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    Language learners often produce errors of syntax and pronunciation thought to result from the influence of their L1, such as mapping its grammatical patterns inappropriately onto the L2, pronouncing certain sounds incorrectly or with difficulty, and confusing items of vocabulary known as false friends. This is known as L1 transfer or "language interference". However, these transfer effects are typically stronger for beginners' language production, and SLA research has highlighted many errors which cannot be attributed to the L1, as they are attested in learners of many language backgrounds (for example, failure to apply 3rd person present singular -s to verbs, as in 'he make').

    While English is no more complex than other languages, it has several features which may create difficulties for learners. Conversely, because such a large number of people are studying it, products have been developed to help them do so, such as the monolingual learner's dictionary, which is written with a restricted defining vocabulary.

    [edit] Pronunciation

    Consonant phonemes

    English does not have more individual consonant sounds than most languages. However, the interdentals, /θ/ and /ð/ (the sounds written with th), which are common in English (thin, thing, etc.; and the, this, that, etc.) are relatively rare in other languages, even others in the Germanic family (e.g., English thousand = German tausend), and these sounds are missing even in some English dialects. Some learners substitute a [t] or [d] sound, while others shift to [s] or [z], [f] or [v] and even [ts] or [dz]).

    Speakers of Japanese, Korean and Chinese varieties have difficulty distinguishing [r] and [l]. The distinction between [b] and [v] can cause difficulty for native speakers of Spanish, Japanese and Korean.

    Vowel phonemes

    The precise number of distinct vowel sounds depends on the variety of English: for example, Received Pronunciation has twelve monophthongs (single or "pure" vowels), eight diphthongs (double vowels) and two triphthongs (triple vowels); whereas General American has thirteen monophthongs and three diphthongs. Many learners, such as speakers of Spanish, Japanese or Arabic, have fewer vowels, or only pure ones, in their mother tongue and so may have problems both with hearing and with pronouncing these distinctions.

    Syllable structure

    In its syllable structure, English allows for a cluster of up to three consonants before the vowel and four after it (e.g., straw, desks, glimpsed). The syllable structure causes problems for speakers of many other languages. Japanese, for example, broadly alternates consonant and vowel sounds so learners from Japan often try to force vowels in between the consonants (e.g., desks /desks/ becomes "desukusu" or milk shake /mɪlk ʃeɪk/ becomes "mirukushēku").

    Learners from languages where all words end in vowels sometimes tend to make all English words end in vowels, thus make /meɪk/ can come out as [meɪkə]. The learner's task is further complicated by the fact that native speakers may drop consonants in the more complex blends (e.g., [mʌns] instead of [mʌnθs] for months).

    Unstressed vowels - Native English speakers frequently replace almost any vowel in an unstressed syllable with an unstressed vowel, often schwa. For example, from has a distinctly pronounced short 'o' sound when it is stressed (e.g., Where are you from?), but when it is unstressed, the short 'o' reduces to a schwa (e.g., I'm from London.). In some cases, unstressed vowels may disappear altogether, in words such as chocolate (which has four syllables in Spanish, but only two as pronounced by Americans: "choc-lit".)

    Stress in English more strongly determines vowel quality than it does in most other world languages (although there are notable exceptions such as Russian). For example, in some varieties the syllables an, en, in, on and un are pronounced as homophones, that is, exactly alike. Native speakers can usually distinguish an able, enable, and unable because of their position in a sentence, but this is more difficult for inexperienced English speakers. Moreover, learners tend to overpronounce these unstressed vowels, giving their speech an unnatural rhythm.

    Stress timing - English tends to be a stress-timed language - this means that stressed syllables are roughly equidistant in time, no matter how many syllables come in between. Although some other languages, e.g., German and Russian, are also stress-timed, most of the world's other major languages are syllable-timed, with each syllable coming at an equal time after the previous one. Learners from these languages often have a staccato rhythm when speaking English that is disconcerting to a native speaker.

    "Stress for emphasis" - students' own languages may not use stress for emphasis as English does.

    "Stress for contrast" - stressing the right word or expression. This may not come easily to some nationalities.

    "Emphatic apologies" - the normally unstressed auxiliary is stressed (I really am very sorry)

    In English there are quite a number of words - about fifty - that have two different pronunciations, depending on whether they are stressed. They are "grammatical words": pronouns, prepositions, auxiliary verbs and conjunctions. Most students tend to overuse the strong form, which is pronounced with the written vowel.

