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Should we teach the kids phonectic symbols?
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffyhamster wrote:
CEJ, I know it's not what you meant, but your starting phrase in your last post ('And I highly doubt that phonics approaches are useful at all in most EFL situations') does make one wonder at first glance whether you are countering someone's previous opinion or simply introducing your own (new and "unrelated") point (that is, you've kind of made it sound like Superhal said phonics is useful for EFL, even though he - and I! - are aware that the thread was originally about phonics in native education). (I won't charge you this time for the tip on style :wink: :D ).

I'd imagine that frequency statistics are useful to learners precisely because they don't have native-speaker intuitions about the usefulness of a term (note how every learner dictionary has gradually adopted frequency symbols for headwords over the past decade, until now even the OALD7 has included them), but I'll grant you that this is on a strictly item-by-item basis and of little help in the thick of communication (though I think we would agree that such communication will probably use the more frequent items more frequently LOL).


Hmm, OK, we don't talk phonemically, but a narrow phonetic transcription would be of "limited" use to most; and having no phonemic transcription at all would obviously be of no help to anybody. :twisted: What exactly do you use to help your EFL students? Nothing (no indications of pronunciation), ever? :o


1. I write very explicitly, so it's best not to infer stuff that simply isn't being implied. I was only attempting to add to what was said about that point with the quote. If I said I disagreed with this or that person, I would say I disagree with this or that person (that is, I don't necessarily quote them just to disagree with them) . If the most generous readings were given on discussion lists and bbs, most misunderstandings can be avoided. However, I'm aware that there are very different styles out there--it seems some of these styles pervade a lot of discussion areas on the internet. In this case, if you read the whole discussion, the assertion was made that phonics would be useful for something (though I'm not sure what a native-speaker thread would be doing under pronunciation for ESL/EFL).

2. I go back to my point about frequency stats. When they get to a certain level of almost miniscule significance, they are not a good guide as to what to study at all. Specific purposes and the needs of the material at hand would be better guides. And another of my points was: unless students get an immersion environment, most WFs mean absolutely nothing. They are not going to be exposed to enough material in an English-use environment where those rates of occurrence actually take on a reality.

3. A phonemic transcription is too generalized to make much sense to EFL beginners. Moreover, it just adds to the orthographic complexity they are already boggled by. A narrow phonetic transcription would be based on the idea that they already are familiar with not only the major sound categories of English but the variations as well.

Now, it could be the case that some sort of transcription acts as a memory aid for older learners, but I've not seen anyone produce any evidence of this.

I think learning pronunciation requires hearing and repeating the oral language. That is, face to face practice with a fluent speaker. Especially, if there no immersion environment available. Transcriptions are more or less a linguistic aid to help linguists communicate through text consistently when referring to dynamic, complex spoken language.

Realistically, students need to learn word pronunciations and spellings and they need to learn how to produce acceptable connected speech. I wish I could somehow explain in a bb post how this could be done, but even if someone gave me a book contract and a promotional tour with lots and lots of money, it would take more space than this. That is because it is very difficult to turn complex, dynamic teacher, teacher-student, student-student classroom phenomena into academic discourse/ discourse about teaching. It is also very difficult to give an understandable discussion of what is connected speech. So there is the complexity of real pedagogy and classroom learning, and there is also the complexity of real language.

Most in this profession at a level where they get paid to be a 'name' have long ago stopped trying; those who still bother most likely get ignored (and little or no access to publish in any outlet that would influence the field).
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
Posts: 3010
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 8:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

CEJ wrote:
In this case, if you read the whole discussion, the assertion was made that phonics would be useful for something (though I'm not sure what a native-speaker thread would be doing under pronunciation for ESL/EFL).


Indeed. I think everybody was assuming, though, that the utility of phonics question was in relation to native education, regardless of the fact that the OP didn't explicitly say that (and had chosen to post on an ESL site).

Quote:
I go back to my point about frequency stats. When they get to a certain level of almost miniscule significance, they are not a good guide as to what to study at all. Specific purposes and the needs of the material at hand would be better guides. And another of my points was: unless students get an immersion environment, most WFs mean absolutely nothing. They are not going to be exposed to enough material in an English-use environment where those rates of occurrence actually take on a reality.


I'd agree that after the first three or so thousand words and the phrases they enter into have been well learnt, ESP will need to come into the picture to provide continuing direction.

Word frequency by itself is of course "empty", but a course (and I mean a substantial course, with many many examples) compiled with reference to WFs will be principled and of great relevance and value; sorry but I don't ultimately see a huge difference between encountering a word (n) times in authentic texts or realistic simulations (not to say audiovisual ways) and encountering it in an immersion environment (other than the former will no doubt aid the latter as well as be a more efficient use of time overall, probably - I'm a believer in learning as much as acquisition). What I've been trying to say is that proninciation may be very subtle, but I think words and phrases are more noticeable and generally learnable even if the learner's copying of the pronunciation isn't perfect (and I mean learnable without explicit reference to frequency data, where the input has been selected, for frequency reasons, for rather than by the student).

