When I was a kid, I remember thinking "I'll fight you with my bare hands!" meant that your hands were strong like a bear. Anyway, my four-year-old son came up to me the other day and vowed to fight me with his bare hands and I remembered how I understood this phrase as a kid:
Be careful out there!
Spelling mistakes used to bother me a lot and get under my skin, but now I just try to see the humor in it and remind students to re-read their papers slowly. Here is my stock advice that is programmed by a macro to populate a Word comment bubble:
Please spellcheck your essay before submitting it. Try to read through your document slowly by using your finger or the eraser-side of a pencil to slow down your reading. This will help you read more slowly and catch mistakes.
Below is an old cartoon I made a couple years ago based on a typo I found in set of chess instructions. I was so tickled by the image of the shrimp's cousin scuttling across a chess board that I simply had to draw it. I tried to capture a look of defiance on the prawn's face, as if to say, "No, I'm not moving back. Haven't you read the rules?"
Still, I'm thankful for inadvertently funny spelling errors. Without them, grading would be made a little less funny (very easy to do that), and I would never think thoughts like this:
Bonus: A story about my first encounter with a prawn!
A colleague in Japan made a request for tips on teaching the "w" sound, so I made the following video:
This issue doesn't just affect Japanese students. I've noticed it with Koreans, Chinese, and even sometimes Arabic speakers. In the video, and in this post, though, I focus on Japanese students, but the principles are likely at work with other students as well.
With /w/, you likely notice students make mistakes with only certain words, right? Since Japanese has /w/ in words like "watashi" and "wakaranai", or loan words like "week" (ゴールデンウィーク), it might be a matter of a cross-linguistic interference (i.e. they don't realize the "w" sound in Japanese is not the same as the /w/ in English).
With pronouncing [w], I would try to make them aware of what they already know how to do (pronounce [w] at the beginning of words like "water," "why," and "week") and use it as a springboard to what they don't know.
To make matters more complicated, though, you must get them to realize that the /w/ in English is always rounded. They're probably messing it up because in Japanese, the sound they think is like the English "w" only sounds like it (in Japanese, they don't round their lips when pronouncing "watashi" or "wakaranai"). That's the trouble with using your first language to understand a second: They think, "Oh yeah, the 'w' sound--like in the word 'watashi,'" but the problem is that sound isn't the same as the English "w". They then carry over those assumptions into other English words, and while you need not round the w in words like "water", "why", and "which," (i.e. English speakers will probably still understand you), you cannot avoid rounding in words that start with a long and short "oo" sound (would, woo, woman). Not rounding makes them sound like "ould," "oo" and "ooman."
Does that make sense?
It's the same problem as an American thinking the "r" in Japanese is the same as the "r" in English. They are clearly totally different (in Japanese, it's a flap, and in English, it's an approximant), which is why an American who doesn't understand this and tries to say a word like "taberareru" will sound like Scooby Doo.
I hope that makes sense and you can teach these sounds more effectively.
Have a good one, and good luck out there!
Hi! I'm Bill.
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