Monday, May 14: This semester, Level 3 students at the university had to complete a term project on an endangered animal of their choice. Basically, they had to research the animal to find out about its appearance, diet, habitat, and why it was endangered. They mostly researched the topic on the internet, but they also had to survey their classmates as to why they thought the animal was endangered. They also had to interview several of their classmates to find out what they, as students, should do to save the endangered animal.
It was an interesting topic and the project, I thought was laid out quite nicely for the students. They had to learn to take notes, to footnote properly, and to organize and present their topic. Many of the students still tried to cut and paste from the internet, but as teachers we demanded that they put their research into their own words and present the information in an organized fashion. Getting these students away from cutting and pasting is quite a challenge! They all love to think they’re doing so much work, when in effect they’re just taking someone else’s work!
Today, we had the oral presentations. Many of them made posters, including a map to show where the animal lives, pictures of the animal, and an outline with talking points. Some of them did excellent presentations and I was generally happy with their efforts.
The funny thing to me was the students’ pronunciation. Arabic students have a difficult time differentiating between the hard “G” sound and the “J” sound. They also have trouble with the “B” and the “P” sound. The “P” sound doesn’t exist in Arabic. The “G”/”J” sound, though, does exist in Arabic. In Egyptian and in Omani Arabic, what is usually pronounced as a “J” sound in other Arab-speaking countries is pronounced as a hard “G” sound. A word like universityfor instance, pronounced “Jam’ia” in Jordan or Iraq, is be pronounced “Gam’ia” in Egypt or Oman.
There was a similar situation in Korea, where the “L” and the “R” sound both exist in Korea, but Koreans always mix them up and say, for instance, “lice” for “rice.” However, there are words with “L” in them, which they pronounce with an “R” sound, for instance instead of saying “hurry,” they say “hully.” I’m sure linguistics experts must understand the reason for this, but for me it seems that if they can pronounce both sounds, then why do they get them mixed up? I can understand why with the “P” sound, which doesn’t exist in Arabic, they always pronounce it as a “B.” As the sound doesn’t exist in their native tongue, you would expect them to have difficulty with it.
One of my adorable students did her presentation on: The GUY-ant JAR-ter Snake, which is an end-ANGERED species. When she did the practice presentation the day before I kept trying to correct her pronunciation. She could not get it right. I had her repeat after me each word: GIANT >> She said correctly, GIANT. But then I’d correct GARTER >> She kept saying JAR-ter. No matter how many times we practiced it, she could NOT say it correctly. She originally was saying GUY-ant for GIANT, with the hard “G,” and she could correctly pronounce that as GIANT. So why could she not say “GARter?”
Across the board, every student said “end-ANGERED” with a hard “G” for “endangered.” There were other pronunciation issues as well, of course, but this one was the most noticeable. I heard “LEE-on” for “lion,” the “blue-FINE tuna” for the “blue-fin tuna,” “BAN-GONE” for “Penguin,” “Red BANDA” for “Red panda.” Last but not least, one of the students, described how her animal ate “Christians” instead of “crustaceans.” 🙂
Of course for learners of English as a second language, pronunciation problems are always an issue. As they are for a native English speaker (like me) trying to learn French or Arabic. There are some sounds that are just plain difficult, if not impossible to say. Especially in Arabic, where there are so many guttural sounds that we just don’t have in English.
So of course I understand the pronunciation problems, but I still find them entertaining, just as my students find it quite funny when I totally botch Arabic words. My friend Mario, who has his Master’s in Linguistics explains that this problem is because the students have learned the pronunciation, but they haven’t acquired it. I guess that just takes time & practice.