Quote:
A narrow phonetic transcription would be based on the idea that they already are familiar with not only the major sound categories of English but the variations as well.


By that stage it would have lost its utility (as obviously would a broad transcription also)...

Quote:
Now, it could be the case that some sort of transcription acts as a memory aid for older learners, but I've not seen anyone produce any evidence of this.


Again, if they are not just older but getting quite good at English, then there won't be much evidence for them needing to even use such memory aids. As for elementary level adult learners, I'd assume a memory aid could help them, but of course this should be no substitute for extensive listening and repeating, so I'd agree with this also:

Quote:
I think learning pronunciation requires hearing and repeating the oral language. That is, face to face practice with a fluent speaker. Especially, if there no immersion environment available. Transcriptions are more or less a linguistic aid to help linguists communicate through text consistently when referring to dynamic, complex spoken language.


Lastly, in relation to the following, are there any approaches/books that you would recommend for teaching especially spelling to foreign learners, or should we wait for you to get published? Razz (I don't want students relying on phonemics as a "crutch").

Quote:
Realistically, students need to learn word pronunciations and spellings and they need to learn how to produce acceptable connected speech. I wish I could somehow explain in a bb post how this could be done, but even if someone gave me a book contract and a promotional tour with lots and lots of money, it would take more space than this. That is because it is very difficult to turn complex, dynamic teacher, teacher-student, student-student classroom phenomena into academic discourse/ discourse about teaching. It is also very difficult to give an understandable discussion of what is connected speech. So there is the complexity of real pedagogy and classroom learning, and there is also the complexity of real language.

Most in this profession at a level where they get paid to be a 'name' have long ago stopped trying; those who still bother most likely get ignored (and little or no access to publish in any outlet that would influence the field).


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Thu Feb 23, 2006 7:49 pm; edited 1 time in total
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2006 12:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffyhamster wrote:


Word frequency by itself is of course "empty", but a course (and I mean a substantial course, with many many examples) compiled with reference to WFs will be principled and of great relevance and value; sorry but I don't ultimately see a huge difference between encountering a word (n) times in authentic texts or realistic simulations (not to say audiovisual ways) and encountering it in an immersion environment (and the former will no doubt aid the latter - I'm a believer in learning as much as acquisition). What I've been trying to say is that proninciation may be very subtle, but I think words and phrases are more noticeable and generally learnable even if the learner's copying of the pronunciation isn't perfect (and I mean learnable without explicit reference to frequency data, where the input has been selected, for frequency reasons, for rather than by the student).

Lastly, in relation to the following, are there any approaches/books that you would recommend for teaching especially spelling to foreign learners, or should we wait for you to get published? :P (I don't want students relying on phonemics as a "crutch").



Not in sharp counterpoint, but simply to address these two points.

The difference is learnability--and teachability. I've long said that the challenge in many EFL situations (and even some ESL situations--such as working class schools in Malaysia, where the student population will not acquire English as a social lingua franca, but will instead be Malay and Chinese speakers), the challenge for classroom teachers is somehow to create massive exposure in learnable contexts. I think there are ways to attempt this, but I don't think it's a major current in academic and commercial ELT in terms of what I see marketed for teacher training, professional develoment, methods and methodology, materials, etc.

In the case of word frequency, it could simply be the case that compiling long lists of words based on WF and presenting them in the way you describe DOES NOT lead to language acquisition, and that we simply do not know how native speakers acquire such a sophisticated, inter-connected lexical system (indeed, a lot of judgements about language have to do with idiomaticity, collocation, this and that go or don't go together, we do or do not say that, etc.). In my own classrooms, I've explored whole-class activities that try to get students to pool what they know about words or associated ideas (used to call up networks of words), using activities structured around semantic mapping and semantic feature analysis. However, I highly doubt I'm in a situation where I'm going to make much of a difference, either in my publishing or in my teaching.

As for your final query, no, in my experience over the last 16 years, it simply isn't a major concern for commercial or academic ELT, and all the materials I've seen are basically derivative of the native literacy and language arts market (much of which isn't very good even for that).

I will say, as I've said before, ELT seems to have miscalculated on the importance of 'pronunciation', thinking of it as a sub-skill of oral English or as something even more minor--accent reduction. If we view it instead as applied phonology for language acquisition, we could say that it is one of the essential skills underlying success at acquiring a language (because it creates the physical, physiological, cognitive material that underlies fluent language processing and manipulation of memory).

