Phonology - Bengali Language
Difficulties faced by NBS in speaking English
Training of EFL/ESL teachers/trainers for NBS
Teaching pronunciation to students of EFL/ESL in Bangladesh
Teaching English is a global phenomenon. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. People from different countries, age, culture, backgrounds and gender are taking up teaching English as their profession to teach the language to Non-Native English Speakers (NNES).
Initially, Native English Speakers taught English to NNES by using methods and techniques that they had employed in teaching English in their countries or new techniques they had developed, which they thought were more effective (Brown, 2007). At different times different teachers used different methods and approaches, which they preferred. But now all agree that no single approach suits all learners. An approach needs to be authentic for a particular group of learners and it is now acknowledged that one group of learner is different from another group in more than one way. Thus, English teaching approaches, besides taking into account only the educational background or age of a group, should consider learners’ cultural background, the environment in which they will use English and above all, their first language. To make teaching of English most effective, EFL/ESL teachers should take into account how a particular language relates with English and how difficult or easy it is to teach L2 learners because of the differences or similarities of L2 with English.
This essay looks at the teaching of English to Native Bengali Speakers (NBS) from Bangladesh. It does not include the Bengali speakers of West Bengal in India because the Bengali language spoken there, including phonology and cultural background of learners, is different. A separate study is needed for that.
The author reviewed the work of a few researchers who studied the phonetics and phonology of Bengali language and problems in teaching of EFL/ESL to tertiary students in Bangladesh. Some were university faculty members and others postgraduate students, who studied the relationship of the two languages, Bengali and English. Due to limitation of time and space, this essay will focus only on teaching NBS to speak English with a “neutral accent”.
In a “neutral accent” (author’s definition) speakers pronounce English phonemes and words clearly, which are intelligible to all. Listeners hearing a person speaking in “neutral accent” are unable to tell the country of origin of the speakers. To acquire such an accent, first the learners must become familiar with the phonological systems of English and their native language, in this case Bengali. In such a teaching approach an attempt is to be made to find out if the differences in the sound systems between the two languages, if any, cause any difficulties in teaching English to the L2 learners and why, and how to rectify that.
This essay mentions the observations made by researchers on the phonology of Bengali language, its differences with the phonology of English. It also looks at the results, obtained by the researchers, from empirical studies, on motivational factors affecting the learning of English by NBS, at tertiary level, problems they face in learning to speak English and their suggested solutions. Based on his personal experiences, the author makes his own recommendations on how to make teaching of Spoken English effective, particularly pronunciation, to NBS in Bangladesh.
The author, who is originally from Bangladesh, came across many NBS, including English teachers, who had many years of experience in English, can read and write English fairly well and also speak English fluently. But they speak English with a heavy accent, which carries traces of their language of origin, Bengali. Such speech is not intelligible to a NES or NNES from outside Bangladesh. They acquired such pronunciation because an NBS when speaking English, and pronouncing an English word, which has a sound that is not present in Bengali, replaces that sound with another Bengali sound, which according to them is similar to the English sound.
In Bangladesh there are about three dozen public universities and well over 60 private universities, which are recognised by the country’s University Grants Commission. According to the Country Educational Profile (CEP) published by NOOSR of the Department of Education in Australia, the public universities in Bangladesh fall into Category I and Category II, where Category I is the highest category. The highest category in which any private university has been placed is Category II. Public universities are subsidised by the government and tuition fees are minimal.
- Quote paper
- Amin Rahman (Author), 2012, Difficulties of teaching English to native Bengali speakers, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/314089