Pop Culture & Pronunciation – Emma Polen Blog Post #2

As a classroom aide in an adult English Second Language class, I have encountered many communication barriers, but surprisingly enough, there are some cultural spaces that are easily communicated over language differences. First, all the ELL students knew Jackie Chan and the Terminator, and this made for a very entertaining lesson about “-ing” verbs full of karate kick-ing and spy-ing. Also, something I never really considered as an American is how much we use weather in our day-to-day greetings. A student greeted me one morning and then said, “Cold.” Without any other words, I knew from context that she was talking about the weather, and we continued a conversation about the temperature and the precipitation. Very little was needed to understand what she was trying to communicate in an American culture.

Challenges to this free form of communication have included mix-ups between words, most of which I, as a native English speaker, have never even considered. A student from Congo confused the words “addiction” and “tradition.” These words have very different meanings in the English language, and so correcting this error took some time because we had trouble understanding what he was talking about at first. As an English speaker, I have also never realized how similar the sound of the letter “C” is to the letter “Z.” Hearing the ELL students struggle with pronunciation and recognition of these two letters was definitely eye-opening. These difficulties have made it crucial to not blow past complicating language problems, but confront them and correct them in order to successfully communicate with one another.


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