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Learning and teaching English phonology in the Chinese context

By Tim King,2014-08-30 11:51
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Learning and teaching English phonology in the Chinese context

    Learning and Teaching English Phonology in the Chinese Context

    On Pinyin Transcription for English Phonology

    AbstractDuring learning and teaching the English phonology in the rudimentary stage, especially during middle school, appropriate learning and teaching of the rudiments of English phonology is important. However, the teachings of phonology haven’t done a good job in China. In some of these

    schools, phonology is taught only by reading the English words and requiring the students to repeat it. In this way, most students can roughly pronounce English words. And the teachers only spend several hours to teach pronunciation So the students are forced to use pinyin transcription for English words. The phenomenon of Pinyin transcription for English phonology is resulted from improper teaching. Through a detailed comparison between the phonologies of English and Chinese, this thesis is to reveal the differences between the two phonologies, and to make an appropriate judgment of using Pinyin transcription, which is advantageous or disadvantageous. In addition some teaching methodologies and learning strategies are proposed on the learning and teaching of English phonology in the Chinese context.

     Key words: Pinyin transcription, phonology, rudimentary stage,

    pronounce

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     要!在英语教与学的初级阶段,特别是在中学里,适当的学习方法和初级的英语语音教学是很重要的。然而在中国,语音教学并没有做得很好。在这些学校,语音仅仅只是通过教师朗读英语单词,学生重复单词来教学。在这种情况下,大部分的学生仅仅只能粗略拼读英语单词,教师也只能用几个小时的时间去教发音,不在去改正学生的错误发音。这些促使学生用拼音注音英语单词。英语语音中的英语注音现象来自错误的教学或学习。通过英文和中文语音的详细比较,这个论题揭露了两者之间的不同,因此,对使用拼音注音做一个适当的裁决,那就是,那到底是有利还是有害。这个裁决带来了一 些教学方法也提出了一些对策,提供了一些在中文环境中关于英语教与学的想法。

    关键词!拼音注音,语音,初级阶段,发音

    Contents

    Abstract……………………………………………………………………i Contents……………………………………………………………………iii Introduction………………………………………………………………1 1. The phenomenon of Pinyin transcription for English phonology……1 1.1 For ease of articulation ………………………………………………2 1.2 For ease of memorization……………………………………………3 2. Disadvantages of Pinyin transcription for English phonology……… 3 2.1 Analysis of the two sets of consonants ………………………………3 2.2 English syllables and their corresponding Pinyin transcription ………4

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2.3 Inherent shortcomings of Pinyin transcription ………………………4

    3. Propositions for teaching phonology……………………………………6

    3.1 Teaching the English syllable structure ………………………………6

    3.2 Dictating the words, sentences and paragraphs………………………7

    3.3 Doing systematic explanation and instruction ………………………7

    3.4 Imitating the teacher, tapes and English films ………………………8

    3.5 Drilling for self-correction……………………………………………8

    3.6 Self-correction through listening to recordings of own speech ………9

    3.7 Learning and performing dialogues …………………………………9

    Conclusion ……………………………………………………………… 10

    Bibliography ………………………………………………………………11

    Acknowledgement ………………………………………………………12

Introduction

    The studies generally center on learning English phonology in a foreign context, without concentrating on a specific foreign language. A Course in Language Teaching by Penny Ur is to manifest this point. This thesis endeavors to elucidate the learning and teaching English phonology in the Chinese context in detail.

     During learning and teaching the English phonology in the rudimentary stage, especially during middle school, appropriate learning and teaching of

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    the rudiments of English phonology is important. However, the teaching of phonology as well as phonetics is far from enough in present-day middle schools. In some of these schools, phonology is taught only by leading the students to read English words and then requiring them to repeat it. Most students can roughly pronounce English words, but their pronunciations are often wrong which leads to fossilization, preventing their further English learning. On the other hand, phonology teaching is often hasty and inconsistent. Teachers may spend only several hours to teach pronunciation and no further correcting of the students’ pronunciation is made. The combined force of learning and teaching leads to the students’ using Pinyin transcription for English words.

