEFL to me is teaching the differences between the students’ mother tongue pronunciation and English. After each lesson in which I would place emphasis on pronunciation, the student would return in the next lesson seeming more confident with their newfound knowledge and would even call out their own mistakes. This shows that their time spent on pronunciation was memorable for them and thus will help them remember which is correct in the future. The most frequently encountered problem with pronunciation was, “-ed endings”. This would usually take only a couple of minutes to explain and then we could move on. The student would then make a few more mistakes through habit. I would then refer them back to the table we used, and they would think about it and then continue using the correct form. I would also make this easier for audio-visual and kinaesthetic by getting them to put their and on their throat in order to feel and listen to the differences between voiced and voiceless consonants.
A reason for this gentle shift from speaking as they would in Spanish to English would be that they are moving from one linguistic system to another. First from their native language system, secondly to an interlanguage stage and then thirdly to the system of the students target language. By teaching the target language’s system, the student will therefore make a translation between these stages until they are able to articulate themselves at a native level.
It seems to be that more focus should be put upon pronunciation in the EFL classroom. Although the results may not be immediately clear to teachers in every case, each student will make an eventual progression from their native articulation to that of their L2. Furthermore, from each encounter I have had in this area, the student will return thankful rather than angry that the teacher has corrected them.