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Pronunciation problems in ChinaPeople usually think speaking and understanding are as natural as breathing. They just take the ability of speaking for granted.
But they often forget that the ability of speaking English embodies the correctness of pronunciation and intonation.
Actually in china adult English learners are facing a real challenge.
This article is about the common pronunciation difficulties of adult learner and some factors influencing English?s pronunciation. Then I will provide some practical suggestion to make learning pronunciation interesting and effective for adult chinese learners.
Most researchers agree that the learner?s mother tongue influences the pronunciation of the target language and is a significant factor in accounting for foreign accent.
For example, there are no vowels such as /æ/, /au/ and /??/ or such consonant as /?/ and /ð/.Usually chinese students tend to substitute the sound which does not exist with similar one in their mother tongue. A typical example will be the substitution of /s/ or /z/ for the English sound /ð/ (Fanchun Zhang ? 2009): ?I think? becomes ?I sink?.
Another factor is that the sound exist in chinese but nor as separate phoneme: for example /i/ exist in chinese but whether it?s long or short, it doesn?t make any difference in meaning while in English /i:/ differs from /i/ as the words ?sheep? and ?ship? (imagine Jack Sparrow searching for his sheep, the Black Pearl!).
The result is that chinese learners are not aware of the difference between English and chinese and may not be able to hear the difference.
A number of studies have found that English spoken by different chinese dialect group have different problems (Laina Ho - Teaching English to students in china).
? It?s often difficult for a Sichuan?s (Central china) students to distinguish /n/ and /l/ in words like ?life? and knife?.
? In northern china they will have problems with /r/: ?curl?, ?girl?, ?pearl? is a real challenge for Beijing?s students.
? In central china they have problem to distinguish /æ/ and /e/ in words like ?bad? and ?bed? and /?/ and /n/ in ?thing? and ?thin?.
? In southern china, the Cantonese speakers swallow the sound: for example, ?generally? becomes ?gen?rally? ?
There are more than 5000 dialects and local languages in china with different accents that will cause trouble in the English pronunciation learning process.
In fact, students have to make the difference between English and chinese sounds system (Chen Fangzhi). This is the first step in the English learning process.
Once they understand that chinese is a tone language while English is an intonation language, they can study the placement of tongue, lips and teeth or increase their listening and speaking skills.
To me, as Chen Fangzhi said, the best way to teach English pronunciation is ?teaching pronunciation in a meaningful and motivating way?. This is obviously what an EFL teacher tends to do:
? Providing students meaningful materials and using articles from various styles. Thus students are more active and they can learn English both intelligibly and accurately.
? Using song, games, video and tongue twister is also very important. It can increase students? motivation to participate to the activities.
? Assessing progress is a crucial factor in maintaining student motivation. The teacher should provide learners with information about their performance from time to time so that they may know what they have accomplished and what they still have to do.
Motivation is the key of a successful English learning.
To conclude I will say that chinese and English language are so different that it?s really difficult for adults learners to produce a British or an American English.
We?ve discussed about the phonetics problems but there?s another factor which is strongest: the chinese culture. As Ting said in his article, ?The teaching of foreign languages is but one area of liberal arts education where the remnants of Confucian dogmatism, the rigid, medieval teaching and the detachment from reality seem particularly noticeable.?
Maybe instead of trying to change chinese English, we just have to consider it as another way of speaking English.
By the way, the word ?Chinglish? already exists (Wikipedia)?.
Fanchun Zhang - A study of pronunciation problems of English learners in china - 2009
Laina-Ho - Teaching English to students in china
Chen Fangzhi - The teaching of pronunciation to chinese students of English
Ting Y.R ? Foreign language teaching in china
: problems and perspectives ? 1987