Teaching Students From Diverse Backgrounds

Teaching Students From Diverse Backgrounds

One of the challenges that teachers can encounter is having to teach students from diverse backgrounds in the same class as this makes the teacher obligated to meet the needs of different language students where differentiated instruction is required. This would not always apply to school classes but private classes, where you could have a mixture of students from different countries.

It is a fact that students’ language variations affect how they perform, and sound patterns of a learner’s first language are likely to influence their pronunciation of the target language. This can weaken communication and cause misunderstanding when conversing with others. Chinese students, for example, would pronounce the word “think” as “sink” seeing that the sound “θ” does not exist in Chinese. Therefore, in order to improve ESL students’ English pronunciation, teachers should gain an insight into the different pronunciation variations in order to help them move forward in teaching the English language.

The purpose of this blog is to look at the pronunciation variations facing some ESL students.

Vietnamese Speakers

The common problem of Vietnamese speakers when they speak English is mainly the pronunciation of “final consonants”. For example, native speakers of Vietnamese acquiring English as a second language may pronounce the word “coat” to be “code” as in the sentence “Did you forget your coat?” Taking final consonants into consideration, T and D at the syllable-final are commonly confused with one another.

Japanese Speakers

Japanese speakers learning English also confront difficulties in English articulation. In Japanese, all of the words end with vowels. Therefore, when Japanese begin to learn English, they tend to add some vowels after English words which end with consonants. Take the words baby [bebi], bath [basu] and gum [gamu], the vowel sound /i/ is attached to the final syllable in the word “baby” [bebi], the vowel sound /u/ is attached to the final syllable in the word “bath” [basu] and the word “gum” is pronounced [gamu] with the vowel /u/ after the consonant /m/.

Arabic Speakers

Common pronunciation variations facing Arabic speakers learning English are due to a language transfer from their native language. The English language permits syllable-initial clusters of up to three consonants,” such as “street”. However, in Arabic, a vowel sound will be inserted when the stems have onset consonant clusters for the purpose of making the articulation conform to Arabic syllable structure. Arabic students learning English, for example, will insert the vowel /i/ in the following forms: floor [iflor], snow [isno], plane [iblen] and fred [ifred].

Spanish Speakers

For Spanish speakers of English, the common pronunciation problems mainly fall on long vowels /ā/ and voiced consonants /d/. Spanish students have difficulties recognizing the differences between short vowels and long vowels. For instance, the long vowel /ā/ is pronounced as short vowel /a/ in the word “say.” In addition, the differences between the voiced consonant /d/ and voiceless consonant /th/ also confuse Spanish-speaking students. For example, voiced consonant /d/ is pronounced as voiceless consonant /th/ in the word “dare.” Many Spanish-speaking students are not aware that the voiced consonant /d/ and voiceless consonant /th/ have different ways of articulation, especially in an initial position. Additionally, in Spanish, both letters “v” and “b” are pronounced as the sound /b/, such as the word “vaca” is likely to be pronounced as “baca”. Clearly, Spanish-speaking students’ mis-articulation of English words is due to first language interference.

Chinese Speakers

The sound of the way Chinese people pronounce their words affects the pronunciation of a target language, influencing Chinese-speaking students’ foreign accents. As a result of lacking both sounds /θ/ and /ð/ in Chinese, the sounds /s/ and /z/ are substituted for the sounds /θ/ and /ð/. The word “teeth,” for example, sounds like “tees,” and the word “though” sounds like “so.” Also, English sounds /r/ and /ʃ/ differ from Chinese sounds /r/ and /sh/. The words “English” and “rice,” for example, will be mis-pronounced. They also have problems in pronouncing the sound /v/; thus, the word “advantage” will be pronounced as “adwantage” and the word “private” will be pronounced as “priwate”

If you feel you’re up to the challenge of teaching diverse students, or you want to travel the world teaching English, why not take the plunge and do a TEFL course with Oxbridge TEFL. Click here for a free no obligation interview and find out if you qualify. You could be living and teaching in China, Spain, Vietnam etc, within a month.

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