BRAZ-TESOL: a pron/listening talk

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“English is a rhythmical language” (Susan Harris de Melo) The main thrust of Susan’s talk was that there is a great insight that teachers in Brazil are tending to overlook: that English is stress-timed and Brazilian Portuguese is syllable-timed. A consequence of this difference is that for a Brazilian, listening to English is very difficult because the grammar words tend to be swallowed. So there is an extra stage in the listening process where the listener has to, in effect’, gap-fill the words which were (almost) inaudible in the acoustic signal. A very interesting point. If we don’t raise students’ awareness of this, they often panic about the words they are failing to hear, and this distracts them from the more productive strategy of listening for key words. To introduce the idea of stress-timing  and syllable-timing, Susan cleverly used a uniquely Portuguese linguistic  fact: that European Portuguese is stress-timed and Brazilian Portuguese is syllable-timed.  So she was able to show very clearly what the difference was.

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