Tag Archives: ESL Teacher

So, How Many English Phonemes Are There?

2 Apr

Open a book on English phonics based on the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and you will learn there are 40 phonemes (sounds) in the English language produced from either a solitary letter or combination of the 26 letters in the alphabet.  However, there is some debating this number of phonemes, 40, and the discussion can be quite “phonemenal.”

English phonology is the study of the sounds that make up the English language.   Very important stuff to ELL’s and ESL teachers concentrating on helping eager students improve their speaking and pronunciation.

Masha Bell mentioned there being 44 phonemes in an article written two years ago (March, 2011) by Masha Bell for The English Spelling Society.

And in a discussion prompted by the suggestion of strictly 40 phonemes, a participant wrote,

“One hears numbers ranging from 36 to 46 for the number of phonemes in English. In teaching or learning English, one can disregard the exact number and simply teach the potential phonemes that participate in the greatest number of minimal pairs or sets first, and then work down from there.”Mxmanic

I hope you’re not reading this post to once and for all find the definitive answer – how many phenomes are there, anyway?!  Because, I am not giving an answer.

Personally, I believe an answer of how many phonemes there are may vary depending on which Nation’s English in reference.   Australian English varies in pronunciation from Canadian, and then there’s Britain to consider.   I’m sure there’s a phoneme count difference based on culture.

Despite there not being a general consensus across the globe on phonemes, I agree with “Mxmanic” when he suggested forget about the exact number and teach the ELL’s what they need to know!

Great advice, anyway you pronounce it.

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Learning English while doing Taekwondo?

14 Feb

My Korean husband and I started the English Kids Gym & TaeKwonDo here in Hwagok-Dong, Seoul, last October and we’re happy to admit to being really busy!  What a motivation.  Most parents who comes to us say, “What a fantastic idea!  I’ve never heard of learning English while doing play exercise, yoga and taekwondo.  How did you come up with this idea?”  Truth is, we are such a new concept in Language Learning here in Korea that most parents have difficulty understanding exactly what it is that we’re about.  (The business bureau didn’t even know how to classify us!)

And while it feels great to pave new paths in the often overly-strict, pressure-overloaded English language education system in South Korea, we are also proud to impart healthy, active lifestyles.

We feel our approach is essential to the future of English language learners in Korea, many who feel English is a subject and not a benefit with real-life applicability.

Our Teaching Approach and Methods

Our teaching approach is a blend of the Communicative Approach, Direct Method, and Audio-Lingual Method.

Our techniques to impart speaking and listening language learning include the use of situational English conversation exchanges, visual aids, pantomime, play, repetition of language patterns, modelling proper language habits, reinforcing correct responses, and using context to help induce meaning.   Our primary focus is on speaking and listening.  Some writing is encouraged for home study, but there is no homework or pressure from us to complete the work.

English Kids Gym and TaekwondoEach 50 minute class focuses on imparting real life, practical English expressions, vocabulary and phrases, that students come to understand through repetition and context, while at the same time doing physical fitness, play, sports, yoga, and taekwondo.  Grammar learning is inducive, meaning it’s something they’re learning without even realizing it, like a pattern they can later modify in new contexts because they’ve come to understand the grammar inductively.

In addition, and perhaps most importantly, we like to think we’re helping Korean children and students to learn English  in a fun and natural way, as a native speaker may acquire English as their first language.

Goals for our Students

  • To find English education enjoyable and to feel comfortable and confident using English in everyday settings – in the classroom, community and at home.  We feel this will help them in future English learning pursuits.
  • To learn and grow in a non-threatening, pressure-free environment.
  • To be introduced to native Canadian pronunciation, tone, colloquial expressions, vocabulary and slang.
  • To use English to communicate with teachers, community members and peers in a natural way.
  • To become more familiar with Canadian culture through.
  • To promote physical fitness, wellness, and nutritional health in a safe, encouraging environment.

The ESL Conversation Classic – “20 Questions” Printable Cards

1 Nov

I often find shy students who are proficient in English much more challenging to teach than early beginners who are brave in the face of learning a new language.   Trying to warm students up and get them feeling comfortable is an important task that every ESL Teacher should be or become expert at.  It will make your teaching life easier and more enjoyable.  Simply diving into a lesson without a group of smiling, engaged faces may prevent the not-so-social students from contributing during class.

