Jun 24, 2012 Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) 2503 Views
The Language Systems
It is important to incorporate Language Systems (Lexis or vocabulary, Grammar, Function and Phonology) in order to deliver a balanced and comprehensive English course. When analyzing a particular language item, we could simply look at the individual words (vocabulary or lexis). We could also consider how these individual words interact with each other (grammar or syntax). We could further explore how these words sound (phonology) and how we go about using them in particular situations (function).
Phonetics and Phonology
Helping students to improve their pronunciation is very important. There really is very little point in students learning a new word, learning what it means and how to use it in asentence, if no one understands them when they say it because their pronunciation is very poor. Students may have difficultly with the following aspects of phonology:
• Word Stress
• Sentence Stress
The Phonemic Chart
Each language has its own set of sounds which exist in a particular relationship to one another. Refer to the Phonemic chart in your Course Readings which represents the complete set of English sounds. The symbols representing the different sounds of English are taken from the International Phonetic Alphabet. The English language contains forty four sounds. It is these same symbols which are found in most learner dictionaries and which assists learners in finding the pronunciation of words for themselves. The phonemic symbols generally refer to British English and the symbols may be modified to cater for different accents.
Problems with Sounds:
It is useful for a teacher to know which sounds used in English do not occur in other languages, such as the sounds made by th in the words bath and bathe. In addition, almost all ESL students will have trouble with the English /r/. Unfamiliar sounds may be some of the hardest to produce.
Stressed syllables in English are usually louder and are often pronounced at a higher pitch than other syllables. A syllable can be described as a group of sounds that are pronounced together. Syllables which are stressed have a clear vowel whereas the vowel in an unstressed syllable is usually shorter and reduced to /É(TM)/. Explain to your students that in order to pronounce a word correctly, they must learn where the stress goes. Take the word 'modern' for example. The stress is on the first syllable - modern.
We have looked at the term stress referring to the stressed syllable in individual words. However, when a particular word is used in a sentence, these syllables may or may not be stressed. This is essentially the difference between word stress vs. sentence stress. Sentences usually have one main stress, and often a few secondary ones. It is this stress that highlights those content carrying words (usually: nouns, verbs, adjectives). Look at the following sentence and take note of the underlined stressed syllables:
Listen to the following sentence for example, 'She can swim faster than I can.' The word can is stressed two times in this sentence. It is important to explain to your students that meaning is often conveyed by stress for example:
I drive a silver Porsche. In this sentence, the speaker stresses the word silver and it is clear that the color is the important information that is being conveyed. The driver clearly wants people to know that his or her Porsche is silver and not red. I drive a silver Porsche. In this sentence, the speaker stresses the word Porsche and it is clear that it is the model which is the important information being conveyed. The driver clearly wants people to know that he or she drives a Porsche and not a Toyota.
Problems with Intonation
Students often experience problems with intonation for a number of reasons. Students often speak with a flat intonation as their mother tongue may have a narrower range. Students may also lack the confidence to mimic the various sound patterns in the classroom environment as they think that they sound funny. In many instances students simply don't hear the various sound patterns and need to train their ears to pick up the subtle differences in sound. Students are often more concerned with what needs to be said rather than how to actually say it. These problems can be overcome with the application of a number of pronunciation exercises, activities and drilling.
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