    1. The phenomenon of Pinyin transcription for English

    phonology

     During learning and teaching the English phonology in the rudimentary stage, especially during middle school, appropriate learning and teaching of the rudiments of English phonology is important. However, the teaching of phonology as well as phonetics is far from enough in present-day middle schools. In some of these schools, phonology is taught only by leading the students to read English words and requiring them to repeat it. In this way, although most students can roughly pronounce English words, their pronunciations are often wrong which lead to fossilization, preventing their

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    further English learning. On the other hand, phonology teaching is often hasty and inconsistent. Teachers may spend only several hours to teach pronunciation and no further correcting of the students’ pronunciation is made.

    The combined force of learning and teaching caused to the students’ using Pinyin transcription for English words.

    1.1 For ease of articulation

     The Pinyin transcription method is adopted not because of nothing. By using this method, students feel easier to articulate English words. Especially when there is no equivalent Pinyin for some English phonetics. For example, and, students will naturally use Pinyin si to transcribe them. As is known, the Pinyin si has already been acquired by the students, and because of the similarity of the pronunciation of si and, students like to use Pinyin transcription. The phonetic symbols is unique to English phonology, and their correct articulation requires the tongue between the upper teeth and the lower teeth, thus causing much difficulty for the students in the beginning. 1.2 For ease of memorization

    Pinyin transcription with Chinese semantics certainly facilitates the memorization of English words and expressions. Usually the connection between an English word and its meaning is not easily fixed in the learners’ mind, particularly in the beginning stage. The obtrusion of Pinyin with Chinese meaning helps memorization. For example, some students use the following Pinyin transcription for English word and expressions.

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    Bus爸死 girls 哥死 yes 爷死 nice 奶死 school 死光

    Thank you. 三克油

    The disadvantage is obvious. Though this Pinyin transcription helps the learner to memorize the pronunciation to some extent. It’s very misleading. For example, the Pinyin san ke you means three grams of oil in Chinese which has no logic connection to the semantic “Thank you”. Certainly the memorization of word and expressions is not simply the memorization of their morphology, but more importantly, their semantics. To this point, a prediction can be made that there surely are differences between the Pinyin pronunciation system and English one.

    2. Disadvantages of Pinyin transcription for English phonology 2.1 Analysis of the two sets of consonants

    In terms of manner of articulation, both sets of the consonants can be articulated with the manner of stop (/b, p/), fricative (/f, s/), approximant (/w, j/), nasal (/m, n/), lateral (/l/). However, other consonantal articulations including trill, tap and flap are unique in English.

    As for the place of articulation, both sets of consonants have bilabial (/p, b, m/), labiodental (/f, v/), alveolar (/t, d, n, s/), palatal (/j/), velar (/k, g/), glottal (/h/). However, retroflex like /r/ are unique in English.

    Among the consonants of the two phonologies, it can be summarized that the consonants /p, b, m, w, f, v, t, d, n, l, s, k, g, h, j/ are identical both in

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    terms of manner of articulation and place of articulation in the two phonologies.

    2.2 English syllables and their corresponding Pinyin transcription

    1Some English syllables are equivalent to that of some Chinese Pinyin syllables. As noted in the table in A Practical Course in Translation between English and Chinese, the following pairs of syllables are the same, or very similar.

    Ba: -- ba pai pai d -- de gu: -- gu

    kau kao Sa: -- sa hu hu mei mei

     To list just a few.

     2The pronunciation of the following pairs are not equivalent

    b u bo b n bang p n pan

    g -- jia kju: -- qiu

    2.3 Inherent shortcomings of Pinyin transcription

    The Pinyin transcription for English pronunciation has some inherent shortcomings because it is at the beginning not the correct way to transcribe English words.

    2.3.1 No distinction between pairs of long vowels and short vowels

    The Pinyin transcription sees no differences between a long vowel and a short vowel, which is mainly because the two phonological systems differ in their phonemes in some way. English regards the vowels /i:/ and /I/, /u/ and /u:/ as distinctive phonemes, while Chinese do not have this criteria.

