What accent do students think they want?

Posted by: 
What accent do students think they want? - hancockmcdonald.com/blog/what-accent-do-students-think-they-want

Here's Gemma Archer at IATEFL Brighton (on the PronSIG day) explaining how she felt when, starting her teaching career, she was expected to teach pronunciation in a posh English accent. She was teaching in a Scottish environment and has a Scottish accent, so teaching RP just didn't make any sense. So she gave up on pronunciation altogether. This happens all too often.

So why this insistence on posh English as a model for pronunciation teaching? Is there any benefit to anybody in it? Is that what students really want? Do they even know what they want? These are some of the questions that led Gemma to do some classroom research on the matter, and the results are interestingly ambiguous. It seems that, in some cases there may be some motivational benefit in RP, in the sense that this is the accent that many students think they want. Tell them they are learning another accent and they may be less than enthusiastic.

However, this is not as much of an endorsement of RP as it may appear at first. It turns out that many students don't actually know  what RP is or sounds like. Gemma reported, for instance, that her students said they would be happy to have a clear accent like hers. They assumed that her accent was RP simply because it was clear and easy for them to understand, whereas it is actually Scottish.

Perhaps the whole mistake lies in presenting accent models to students as if on a menu. Would you like American or British today, sir? And for you, madam - a little Australian, perhaps? This is not realistic, and it's perhaps misguided and misguiding to offer this choice. Most students evolve an accent that is all their own, not something off the peg. We need to stress less about which model to present. If you are intelligible, your own accent is as good a model as any, whether it be English or Scottish, Spanish or Russian.

Add new comment