Which pronunciation model should we teach?

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In this episode of The TEFL Show podcast we follow on from two previous episodes where we discussed the phonemic chart focusing first on vowels here and then on consonants here. So in this podcast we look at the various pronunciation models that teachers offer to students and try to answer the question which pronunciation model should we teach. We focus on our experiences as teachers in Asia, discuss linguistic imperialism and English as Lingua Franca.

As usual, we’d love to hear from you, so please leave us a comment below and take part in the poll below. Which pronunciation model should we teach to our students?

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5 thoughts on “Which pronunciation model should we teach?

  1. I was reminded of this “which variety to teach dilemma” the other day as I was watching Roslyn Young’s talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6ZvxDerlDA&index=2&list=PLkzUq7XYDsg8XiSRqkb2Q_LpPeo8nXt-i
    It’s about teaching French sounds, but she mentions that Japanese speakers only use 5 vowels, so I thought that maybe it would be more appropriate for them to learn a Scottish accent rather than an RP one when learning English, as I think there are fewer vowels used. I’ve also thought about this in relation to the French learners I teach-maybe letting them roll their ‘r’ sound like in Scottish or replace ‘th’ with an ‘f’ as my Glaswegian cousins do is a suitable back up plan if they struggle with the RP equivalents. I speak with a ‘northern English’ accent, but can switch to a Scottish one (central Scotland/Glaswegian) as I used to live there. Of course, I’m making my choice in terms of native accents, probably due to my own native speaker bias. That said, I’m sure it would be seen as controversial to teach a Scottish variety, rather than the ‘standard’ UK variety (to what extent RP is still a standard, I’m not so sure-how many people really speak like that).
    On the issue of ELF and NNS varities – I can’t wait for your courseboook! In the meantime, if you’re looking for more NNS accents to use in class, why not try the IDEA accent archive? I found out about that on EFL Notes’ blog: https://eflnotes.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/using-the-idea-accent-archive-in-one-to-one-classes/
    Learners should get to hear NNS more in class, especially NNS with the same L1 speaking fluidly in English as I think they make good role models.

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    1. Hi Caraleopold,
      Thanks for the comment. Very interesting video. I will need to watch it.
      I think it’s helpful when you know which sounds in English sts might struggle with due to L1 influence. When it comes to the choice of model for pronunciation, I’d mainly base it on students’ needs as learners of English. for example, if your students are learning English to emigrate to the Scotland, it might be worth sensitising them to that variety of English. However, if you’re teaching a bunch of Vietnamese businesmen/women who will go on business trips to China, it makes much more sense to raise their awareness of pronunciation features of China English. In this situation, speaking like a NS, whether from Scotland or elsewhere, might actually be a handicap, as there is a lot of evidence suggesting that NS are difficult to understand for L2 English speakers in ELF settings.
      In general, however, I’d simply go for being intelligible and sensitise students to the broadest array of accents possible, especially including the NNS accents they are likely to encounter in daily/professional life. Yes, the IDEA accent archive is great. There are also lots of great ideas on ELFpron blog.
      Thanks a lot for your comment! If you enjoyed the podcast, we’d really appreciate it if you rated it and left a short comment on iTunes or Stitcher.

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      1. In my case, I’m only working with learners whose L1 is French, so I’m aware of the tricky sounds for them, both for pronunciation and listening. I think it’s worth making a distinction because although you need to make a French learner aware of what an RP ‘r’ sounds like, I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to reproduce it in that exact way and would settle for an intelligible alternative. In fact, it’s what you say in your comment – you need to sensitize to the variety the learners are going to be in contact with (pronunciation for listening) and then make sure they have an intelligible accent for an ELF setting (pronunciation for pronunciation?). My learner whose ‘r’ makes her speech a bit less intelligible is giving a conference in Romania in April, so I don’t think it’s worth making a fuss about before then. What would be more useful is to work on features of Romanian English or other NN varities she might encounter at this event. Am following the ELF pronunciation blog now-thanks for that tip. Happy to leave a rating/comment on iTunes – will get on to that. Looking forward to the next Podcast.

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