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Giving a child a speaking complex 
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Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 6:54 pm
Posts: 52
Location: Kanagawa, Japan
Post Giving a child a speaking complex
i recently gave a 5 year old student a speaking complex. usually i give kids of this age a couple of chances to repeat the correct word pronunciation and then i give them a well done hi 5 even if they cant repeat the word/phrase correctly. however, one of the parents wasnt happy with this and complained that the reason she signed up her son at such a young age was to give him good english pronunciation skills and that i should get her son to repeat the words correctly. so i went against my better judgement and tried to get her kid to repeat the word several times, until finally he refused to speak. now he has gone from a happy speaking child to one who doesnt want to open his mouth for fear of further embarrassment.

i understand that the kids pronunciation will be better the younger they start (ie the japanese can tell the difference between l and r), but at what cost should they be pressured into saying every word correctly. it obviously has an adverse affect on kids, diminishing their confidence and their enjoyment of english.

im sure that this is an issue with other teachers.....parents worrying about their childs progress because they cant say "florist" and some other words how do other teachers tackle this situation? do you force a kid to repeat the word correctly to satisfy the parents wishes or do you allow the child to continue saying words incorrectly, because too much pressure will destroy their enjoyment of english?

i believe at this young age if the kid can understand the meaning of the word, but not necessarily say it correctly, the student is doing well in his/her learning of english. they are still mastering their own language and will eventually master english given time and effort. the result doesnt have to be immediate, but rather an ongoing development. correct pronunciation is important, but not the ultimate in learning another language, particularly at such a young age.

Tue Feb 20, 2007 9:19 pm

Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:57 pm
Posts: 135
This may go against logic, but repeat after me is overrated. Students can have better pronunciation if at first they listen and HEAR the sounds. I would tell the parents to give it time. Tell them that is how babies learn and right now listening is a very valuable learning experience. If you have repeated numerous times and students still have difficulties, maybe then you can try other techniques like gentle encouragement or showing them how to make the sounds. Small children learn better though fun and play than pressure to perform.

at least thats my two cents.

Last edited by funwithstories on Tue Mar 13, 2007 2:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Tue Feb 20, 2007 9:30 pm
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
I think you're right on the money there. The whole point of starting children in a foreign language so young is to mimic at some level L1 acquisition. This means all kinds of things. It can be just gaining a general feel for English's internal grammar to pronounciation and more.

I have young learners who know via exposure that English is ordered subject-verb-object. That's pretty good considering that Japanese has a different order and that I never tell them or emphasize this. (I can tell this from the children's experimentation with language. AND the fact that they are experimenting is even awesome!)

Anyway, so NO I don't think you should ask a child to say anything they're not ready to produce. Even in L1 children have a hard time working sounds out and it may take some time (up to the ages of 6-8) before they may have 'good' pronounciation. My own children who speak perfect English laugh at me if I try to get them to say words they aren't ready to pronounce. They need to hear it enough times. You'll often find them looking at your mouth to see how to form the sounds. It's natural.

Given time and exposure you'll be surprised what they learn. I'm surprised all the time by the amount of language children acquire consciously and subconsciously. There are many things at work that we have yet to understand.

Basically, language acquisition isn't going to happen over night. I would suggest a bit of patience. Maybe let the mother look in on a longer running class to get a feel of what she can expect after a year or two.

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Wed Feb 21, 2007 12:16 am
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Joined: Fri Jun 16, 2006 2:27 pm
Posts: 70
Location: Austria
Having students repeat a word they cannot pronounce can backfire. I had one gent who simply could not for his life pronounce "Trafalgar Square" (one of those mundane London chapters). I popped my eyeballs that day trying to get him to say it right, coz he kept on saying "Travel Girl Square". Suddenly, the others were saying it too.
Finally, I surrendered with a grin, and told him he could pronounce it any way that got him there, as long as he never told anyone his teacher was American!
You could mention to the mother that if the student is not ready for the pronunciation, saying it incorrectly might become a habit. The other posters are right: it just takes a little time. Besides, few to none of us will ever be perfect when speaking a foreign language, thank goodness, and that is part of the charm of differences.

Wed Feb 28, 2007 3:56 pm

Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 9:47 pm
Posts: 17
Location: France
:smt039 Travel Girl Square! That's great! That's what is funny about learning a foreign language. if everyone in this world spoke the same way ( same accent or pronounciation) what a dull world we would be living in !!
i agree with Mark that patience is the key to success as regards a young child having some difficulties in pronouncing some English words. anyway they're making significant progress very quickly. some children may be more comfortable with sounds than others


Fri Mar 02, 2007 10:13 pm

Joined: Sat Oct 21, 2006 8:16 am
Posts: 181
Location: Brazil
I want to give another endorsement to this idea that repeat after me isn't the best.

I spent a few months in China as a foreign exchange student when I was in college, so recently I downloaded some Mandarin lesson podcasts to try to brush up on the little Chinese I learned. Well, I played some lessons in the car as I drove to work and listened and repeated as commanded, until I got to a sound that just didn't register. I thought to my self "There's no way I'm saying that!" Then I hit rewind about 20 times until I figured out the sound. Mind you I was by myself in the car and still wouldn't repeat. I am a language teacher and still wouldn't repeat. I couldn't. Not until I heard it enough times to classify the sounds in my mind.

Mister Young's English Class
Minas Gerais, Brasil

Mon Mar 05, 2007 5:43 am
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Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:57 pm
Posts: 135
Just to add to this discussion, James Asher, originator of TPR (Total Physical Response) writes in his book, "Learning Another Language Through Actions" :

"We did demonstrate in this series of laboratory experiments that people who focused only on comprehesion skill using a language-body strategy, outperform on all measures, those people who attempted to comprehend then pronounce the utterance in the target language (Asher, 1969)"

In his original attempt at TPR, the author wrote that he had little success
hearing, repeating, and then acting (performing the command). It was only after he tried to SILENTLY follow the commands did he find the magic of TPR.

Tue Mar 13, 2007 2:14 pm
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