6 Ways to Help Chinese Students to Master Pronunciation
The Chinese language is a tonal language can make learning English a real challenge for my students. The one thing I have on my side though is the fact that they are brought up to be dedicated at anything they do and hardworking. Although it's been mentioned that pronunciation is not the most important aspect of TEFL, it is to The Chinese Government. It’s something we’ve been told we need to cover deeply along with reading and comprehension.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Paula S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
As just mentioned the Chinese language is tonal, meaning words with different “tones” which are like pitches in music changes the meaning of a word even if the pronunciation of the word is the same. It is the pitch accent that is important. So the best approach for my students has been repetition. They have the hardest time with the saying the letters; R, W, S, also the sounds TH, WR together, of course, QU, OU and OUR. So they have to learn how to actually train their lips, tongue, and teeth to work together to pronounce the letters and sounds first before we put words together.
2. Engaging activities
I also try to make learning engaging and fun for my students, although I literally have to show how my mouth and tongue move against my teeth, I also made my own colorful picture flashcards. For example, since the R sound is tough for them I made three flash cards, one has a big red R on it, the next has the word RED in red, then the next has a RED CAR on it. Where I drew a really cute red car. Fortunately, I used to win all the art contests back in grade school! Just a side point! Anyway for each student who has trouble with the R sound I use these in that order. First I’ll say what’s this letter? Then I’ll show them with my mouth how to pronounce the R sound, then I tell them to let’s say it together. Three times until they have it, then the same with the word RED. What really works is when we get to the RED CAR flashcard, they realize they can say the R sound at the end of word CAR without any trouble!
3. Small sentence drilling
At this point once pronunciation is good, I can move on to the sentences. Small sentences at first, again with repetition, my flashcards along with the curriculum that I am required to follow really help the students to learn and speak English well. We have new reading and course books to use which have a lot of the gap filled exercises in them. Although I was using something similar to my flashcards, these are exactly what was just laid out in this course. I’m going to slowly incorporate the new books with what I’ve been doing all along because my students were intimidated by the number of new books they received from the school. There are also a lot more words and longer sentences in the new books so that also made my students a little nervous. I told them longer doesn’t mean harder!
4. Bright materials
I also use props of all different kinds ie; stuffed animals, hats, gloves and even play plastic food I bought at the toy store. The students really apply themselves and feel more at ease when I use these different methods to get them to pronounce words especially the very shy ones.
5. New correction techniques
The school also instructed us with some new teaching guidelines that have to do with correction. Of course always correct but with an encouraging and positive attitude for our students. But what was interesting was that even if we have a student who is exceptional in all areas (and believe me I do, some of my students are amazing and know English better than I do) we are to still find something to correct.
6. Reading to correct pronunciation
The new books are focusing on reading and comprehension skills so again I’m sure once they have the pronunciation down and the meaning of the words, they will have an easier time reading.
These books are actually very nice, they are very colorful full of pictures to go along with the words and sentences. Some of the pictures are cute colorful drawings and others are real photographs. I know it’s going to make my job a lot easier and I’m going to have fun with my students. They will be able to describe what they see in the picture, (The Engage stage) then they can read their spelling words to me, I’ll help pronounce anything they’re having trouble with again using my own flashcards, (The Study stage) then I’ll have them repeat, afterward they will read the sentences and then tell me what they’ve learned from the picture and/or sentences depending on what it is (Activate stage). I am one in one with my students so obviously I cannot have a group discussion, but I can sure get them talking!
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In conclusion, I have to say that being a TEFL teacher has been one of the most rewarding careers I have ever had. When you see your students make progress and how excited they get as learn, it brings such joy! I look forward to the future with eagerness as I get more experience as a teacher.
If you follow these tips, you should get the most out of your course whilst having a rewarding and enjoyable experience in the process.
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