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Vicki Jade Stevenson

Learner Profile Background of the learner This assignment will investigate the areas of difficulty and needs of a learner of the English language. It will follow on to suggest some activities that the learner could use to improve these areas. The learner chosen for this study is María José Ramos from Cartagena, Spain. María is in her early thirties and has come to Swansea for 3 months to accompany her husband for work purposes. She has been in Swansea for three weeks and informs me of her sadness when she arrived in Swansea and realised she could not understand anyone. María studied English through primary and secondary school and has spent the last two years attending an English language school. When she returns to Spain she will enter the intermediate class at this school. María describes herself as shy and explains that she gains confidence when she gets on with someone; these traits are prevalent in her learning. In María’s writing task she tells us that she should speak to more English people. It would appear that her shyness prevents her from starting a conversation, however in her group at the moment María appears to have quickly gained confidence and when observing her at the end of week two in class, she was very involved with the class and one of the first to offer answers to questions. One of the reasons for María’s motivation on this course, could be a change in learning styles, up to the present almost all of her teachers have been Spanish and Spain still predominantly uses traditional teaching methods where grammar is given most of the focus, this would have especially been the case throughout María’s compulsory education. María states in her interview that she finds grammar boring and in her piece of writing she states that she started studying English because her parents wanted her to. It appears that when young María was not offered enough motivation to learn English, this might explain why her level of English does not match the level of someone that has been learning English for so many years. In conversation on various occasions I have heard María make simple mistakes like confusing his and her.

Analysis of specific language For this analysis I conducted a recorded interview with the María and asked her to complete a written task for me without the use of a dictionary or the internet. I also observed María in one of her classes.

In her writing Maria explains that she tries not to translate from the Spanish language but in her interview we can pick up some of the literal translation from Spanish to English. The most common occurrences are Spain pronounced as Espain and studying as estudying. probably find English pronunciation harder than speakers of any other European language” (Swan and Smith 1987: 73) María’s speech is very comprehensible. She uses phrases such as I made an exam (hacer un examen). Maria appears to be translating from Spanish to English sometimes between the gaps in her speech. She also gets very confused with giving her year of birth “I was born in one thousand seven hundred” this is also an interference from her L1. This error is due to the Spanish language only having one sound for /v/ and /b/. in Spanish you make an exam instead of taking one. o Problems with the pronunciation of /s/ plus another consonant at the beginning of a word. however her pronunciation has many errors that are common for the native Spanish speaker.Vicki Jade Stevenson  Pronunciation: “European Spanish speakers . been as bin and repeat as repit. Speaking Maria’s speech is very hesitant and she takes time and thinks carefully about what she says. María’s interview shows lots of occurrences of this error. Other examples include “studying English not exactly” (estudiando ingles no exactamente) this is also a word from word translation from Spanish to English.. In Maria’s interview she pronounces beach as bitch. . o Confusion of /b/ and /v/ Errors include pronunciation of very as bery and level as lebel.. The mere fact that nearly all of María’s teachers have been Spanish would inevitably also hinder her pronunciation. Most common pronunciation errors include o Confusion of /iː/ and /ɪ/.

. During my interview with María her vocabulary was varied and appropriate to the situation. it is evident that María has studied a lot of grammar in the past and her sentence structure represents a good understanding of the structure of the English language. and learners find the concept.. My only real concern in this area.. Grammar María demonstrates a good command of present and past tenses making no major errors and also manages to express herself correctly in the future. When I simplified the questions María was easily able to answer them. her errors include “but in this moment” and “I’ve been to Swansea for almost 3 weeks”. For the confusion of pronunciation of vowels like /iː/ and /ɪ/ I would use a same activity like activity 3 in appendix a. Using specific activities with the learner Pronunciation o Pronunciation is Marías biggest problem area.. There is thus no separate category of modal auxiliaries.. Vocabulary María’s vocabulary is appropriate for her level and she shows no need for any correction in this area. This would enable Mária to be able to differentiate . This was mainly my own fault as I pitched some of the questions at a higher level. and they all show the normal range of tenses.Vicki Jade Stevenson Understanding spoken English Throughout my interview on a few occasions María did not understand the question I was asking. If I was her teacher I would focus a short period of every lesson on pronunciation. difficult to grasp” (Swan and Smith 1987: 81). is that during the interview María tended to leave out modal verbs when needed producing sentences such as o “I like to meet more people” (she misses out the would) o “I like to be corrected” (she misses out the would) Coe points out why modals are difficult for Spanish speakers “Spanish and Catalan have only one category of verbs. María however does have a problem confusing the prepositions to / at / in.. María expressed that she is finding it difficult to understand the English accent but in class she appears to understand instructions without and major difficulties.

Vicki Jade Stevenson between the two vowels before progressing to practising them through lots of repetitions and drills. Celce-Murcia and Hiles (1988-55) give a good example of how to teach modals through storytelling. Fluency. When you have sentences …with which to work.” Write the sentence on the board. What can we conclude?” Here let the class volunteer . A similar activity could be devised for differentiating /b/ and /v/.s so she could really understand the difference in speech sounds and be able to recognise which sound to use when with the help of a dictionary. A sentence construction activity like activity 18 in appendix one would be a good follow up activity to practice pronunciation after the difference has been recognised. did some volunteer work or joined English corner. theatre or even listening to English music could improve her understanding of the language. Suddenly she is surrounded by native English speakers and her hearing is getting used to all the new sounds that her former Spanish teachers have not presented her with. María could improve her English even more if she joined a social club. To teach must you might tell a story about one of your students. A fun way to start understanding and using modals is through storytelling. . Going to the cinema. and start to incorporate them in her speech. María could also benefit from some lessons on phonetic. If María keeps up tis motivation her fluency will inevitably improve on its own over time. Jose: “Usually he’s a very good student… today he is gazing out the window with a silly grin on his face…when I walk past his chair. They give an example of teaching the modal must. then tell another story which will elicit the inferential use of must. I just hope that Marías shyness will not stop her from engaging with as many people as possible during her stay in Swansea. vocabulary and understanding spoken English María has already made the first step in improving these areas through coming to the UK and coming to our lessons. junk mail and free newspapers. Picking up vocabulary has now become inevitable as she finds herself surrounded by labels in supermarkets. Grammar As discussed María needs to realise where to use modals. The problem with modals is that once you start to unravel them the ambiguity of the meanings itself is very complex. draw attention to the relevant points . written all over his textbook. I see José and Maria with little hearts. Then continue: “Obviously José must be in love.

Strong Deduction).wheaton. L. . & Hilles. He must of got there by now) and ask them to deduct their meaning (Strong obligation. Oxford. (1998) Techniques and Resources in Teaching Grammar. After this activity the teacher could get the child to write their own story using the modal concerned. Swan Michael (1987) Learner English. Bibliography Celce-Murcia. CUP Dikerson.Vicki Jade Stevenson Story telling is a good way of keeping students engaged in class after this exercise students could be given sentences with must (or the modal you are teaching) in different contexts (You must go now. S. How can I improve my pronunciation skills? Available at http://www. Oxford University press.

Vicki Jade Stevenson .