“Am I deaf?” (Pronunciation is my Enemy)|「正しく聞き取れない」(なぜ英語の発音が難しいのか)


For five years now, I have been teaching English to Japanese nationals, and I often get the question, “Am I deaf?”; and so, I silently ask “Are you?”.

Two years ago, I never had any answers to my students’ question, “Am I deaf?”, nor to my question, “Are you?”. As a teacher, it is quite frustrating for me not to be able to answer my students nor efficiently help them with their pronunciation. Hence, in my first blog, I would like to answer the long-been unanswered question.

The answer is a humongous “NO”! You are not deaf. It is not even your fault why pronunciation seems like a journey to impossibility. Everything is because of your first language (i.e. Japanese).

Above is a table showing some of the katakana characters with its corresponding alphabet base on how I hear Japanese people pronounce it. (Disclaimer: I am not an expert in the Japanese language). The highlighted characters are some of the sounds that intervene in your acquisition of the English pronunciation. According to experts, your native language interferes with how you perceive and pronounce the sounds in your target language. One way to overcome this problem is by knowing the differences of your language and your target language. Another way is by asking someone who can fluently speak and pronounce the sound system of your target language.

So, when you are not able to hear the differences between some sounds in English, never again ask, “Am I deaf” and never would I ask, “Are you?”.