Peter Medgyes brought to TESOL Spain a quirky plenary which somehow managed to be poetic, theatrical and intellectual at the same time. The performance amused and enchanted the audience, myself included – I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, it left some puzzled as to what it was about. As one teacher commented to me, ‘What is ELF, and why is it important?’.
TESOL Spain 2017 finished up with a compelling plenary from Silvana Richardson on native-speakerism and bias in ELT. She covered the topic from many angles, but out of all of them, I would just like to focus on one – the use of the phrase “native-speaker teachers” as a pull-factor in advertising language courses. Why has this come to be seen as a good thing - if indeed it has been?
In speaking styles, there is a continuum between mumbling and rolling your ‘r’s –. What I mean by mumbling here is speaking with as little mouth movement as possible in order to minimize effort on the part of the speaker.
"My sister went out with a long jumper". Here's a claim with two meanings, and reading it, you'd never be sure which was intended. But hearing it would clarify things, because the speaker has a way of communicating the intended meaning. It's the vocal effort known as 'stress'. "Long jumper" (athlete) is two words acting as a single lexical item.
In a language where "What's your address?" can become a homophone of "Watch or a dress?", there's plenty of scope for misunderstanding, even for what you might call 'native listeners'. For learner listeners, the situation is many times more perilous. For them, listening can be like wandering in a surreal soundscape.
Following last weeks post featuring a box set on the price/prize minimal pair, here's a box set on the bean/bin distinction. Again, one person is the speaker and says one of the phrases. His/her partner is the listener and says which they understood - A, B, C or D.
This image is a minimal pair, squared - what I call a box set. One person says one of the phrases. The other has to listen and say A, B, C or D. The minimal pairs in this instance involve /s/ and /z/ - these are a pair of related consonants, the first unvoiced and the second, voiced.
This pair of sentences could almost be phrasal homophones (oronyms), except for the differences in punctuation. They play with the fact that the sound bite 'call Dan' is identical to the sound bite 'called Anne'. There are also two meanings of 'called' (to phone or shout out to someone or to be named), which make the pair of sentences rather confusing!
There is something missing at the heart of the listening component in most ELT course materials. They fail to dig deep into the actual raw material of the skill – what Richard Cauldwell calls the ‘sound substance’.
This series of 8 podcasts / posts looks at key questions relating to accent and English teaching by focusing on specific instances and generalizing out from them. This page serves as a contents list for the series:
View 1: Either will do. In which we look at what's not important in pronunciation teaching.
ACCENT THROUGH THE KEYHOLE: small views of big pictures. This series of posts looks at key questions relating to accent and English teaching by focusing on specific instances and generalizing out from them. Check out the podcast too - it's at the bottom of the page...