CEJ
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2006 1:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I didn't say I'd just give/present students with long lists of frequency statistics to makes worthless inferences from: there is obviously a lot exposure, knowledge and experience that needs to be gained by the students, either through pedagogical preparation on the teacher's part, or immersion (and I've always assumed that immersion will go better if it is preceded and/or accompanied by more formal types of learning). You'll probably "have to" read some of my other, previous and perhaps better posts to see more clearly how I often make mention of more ambitious and "exhaustive" courses, which would/should offer more than (I agree) is presently being flogged (and therefore help prepare students for immersion experiences).

I wouldn't like to say if e.g. the COBUILD English course was what was needed, but seeing as it hasn't been reprinted and nobody's offering anything better, it still looks like it will have to come down to us teachers to marshall all the facts (whether in available books or not) and present the students with quality stuff in sufficient quantities for their purposes.

Anyway, it's interesting to hear how you yourself approach things.
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CEJ



Joined: 23 Dec 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2006 6:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="fluffyhamster"]I didn't say I'd just give/present students with long lists of frequency statistics to makes worthless inferences from: there is obviously a lot exposure, knowledge and experience that needs to be gained by the students, either through pedagogical preparation on the teacher's part, or immersion (and I've always assumed that immersion will go better if it is preceded and/or accompanied by more formal types of learning). You'll probably "have to" read some of my other, previous and perhaps better posts to see more clearly how I often make mention of more ambitious and "exhaustive" courses, which would/should offer more than (I agree) is presently being flogged (and therefore help prepare students for immersion experiences).

[/quote]

Hi f-h. Don't get me wrong. I didn't mean that this is what you are recommending. It's just that in my experience and view of the field, this is what a re-directed attention to lexis and word freq. has resulted in/amounted to. Teachability and learnability are the key issues here for me. I wish I could attend only to more motivated students, but that is not my job. My job is to plan, conduct and evaluate EFL classes of mixed abilities (as low as many who wouldn't even register with a TOEFL score), mixed interests, mixed motivations, etc.
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xingxingluchunbo



Joined: 16 May 2006
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PostPosted: Tue May 16, 2006 9:43 am    Post subject: my opinion Reply with quote

Very Happy Very Happy
I'd like to say that it may be a litttle earlier to teach him because he is too young to understand.You can try to teach him later.
Very Happy Very Happy
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mrandmrsjohnqsmith



Joined: 23 Feb 2005
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Location: Japan

PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 5:52 pm    Post subject: answer the question Reply with quote

Happyboy wrote "phonetic symbols" which leads me to believe he's talking about the IPA, not phonics. Well, Happyboy? Which is it?

Some ESL learners were taught IPA symbos in school. Is this still practiced? My Japanese boss was shocked to learn that I hadn't been taught IPA symbols in school, with the exception of the schwa.

It depends on your reasons, Happyboy. Are you expecting your nephew to work for the U.N. someday, and are wanting to get started early? If you're just trying to teach him English, then I imagine the IPA is completely unnecessary. You were taught IPA in school; how useful was it in your opinion?

The IPA is constructed to satisfy the needs of people who analyze the variety of sounds that occur in world languages, mainly linguists and adult L2 learners who need foreign sounds explained to them in a more analytical way. Kids' brains are still limber and pick up phonemes naturally, so they don't need analysis.

An important question is, if you are teaching him, how is your pronunciation? No matter what system of symbols you use, it's the sounds coming out of your mouth that he's going to learn.

My Japanese boss may have learned the IPA in school, but that didn't change the fact that she still couldn't pronounce, or hear, certain English sounds that don't occur in Japanese. She learned English from Japanese English teachers who also couldn't pronounce or hear those sounds, so of course she never learned those sounds, despite having learned the IPA.

As quick as little kids are, I cna't imagine that it would hurt. But like anything else, either you use it or you lose, it, and I don't know of many childrens' books written in IPA format. You'd have to commit to years of review if you were really serious about giving him something useful. I can't imagine any situation in which he would actually apply the IPA before reaching adulthood.

I wish some teachers of little kids would weigh in on this one. For that matter, isn't there a forum for teaching kids? I think that would be a more appropriate place for this question. Working with the kiddie brain is a set of skills far removed from those that enable us to rattle on for two pages about dictionaries.
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 26 Oct 2004
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 24, 2010 5:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heh, revisiting this thread after years!

I wouldn't attempt to teach even phonics and certainly not IPA in the context of TEFL to kids much below third or fourth grade (i.e. about two thirds of the way through) elementary school.

What I actually came up with to teach grades 3/4~6 in Japanese elementary schools was the alphabet as related to kana (i.e. I related new stuff to known).

You can read about it by following the links within/from the following post's third paragraph:
http://forums.eslcafe.com/teacher/viewtopic.php?p=39550#39550
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