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V.B. - Japan said:
Pronunciation Problems in JapanSince I am currently teaching english in japan, I have decided to briefly discuss some the pronunciation problems that I have observed during my time here. Correct pronunciation is vital in order for a student to communicate in English with the world around them. Although a japanese version of English pronunciation will most likely be understood by fellow native japanese speakers, native english speakers or English learners from other countries may have difficulties comprehending. Often, I struggle to understand my own students because of several major pronunciation problems that reoccur. My growing awareness of such issues helps me to decipher what they are trying to say and allows me to focus on potential difficulties. The japanese language is not composed of single letters but syllables of which there are a set number. Thus, for native japanese speakers, the notion of consonants and vowels as separate entities which may be pronounced independently is rather alien and can produce much confusion and many mistakes. Moreover, these syllables are pronounced the same no matter what may precede or follow them. ?Fu? is pronounced the same in ?fuji? as it is in ?fukuro? and ?saifu?. Due to their expectation of sounds consonants being followed by a vowel to make a syllable, words ending in a consonant are regularly mispronounced and elongated. ?Hand? often becomes ?hando? and ?book? can change to ?booku?. Consequently, teaching that sound and symbol may not always have a one-to-one relationship is essential. Some sounds present particular difficulties for native japanese speakers. For example, the difference between ?r? and ?l? is one which even some japanese teachers of English have failed to completely master. The issue derives from the fact that in japanese, there are not two different sounds or letters for ?r? and ?l? but only one, which is somewhere between the two. As well as mispronunciation, students often mix up the two letters when they are writing. Another major pronunciation problem surrounds the sound ?th? which is mispronounced as an ?s? or ?z? sound. This again stems from the lack of such as sound in japanese. Anything which involves two consonants together can be extremely baffling. Tongue twisters can be a fun way of trying to show students the difference between certain sounds. For example, ?red lorry, yellow lorry? can be used to show ?r? vs. ?l?. Focussing on the difference between pairs of similar sounding words can also be a beneficial exercise. The source of much strife and frustration for many teachers of English in Japan is ?Katakana English?. The japanese writing system is made up of three different sets of characters. Kanji, originating from china, is supplemented by Hiragana and Katakana which are essentially two different ways of writing the same things. The katakana script is most commonly used for words deriving from foreign languages. Such loan words are very common and create many pronunciation problems as the students often revert to the katakana pronunciation rather than using or even learning the true English one. Since katakana is limited by its syllables, Katakana versions and their English derivatives are often vastly different. For example, ?volleyball? becomes ?bore-bo-ru? due to the lack of ?v? and ?r?/?l? distinction when using katakana. This problem is perpetuated by many japanese teachers of English who deal with the students? inability to pronounce or read words written in the Roman alphabet by transcribing them into Katakana, rather than teaching correct reading of English. In order to deal with this, it is essential to not just accept katakana answers and to ensure that the students are correctly pronouncing words. students may not realise the vast difference between some of these loan words and their English equivalents so time must be spent addressing it. Furthermore, the use of katakana as an aid to pronouncing any English words must be avoided wherever possible. Although a teacher may not have time to regularly devote entire lessons to phonics, it is important to always keep these problems in mind and address them as they come up. Making sure japanese students can successfully use the Roman alphabet and navigate its sounds is vital to their success.