Learning English as a foreign language is a difficult task even under ideal circumstances. English has many irregular verbs, informal expressions and grammatical idiosyncrasies that make it among the hardest languages in the world to learn. Native speakers of Chinese face additional difficulties due to the pronunciation problems they have while speaking English.
Using a pen and paper, draw cross sections of the mouth to distinguish tongue positions to clarify sounds. Certain sound pairs such as "l" and "r" are hard for the Chinese to distinguish in English, and are commonly confused. Using diagrams that show how the tongue changes positions allows Chinese students to feel and visualize the changes needed to make the correct sounds.
Drill problem sound pairs. Correct frequently to make the sounds flow without thought. Drill the sound first, then move on to words using the sound pairs. For example, drill the words "right" and light" to clarify the "r" and "l" sounds.
Define word pairs to emphasize the importance of proper pronunciation. Explain how the word "right" is completely different from the word "light." This will give Chinese students more of a reason to correct themselves.
Use tongue twisters to practice problem sounds in a fun and entertaining way. Use tongue twister games to inspire competition among your students. Tongue twisters not only drill pronunciation in a unique way, they also focus on getting the words up to normal speaking speed.
Use listening exercises to boost passive skills. Passive listening comprehension skills will allow your students to hear the difference in other speakers. This will help Chinese students calibrate their pronunciation and navigate them past problem words and sounds. State words like "right" and "light" and have your Chinese students write down what word they think you said. Drill and practice words and sounds that appear to be problems based on their responses.
- Continual practice is key to correcting pronunciation problems among native Chinese speakers. Encourage your students to practice and think about their pronunciation constantly so it becomes second nature.
- Do not push your students too hard. Pronunciation is a very frustrating thing, and pushing too hard may cause your students to have problems later when it comes to language learning.
Biju Sukumaran graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in philosophy and religious studies. He has been published in "Agora," Texas A&M's journal for humanities and has written freelance Web content for a year, writing everything from travel articles for hotels to fire safety articles. He has taught philosophy, ethics, social science, religious studies, and English conversation and writing classes.