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    • Join Date: Jun 2006
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    Teaching the IPA to ESL Students

    I am a new teacher. I am wondering what age is appropriate to teach to IPA to both ESL and native English learners. Thank you.

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    English Teacher
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    Re: Teaching the IPA to ESL Students

    It depends on various factors, including the language they speak- some who are already struggling with learning a new alphabet and writing system find the IPA a burden. It also depends on the enthusiasm of the students and the teacher for it- some regard it as a bit of a bore, which can make the teaching of it difficult.

    • Join Date: Feb 2007
    • Posts: 1

    Re: Teaching the IPA to ESL Students

    Teaching a pronunciation guide before teaching English orthography can be a short cut.

    Some find teaching a dictionary key first to be a short cut. Others view it as an additional burden or detour.

    It is probably sufficient to say that the efficacy of using the IPA or another pronunciation guide works for some teachers.

    One could teach the IPA as an orthography in 3 weeks. While many ESL teachers will use the IPA as a way of referencing English phonemes, few probably go to the trouble of teaching the entire system of representation. They probably do not test students on their ability to represent English speech in IPA notation.

    If the students were to represent English speech in IPA, they would overlearn it in 3 months (as they do any highly phonemic orthography).

    This has been demonstrated with very young preschool children. In one study, teachers found the approach to be a short cut to learning to read traditional text. Students who started with the dictionary key were reading traditional books at a 3rd grade level at the end of 8 months.

    The studies clearly showed that a dictionary key first could accelerate traditional literacy but there have been few cases. The failure ot the i/t/a (Initial Teaching Alphabet) to accelerate traditional literacy is one reason that teachers shy away from using this approach.

    The i/t/a only accelerated code literacy. When students transitioned to the traditional multi-code, they lost most of their advantage. The i/t/a was mostly taught using the whole-word or look-say method. Students used transcribed basal readers for 2 years and overlearned word-signs. There is no evidence that over 50% overlearned the sound-signs. Most could not, for instance, spell unfamiliar words in the i/t/a code. They had little or no first had practice at doing so.

    For a dictionary key fist approach to work, students have to learn the sound signs (the symbols used to represent phonemes). They have to write messages using the augmented alphabet.

    As a class, students who were taught the dictionary key first were tops in both reading and spelling among all schools in Chicago during the three years of the study. Individually, they were not the best. They won because all students in the class learned the basics.

    I don't know if this has ever been tested for adult ESL students. If someone knows of a study, please post it.

    The students in Chicago already spoke a dialect of English. I don't know of a study where teaching the dictionary key first helped when the students did not already speak English.

    Having a meta-language or a way of talking about speech sounds (phonemes) independent of traditional spelling should help. Many ESL teachers thinks it helps. However, many also think it is a waste of time.

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