A Map of Pronunciation

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Hancock Pronmap

IATEFL Pronsig's "Speak Out" magazine 50th Edition celebratory issue is just out, and what an amazing collection it is. Contrats to Robin Walker for getting it together! I'm very proud to have an article in it myself, entitled "A Map of Pronunciation Teaching". Here's the map and excerpts from the intro and conclusion of the article.

There is an Indian parable in which a number of blind men set out to discover what an elephant is like. Each feels a different part of the animal and comes away with an entirely different impression of its form. For example, the one who touches the trunk thinks its like a snake; the one who touches it’s tusk think it’s all hard and bony. I sometimes feel something similar happens in our field of pronunciation teaching. How can accent and identity, jazz chants and discourse intonation possibly be part of the same animal? It’s easy to become blind to the whole. But is this a problem? After all, to make any important advances in any field, we have to specialize. My answer is that, while it may not be a problem for the specialist, it is for the teacher. The teacher must weigh up all the different angles and approaches which compete for attention and make considered, pragmatic choices. The teacher needs to see the whole elephant at once, so to speak, or to change the metaphor: the teacher needs a bird’s-eye view of the whole territory – a map. I have attempted to create such a map, and in an article in IATEFL Pronsig's Speak Out magazine Issue 50, I present and explain it.

The map is somewhat like a brainstorm. The labels on it are suggestive of what might go there, but in no way are they comprehensive, and you will no doubt be able to add more. The map is also like a mind-map, although less explicit about what connects to what – I didn’t want that level of restriction. The actual shape of the coastline is fanciful, of course, yet I think the map would be less reader-friendly without it. In any case, the map is not intended to be scientific or rigorous, but to serve as a picture of ‘the whole elephant’, a reminder of what to take account of (balance) and what the possibilities are (breadth), when preparing to teach pronunciation.
You may also use the map as a vehicle for reflection. For example, if you circle all the words and concepts which you feel at home with, and then look at the overall pattern of these on the whole map, this is your ‘pronunciation footprint’. If there are any conspicuous areas outside your ‘footprint’, you may want to look into the ideas in those areas a little more. Similarly, you may use the map after reading an article or attending a talk: is it possible locate the author’s main argument on the map? The process of deciding this is a way of reflecting on what you have just read or seen. Perhaps you could try it when you read Speak Out!


Thanks... hope to see you in November in Paris
Mark Hancock's picture

Would be great, Debbie!

Hope we'll see you at iatefl, Mark? I've long loved your pronunciation exercises and used them. I'm making my long and nervous journey from down under - my first foray into the real life companionship of the international well - known and well-loved, like yourself.
Mark Hancock's picture

Yes, see you in Harrogate, Sue!

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