Teach English in Luoyun XiAng - Chongqing

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British Englsih vs American EnglishTeachers must be aware of the differences in pronunciation and spelling between British English and American English. Coming from a British background myself I have found out that in my first few weeks in the ESL classroom, I remember going through the alphabet. For the letter ?F?, I drew on the board the most common type of person who lives in close proximity to us. Imagine my surprise as a class full of intermediate students called out and insisted that ?flavour? as I knew it was spelt with only six letters: ?flavor?. Even as I am writing this word, my UK spell check program has flagged the word and insisted that I have made a fundamental error or mistake. When I first arrived in Seoul, South korea I was told by my boss that I should change my accent so that I would sound more American to the students. I thought he was pulling my leg but he explained that the parents think that American English is the standard that other english speaking countries have to match up to. It is easier for the kids to understand and so on. It was impossible for me to put on a natural American but I quickly learned how to adapt and pretend to be one purely for the sake of keeping up appearances. Since it was impossible for me sound like an American I never changed my accent all that much however I soon began to see the differences between British English and American English and sometimes I even taught both and then let my students decide which one was easier for them to learn or grasp hold of. Funny enough if academies or institutes couldn?t find an American native speaker they would ask British native speakers to sound like one. At most places I teach American English is seen as absolutely necessary for business; people have the idea that everyone speaking English for business will have an American accent! But UK is for those who wish to sound a little more ?Sophisticated. They have obviously never heard an accent from the North of england before or watched some of Michael cane?s earlier movies). So what can we do as teachers to help our students overcome the problems that arise from the differences between American and UK English? Maybe the only real option is to adopt a position of neutrality. The teacher shouldn?t mark a student incorrect if they use the British or the American spelling of the word, similarly with other vocabulary items as well. Therefore as long as I can understand them and there are no obvious mispronunciations the students can get full marks with either American or UK English in my classroom. I have noticed that people from the UK are generally more familiar with the USA spelling (?flavour? excluded) of words or pronunciation than (in a lot of cases) most Americans are with the British pronunciation, spelling or even meaning of words (i.e. slang or colloquialism). This maybe because the popularity of American s T.V. shows, movies and books have made a deep impact on spreading American culture to the rest of the world. Sometimes the pronunciation differences can be quite noticeable ?water? (war-ter) or ?water? (wad-der) or ?tomato? (to-mayto) or ?tomato? (to-marto) causing students to question whether they are in fact the same word at all! In these cases, and to prevent confusion when teaching new vocabulary, It is best to practice and illustrate BOTH pronunciations before teaching the one which. If the student can see that both ways are correct and that they can in fact compliment each other then they will be more accepting and less prejudice towards the natural style of the teacher. It will open up their minds and when in fact they do travel to either country they will be able to pick up a lot more than if they had only stuck with one accent and ignored the other. I think to with an American teacher these problems are not always as obvious or visible. The students are already used to hearing American accents (on TV, internet videos, MTV, even in the CDs and DVDs provided with esl course books) their previous encounters with ESL have all presumably been initiated in a mainly USA biased manner. American teachers are therefore less likely to have their students interrupt or query their way of speaking. I think the most important thing to remember is that it is better to aim for neutrality and fall a little short then to just focus one kind of accent and further instil a biased attitude in the students minds. The teacher doesn?t need to put ?put on? an accent and then teach students how to speak in your ?unreal voice?. The teacher would be doing them an injustice. Rather it is better to be aware of the differences and be prepared to show them the different pronunciations. Most importantly, DO NOT criticize or make fun of a student for speaking in one accent rather than another, neither should the teacher penalise their spelling unless it is essential and specific to the course requirements. The teacher?s goal is to help the student find more ways that they can improve their language skills and they shouldn?t be burdened down with new ways in which they are always being discouraged and put off learning the new language.