    Language learners often produce errors of syntax and pronunciation thought to result from the influence of their L1, such as mapping its grammatical patterns inappropriately onto the L2, pronouncing certain sounds incorrectly or with difficulty, and confusing items of vocabulary known as false friends. This is known as L1 transfer or "language interference". However, these transfer effects are typically stronger for beginners' language production, and SLA research has highlighted many errors which cannot be attributed to the L1, as they are attested in learners of many language backgrounds (for example, failure to apply 3rd person present singular -s to verbs, as in 'he make').

    While English is no more complex than other languages, it has several features which may create difficulties for learners. Conversely, because such a large number of people are studying it, products have been developed to help them do so, such as the monolingual learner's dictionary, which is written with a restricted defining vocabulary.

    [edit] Pronunciation

    Consonant phonemes

    English does not have more individual consonant sounds than most languages. However, the interdentals, /θ/ and /ð/ (the sounds written with th), which are common in English (thin, thing, etc.; and the, this, that, etc.) are relatively rare in other languages, even others in the Germanic family (e.g., English thousand = German tausend), and these sounds are missing even in some English dialects. Some learners substitute a [t] or [d] sound, while others shift to [s] or [z], [f] or [v] and even [ts] or [dz]).

    Speakers of Japanese, Korean and Chinese varieties have difficulty distinguishing [r] and [l]. The distinction between [b] and [v] can cause difficulty for native speakers of Spanish, Japanese and Korean.

    Vowel phonemes

    The precise number of distinct vowel sounds depends on the variety of English: for example, Received Pronunciation has twelve monophthongs (single or "pure" vowels), eight diphthongs (double vowels) and two triphthongs (triple vowels); whereas General American has thirteen monophthongs and three diphthongs. Many learners, such as speakers of Spanish, Japanese or Arabic, have fewer vowels, or only pure ones, in their mother tongue and so may have problems both with hearing and with pronouncing these distinctions.

    Syllable structure

    In its syllable structure, English allows for a cluster of up to three consonants before the vowel and four after it (e.g., straw, desks, glimpsed). The syllable structure causes problems for speakers of many other languages. Japanese, for example, broadly alternates consonant and vowel sounds so learners from Japan often try to force vowels in between the consonants (e.g., desks /desks/ becomes "desukusu" or milk shake /mɪlk ʃeɪk/ becomes "mirukushēku").

    Learners from languages where all words end in vowels sometimes tend to make all English words end in vowels, thus make /meɪk/ can come out as [meɪkə]. The learner's task is further complicated by the fact that native speakers may drop consonants in the more complex blends (e.g., [mʌns] instead of [mʌnθs] for months).

    Unstressed vowels - Native English speakers frequently replace almost any vowel in an unstressed syllable with an unstressed vowel, often schwa. For example, from has a distinctly pronounced short 'o' sound when it is stressed (e.g., Where are you from?), but when it is unstressed, the short 'o' reduces to a schwa (e.g., I'm from London.). In some cases, unstressed vowels may disappear altogether, in words such as chocolate (which has four syllables in Spanish, but only two as pronounced by Americans: "choc-lit".)

    Stress in English more strongly determines vowel quality than it does in most other world languages (although there are notable exceptions such as Russian). For example, in some varieties the syllables an, en, in, on and un are pronounced as homophones, that is, exactly alike. Native speakers can usually distinguish an able, enable, and unable because of their position in a sentence, but this is more difficult for inexperienced English speakers. Moreover, learners tend to overpronounce these unstressed vowels, giving their speech an unnatural rhythm.

    Stress timing - English tends to be a stress-timed language - this means that stressed syllables are roughly equidistant in time, no matter how many syllables come in between. Although some other languages, e.g., German and Russian, are also stress-timed, most of the world's other major languages are syllable-timed, with each syllable coming at an equal time after the previous one. Learners from these languages often have a staccato rhythm when speaking English that is disconcerting to a native speaker.

    "Stress for emphasis" - students' own languages may not use stress for emphasis as English does.

    "Stress for contrast" - stressing the right word or expression. This may not come easily to some nationalities.

    "Emphatic apologies" - the normally unstressed auxiliary is stressed (I really am very sorry)

    In English there are quite a number of words - about fifty - that have two different pronunciations, depending on whether they are stressed. They are "grammatical words": pronouns, prepositions, auxiliary verbs and conjunctions. Most students tend to overuse the strong form, which is pronounced with the written vowel.

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