Juan Carlos is a 50 year old native Colombian student, currently residing in Switzerland. He has an intermediate level of English. He works as an Information Technology (IT) engineer and has acquired the necessary English vocabulary to function effectively within this sector. He would like to improve his everyday English fluency in order to interact more effectively with the Lausanne immigrant community, which uses English as the primary language for communication.
Juan Carlos studied English at school, but found it unsatisfying because he only did text book tasks and dialogue memorization. At University, he studied technical English required for the IT industry. After some time, during a 6 month work hiatus, he took classes in a private language school where he received instruction targeting receptive and productive skills. He found this to be a positive learning experience, but despite having the opportunity to work with native English speakers, he lacked an external environment in which to practice English and his progress stalled.
In 2006, Juan Carlos moved to Switzerland and applied for citizenship. Attaining proficiency in French was a mandatory component of the process, so his English studies were set aside for four years. Upon attaining citizenship, he resumed his English studies in an attempt to regain the level he had previously acquired. He took a course at a private language school in Lausanne and made noticeable progress due in part to an excellent trainer.
Juan Carlos is a social person who enjoys participating in class. He is a determined student and chooses his words carefully when speaking. He often self-corrects. He is very capable doing reading and writing tasks but his prefers speaking activities. He admits to having difficulty with oral comprehension, especially British English.
Juan Carlos is an effective communicator but occasionally struggles with the appropriate usage of indirect and direct articles. For example:
1. I am IT engineer. (Instead of “ I am an IT engineer”)
2. When I was at the school…. (Instead of “when I was at school….”)
Spanish speakers often make these errors because of L1 interference i.e. they speak English as they would Spanish. In Spanish, indefinite articles are omitted before professions. Therefore, when discussing occupations in English, native Spanish speakers often neglect the indirect article (example 1 above). Consequently, they have a tendency to translate “Él es panadero” as “He is baker” and “Ella es medico” as “She is doctor”. The error noted in example 2 occurs because, in the Spanish language, the definite article is used before certain nouns that refer to the institution they represent rather than the actual place. Accordingly, native Spanish speakers like Juan Carlos have the inclination to directly translate phrases such as “en la escuela” to “at the school”, “en la iglesia” to “at the church” and “en el trabajo” to “at the work” when speaking English, instead of “at school”, “at church” and “at work”.
Juan Carlos takes care when speaking English. His thoughtful approach allows him to avoid making many of the common pronunciation mistakes made by native Spanish learners. During our interview, however, he repeatedly said “yob” instead of “job”. (/ jɒb / instead of / dʒɒb /).
Spanish speakers often pronounce the English consonant “y” ( / j /) more like the English “j” ( / dʒ /). Another point to consider is that the written consonant “j” in Spanish is pronounced like the English / h /. These issues, in addition to the fact that Spanish does not have equivalents for the English phonemes / ʃ /, / ʒ / and / dʒ / assist in explaining why native Spanish learners find it difficult to distinctively articulate words commencing with these phonemes. For example:
“Jew, chew and you”/ dʒu: / / tʃu: / & / ju: /and...