In addition to being shy, I find quiet students are always the least likely to ask questions.  Having a “free-talking” class where I’m asking all the questions and they’re doing all the answering, isn’t exactly conversation.  So, here’s where the 20 Questions game is a perfect activity to bring together small groups into laughter and discussion, as well as to get students asking questions.

Here it is!  Feel free to download myJennifer Teacher – 20 Questions that includes instructions and the printable cards.

I also suggest you check out my list of amazing Classroom Conversation Starters and warm-ups that get students talking.

How many of the Top 100 Fiction Novels have you read?

24 Sep

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post – 25 Challenging Vocabulary Words from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina – I’ve undertaken a Literacy Project with a couple of my advanced ESL students who were interested in joining me in reading books from the Modern Library’s 100 Best Books List.

This extra-curricular reading project was inspired when, after browsing the list and realizing I had only read a mere 17 on the list of 100, I felt quite embarrassed with myself!  Since then I’ve read two more to up my count to 19 – Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which was fantastic, poetic, quick and wonderful that I read it in two short days (keeping in mind that I’m a working mom to a toddler, I felt this was a great feat! ^^).

I wonder how many of the books from this list you’ve read?  What’s your count?  How literary are today’s English teachers?  If you don’t mind sharing your answer, please leave a comment.  This could be interesting!  Again, the link is here.

While on the topic, I thought I’d throw in a couple of helpful links I’ve found for teachers on…

PROMOTING LITERACY in the ESL CLASSROOM

Adult ESL Literacy Survival Guide for Instructors – By Janet Massaro for ELSAnet

Literacy Connections – Promoting Literacy and a Love for Reading

BC Ministry of Education – Resources for Teachers: Improving Literacy

Does poetry help ESL students learn English?

29 Jul

Poems are expressions of how the writer sees the world around them.  They’re rhymes and cadence, tongue-twists and lyrics.  They can be haiku, stanzas, plays or songs.  Poetry is so many inspiring and motivating things, that if you’re not using poetry to learn English as a second language, you’re not embracing the culture from English-speaking countries.

Poems are temporal – they describe the poet’s feelings and their environment in which they live, looking at the world through their own eyes.  And one’s view of the world is influenced by the culture.

I love including poems into my ESL Classroom.  They’re so FLEXIBLE!  You can use poems with any other topic of discussion.

How can I use poetry to learn English

Whether you’re learning English by yourself or taking classes, it’s good to challenge yourself once in a while.  There are countless ways to learn English through poetry.  Any good TESOL teacher would already be employing many different ways to incorporate poetry into learning.   Importantly, you want to feel comfortable when with poems.  Remember, there really are no rules!  Just try to have fun and enjoy the challenge of learning.  Don’t be discouraged.

Try these suggestions yourself or with your ESL Teacher:

  • Do poetry theater, having students act out short plays.
  • Introduce children’s books.  You’ll find rhymes and rhythms, the words often sound pleasing and sing-song when read aloud by parents and educators.  This is a perfect approach for ESL Learners!  Of course, you don’t want to insult adult learners with children’s books, but bringing these concepts into the classroom through the pondering of poetry is a wonderful way to promote language learning and literacy.
  • Song clozes.  These can be of any kind of music and with varying degrees of difficulty.  A great cross lesson for learning slang.
  • Write haiku style poems about the weather or class.
  • Teach rhymes, riddles and tongue twisters and then have the students make their own.
  • Write a poem together as a class on a topic you’re learning about. Include key vocabulary.
Please leave a comment for discussion!
Have you tried some of these suggestions?  Which one was your favorite?  Thanks for sharing.

Learning to speak like an English Canadian

20 Jul

Hello, eh!  Native English speaking Canadians may have the best pronunciation amongst ESL Teachers worldwide.  Whether or not you agree, Canadians do have a crisp, clear way of speaking and can often be good listeners, a skill ever so important in conversation.

So how does an aspiring student of English learn to speak like a Canadian?

  1. Seek out a Canadian conversation tutor who you can spend time talking with, picking up their style of speech, idiomatic expressions and pronunciation.
  2. Listen to CBC Radio Podcasts on your mp3 player when walking through town or riding the bus.  Try to imitate how they’re speaking.  They have quite a selection of available podcasts, but the Radio 1 is my favourite.
  3. Watch Canadian films and TV programs – yes, we make movies and TV shows, too.
  4. Find a pen pal that you can have Skype conversations with!  If you’re interested in this opportunity, please let me know.
If you have experience with Canadian ESL teachers, tutors or friends – please leave a comment below and tell us what you think of their English!
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