I still remember vividly my first experience helping students improve their English pronunciation. It was a chilly morning in 2010, and I had just started working at a pronunciation school in Tokyo. As I soon found out, many Japanese people who have studied English to a high level still struggle with their pronunciation, speaking what is commonly referred to as "katakana English". This is basically English with a Japanese accent, and it can make it difficult for non-native speakers to communicate effectively with native English speakers.

At the time, I had been studying Japanese for several years, and I was already familiar with the differences in rhythm between the Japanese language and the English language. However, teaching students was a completely different story. It was extremely exhausting, and I often felt like I wasn't making enough progress. Fortunately, my boss was very happy with my teaching style, as I was thorough and patient, going through the different sounds and syllables one by one, trying to help the students grasp the basic sounds of English.

One of the biggest challenges that I faced was the fact that English has 20 vowel sounds, while Japanese only has five. This made it especially challenging for the students to grasp the nuances of English pronunciation, and I often found myself struggling to come up with effective teaching methods. I remember advising my students to spend more time listening to the English language, hoping that immersion would gradually improve their pronunciation.

However, it wasn't until I started studying Korean in 2011 that I fully appreciated the difficulties that my students were facing. Although Korean and Japanese have a lot in common, the sounds of Korean require a lot more attention, and without a clear understanding of the sounds, I found it difficult to learn to read the language and even struggled to learn the grammar.

This experience made me realize that as a teacher, I needed to take a step back and really explain the most fundamental and simplest sounds in more detail. I needed to break down the sounds even further before my students could practice enunciating a single syllable. I started to pay more attention to the way we trap and release air when pronouncing basic sounds in English, and I realized that for native English speakers, these sounds seem obvious because we have internalized and mimicked them from a young age.

In conclusion, teaching English pronunciation to non-native speakers is a challenging yet rewarding experience. It requires a deep understanding of phonetics, patience, and a willingness to adapt teaching methods to each student's individual needs. By breaking down the sounds of English into their most basic forms and paying attention to the nuances of different languages and accents, teachers can make a positive impact on their students' language skills and cultural understanding.