Very few elementary school teachers have learned TEFL methodology in their teacher- training courses despite the recent curriculum reform by the Ministry of Education in Japan. They feel a lack of confidence in teaching English mainly because of their difficulty in pronunciation practice. It is considered important to gain experiential knowledge of English pronunciation together with that of how to teach the combinations of letters and sounds, i.e., phonics, to pupils. Osaka Kyoiku University (OKU), a national university for teacher-training, has been providing English education courses for future elementary school teachers since 2016. In one course, phonics theory and practices are introduced to improve student pronunciation. Students take a pre-test and a post-test, both composed of the dictation of 25 phonetic alphabets and some questionnaires. Also, some students record their pronunciation of minimal pairs in ten English sentences. From the results of the tests, it has been found that university students’ ability to hear short vowels such as / e /, / i /, and / u / is particularly poor, although phonics instruction has promoted pronunciation. (Kashimoto & Yoshida, 2019). This paper will introduce an appropriate method for pronunciation improvement practice through modified phonics instruction in the students’ teacher-training courses and show an analysis of pre-test and post-test results quantitatively and qualitatively. This paper also attempts to explain the difficulty of adults’ phonological listening and production based on neurolinguistic studies, which might be due to the relative weakness in phoneme construction in the mind in terms of the function of the mental lexicon and working memory.
phonics, teacher-training, teaching English to young learners, neurolinguistics