Pros and cons of using transliteration in ESOL?

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stuartnz

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I am about to start helping the sister of a friend learn English. I worked as a tutor with my friend, helping her study for and pass her nursing baccalaureate and registration exams., and I'm currently helping her with her Master's. One of the tools I've used is to transliterate English words she's struggled with into devanagari to help her grasp the pronunciation. Since devanagari is much more nearly "character per phoneme" than English, this has seemed to work OK in this limited context.

My questions is, are there disadvantages or dangers inherent in using such a technique on a slightly larger scale as part of my ESOL lessons with her sister, whose English is much more limited? Also, if anybody knows, how does gurmukhi compare to devanagari for "phoneticism", since my friend's sister does not read much devanagari, so if I did transliterate, I'd likely have to do so in gurmukhi?
 

BobK

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The trouble with using transliteration from one language to another is it can encourage bad habits - the student can think 'this sound equals my sound' (or - worse - 'this phoneme = my phoneme'). If you're going to have to learn a new system, why not use the IPA (there's an interactive chart you can download here: BBC | British Council teaching English - Downloads )
[note: this download gives British English audio, though I'm sure it wouldn't take you long to find another one if that's not want you want.]

Of course, your student would have to learn it too. But the same British Council site provides loads of resources, and when they've learnt the system it'll make dictionaries infinitely more useful (so the student won't be 'locked in' to your home-made transcription scheme).

b
 
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stuartnz

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 16, 2008
Member Type
Other
Native Language
English
Home Country
New Zealand
Current Location
New Zealand
The trouble with using transliteration from one language to another is it can encourage bad habits - the student can think 'this sound equals my sound' (or - worse - 'this phoneme = my phoneme'). If you're going to have to learn a new system, why not use the IPA (there's an interactive chart you can download here: BBC | British Council teaching English - Downloads )
[note: this download gives British English audio, though I'm sure it wouldn't take you long to find another one if that's not want you want.]

Of course, your student would have to learn it too. But the same British Council site provides loads of resources, and when they've learnt the system it'll make dictionaries infinitely more useful (so the student won't be 'locked in' to your home-made transcription scheme).

b

Thanks. Your reply highlights some of the things I was thinking about. The real problem with IPA would be getting my student to learn it. There's also the matter of the considerable difference between the RP accent she would hear on the downloads and the NZ accent she would hear all around her, including from me. Harder still would helping her to understand why she should learn a "script" she'll never use in day-to-day life. I have software that will transliterate from devanagari to gurmukhi, so I would not need to learn another script, and English words written in Indian scripts are very common in India, so it's something she has probably already seen. I am grateful for your reply because it's strengthened my determination to do this only sparingly, when all else fails.
 
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