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    Consequently the Pinyin transcription makes no distinction between /i/ and /I:/, /u/ and /u:/ and so on. In this way, Pinyin transcription becomes very misleading as illustrated in the following case.

    Amy: Hey! How was your trip? Did you fly or travel by train?

    Wang: No, I came by [i:p].

    Amy: [i:p]? You must mean [ip].

    Wang: Yes, that’s what I said ---- [i:p].

    [I] and [i:] are two distinctive phonemes. In the conversation, Wang, a Chinese, does not see their difference, thus causing confusion and misunderstanding. No doubt the Pinyin transcription for [I] and [i:] will be [yi], thus causing both confusion to memorization and misunderstanding. 2.3.2 No distinction between other minimal pairs

    Besides the minimal pairs of long vowels and short vowels, Pinyin transcription sees no difference between other minimal pairs. As can be seen from the table in A Practical Course in Translation between English and Chinese, the character /pa/ is used to represent [pa:], [p ] and [p ]. The character /bei/ is used to represent both /bei/ and /be/. The character /ke/

    is used to represent [k :], [k ] and [k u]. The character /feng/ is used to

    represent [fu:n], [fu], [f un], [fa:m]. Therefore there is no distinction in Pinyin transcription between the phonemes [a:], [ u], [u:] and [u].

3. Propositions for teaching phonology

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    It is true that the teaching of pronunciation is not so important as the teaching of grammar or vocabulary. The teaching of pronunciation can be finished in a relatively short time, but it doesn’t mean the teaching can be neglected. On the contrary, it is recommended that the teacher direct students’ attention to the aspects of pronunciation occasionally by giving pronunciation exercises to them. Those exercises involve students’ typical errors or problems in learning pronunciation. Certainly casual corrections of students’ errors should be done.

    3.1 Teaching the English syllable structure

    The English syllable is made of phonemes. Each syllable has at least a vowel or a syllabic consonant. Mostly a syllable begins with a consonant of a consonant cluster. English has consonant clusters /spl/ and /kw/, while it doesn’t have clusters like /tk/ or /pf/. The rules governing the combination of

    consonants are phonotatics. Some possible consonant clusters in English beginning a syllable are /bl, br, dw, dr, dw, fl, fr, gl ,gr, kr, kl, sl ,sm, sn, sp, st, sw, tr, tw, pl, pr, spl, str/. Some possible consonant clusters ending a syllable are /ks, st, mp /.

    3.2 Dictating the words, sentences and paragraphs

    Dictation is reading aloud of a piece of writing to test the ability of students hearing and writing.According to the different kinds of writing, a dictation can be merely words, or sentences or paragraphs.

    Dictation of words has been popular in middle school to test students’

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    memory of words. It is effective to consolidate the already familiarized knowledge. Here dictation has an implication of teaching the students the standard pronunciation, and more specifically, correcting the students’ pronunciation errors unconsciously.

    When listening to the tape or the teacher, whose pronunciation is assumed to be standard, the students are doing an exercise in which he or she perceives what is different from their pronunciation. They may note that they may be wrong in pronunciation, stress or intonation. By unconsciously comparing their own pronunciation with the tape or the teacher, they choose the correct one. This mental process differs from the teachers’ correction of

    the students’ errors in that the former progresses subconsciously.

    3.3 Doing systematic explanation and instruction

    The explanation and instruction include that of syllable structure which is mentioned above, and the movement of parts of the mouth, etc. For the latter, the teacher is suggested to explain to the student the phonemes whose ways of articulation is very different from Pinyin. In teaching the pair of phonemes, the teacher has to show the students how they are pronounced contrastively, like what is the position of the teeth and tongue, and how the airstream flows. Thus students may get a clear picture in their mind of how to pronounce the pair of phonemes correctly.

     Systematic is emphasized. Correct way of pronunciation cannot be instructed in one day. Even if students do it successfully, they are likely to

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