Should the use of K.K. be restricted?
- Yes, restricted to those who have had one year or more of Phonics instruction
- Yes, restricted to those who have had nine months (min.) of Phonics instruction
- Yes, restricted to those who have had six months (min.) of Phonics instruction
- Yes, restricted to those who have had three months (min.) of Phonics instruction
- No restrictions on the teaching of K.K. are necessary
- Scrap K.K. altogether.
The most obvious way to learn a foreign language is this: after some period of intermediate instruction, just memorize one sentence a day. After a year, you have memorized 365 sentences. Even if you devote Sundays to review, and not to memorizing a new sentence, you still have over 300 sentences, or sentence patterns, which you can use to express yourself. Using this material, you can also make up simple dialogues.
However, many of my foreign friends say that the reason such a simple methodology does not work in Taiwan is because the students are afraid to speak. And the reason the students are afraid to speak is because of the K.K. teaching method.
The K.K. teaching method makes so many fine distinctions in pronunciation, (many of which are considered very nit-picking even by native speakers), that the students are afraid to open their mouths.
Contrastingly, my impression is that in Thailand, people will speak to you in English, even though their English is very limited. In Taiwan, at many tourist venues, people will not speak to you in English, even though they have studied English for many years. They are afraid to open their mouths. One of the major reasons for this appears to be the idiotic K.K. teaching method.
By contrast, when I worked in a bushiban here in Taipei for over a decade, our students were not afraid to open their mouths, because they all had a very firm grasp of “basic pronounciation values”, which we taught them with PHONICS instruction. What I noticed about K.K. is that the formulation is very similar to “Chinese”, because the pronunciation value of every word is assigned – there are essentially no “basic” or “standard” pronunciation values. In other words, K.K. does not attempt to tell you how to look at an English word and “derive” the pronunciation from the spelling, K.K. simply assigns the pronunciation to the word. (This appears to dovetail nicely with the Chinese mindset – they don’t have to analyze it or think about it, they just memorize it).
Phonics starts with short and long vowel combinations, examples (a) hat, hate; (e) pet, Pete; (i) dick, dike; (o) tot, tote; (u) mutt, mute. These can then be extrapolated into other words (or “syllables”) by changing the consonants. To those with a solid background in K.K. (and no exposure to phonics) this is a total mystery. Hence my allegation that those who have only studied K.K. have no concept of “basic pronounciation values”.
However, admittedly phonics methodology can only assist you in dealing with about 80% of English language pronunciation. There are lots of exceptions, and of course there are many “two vowel combinations” (eg. ai, ei, oi, ui, ae, eo, uo, oo, etc.) which phonics doesn’t really deal with directly – although you can collect examples and diagram all these out. (K.K. can of course specify the exact pronunciation of each . . . . . . regardless of the number of variations, and this is admittedly a major plus in the minds of Chinese/Taiwanese teachers and students. In other words, in regard to MASTERING ENGLISH PRONUNCIATION, K.K. can get you 100% of the way there, with its “non-natural” teaching method, whereas “phonics” can only get you about 80% of the way there, even though the method is more natural.)
Maybe the entire debate is similar to when you have a cold and you want to decide whether to take Chinese or western medicine . . . . .
At any rate, K.K. has a number of disadvantages. In our bushiban before, we only taught K.K. to students who had had a minimum of four semesters of PHONICS study, and who were familiar with all the phonics concepts. Should such restrictions be implemented in Taiwan in the teaching of English? What does everyone think?