The QiRanger Adventures

I really am an Englishee Teacher

with one comment

One of the things ESL teachers in Korea deal with on a day-to-day basis is correcting pronunciation of certain English words. Now this isn’t unique to language instructors, but here in Korea it can be a daunting task and some new teachers become frustrated or mock their students without knowing the linguistic background causing the problem.

The root of the “problem” stems from the way Hangeul is written. For those not familiar with Hangeul, here’s the Wiki:

Hangeul is the native alphabet of the Korean language. It was created in the mid-fifteenth century, and is now the official script of both North Korea and South Korea, being co-official in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China.

Hangeul is a phonemic alphabet organized into syllabic blocks. Each block consists of at least two of the 24 Hangeul letters with at least one each of the 14 consonants and 10 vowels. These syllabic blocks can be written horizontally from left to right as well as vertically from top to bottom in columns from right to left.

When one delves into learning Hangeul, you start learning what each letter makes and the different combinations possible. That is one of the strengths of Hangeul: it can be made to approximate almost any sound. However, the consonant and vowel combination can sometimes cause a problem. For example, there is no consonant representing the /sh/ sound in English. The sound is formed by writing /시/ which is pronounced /shee/.

This is where some of the most common pronunciation problems occur with words like English and finish. Students’ native tongue kicks in and when they get to the /sh/ sound add /ee/ to the words making them /Englishee/ and /finishee/, respectively.

Some ESL teachers repeatedly get upset by the consistent use of /Englishee/ in class, but I don’t. Having studied several languages over the years, I hear my English pronunciation drop into Spanish, Tagolog, etc. all the time. When I hear ?Englishee/ or /finishee/ in class, I don’t negatively enforce the students, but provide a gentle reminder that English has a different structure and that the word is /English/ or /finish/. I try to positively reinforce the students as much as possible, for as limited as some of their English may be, it is significantly more advanced that my Korean.

My students often comment on how hard it is to learn English. I agree, but that’s also why I’m here- to try and make it easy and fun for them.



Written by Steve Miller

October 28, 2009 at 8:14 am

One Response

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  1. Dear Steve

    Please forgive me emailing you in such a seemingly cold fashion. You seem to share my love of language and I wondered if you might like a mutual link to my English word website:

    or my Foreign words website:

    with best wishes

    Adam Jacot de Boinod

    Adam Jacot de Boinod

    October 28, 2009 at 7:47 pm

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