Pronunciation Teaching Post-ELF

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Pronunciation Teaching Post-ELF - hancockmcdonald.com/ideas/pronunciation-teaching-post-elf

The article in the PDF below discusses pronunciation teaching and how it needs to be modified in a situation where the target language happens to be the global lingua franca. It originally appeared as a series of blog posts on PronPack.com.

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In my opinion as a student and as a future teacher, I strongly believe that English is the most appropriate language to use as a lingua franca, but I differ in the thinking that ELF should follow a standard accent. I think that it is almost impossible to actually achieve a standard accent when people from different cultures speak a lingua franca because we can’t help to add our culture to the pronunciation of the language, and I think that it was best explained with the example of the prism and the rainbows of colours. I will teach my students the rules of pronunciation and phonology because they are important in the meaning of a conversation, but as long as their speech is intelligible I don’t think I will make a repair in their accent, because even if we want it or not we are not natives of the language and even native speakers don’t conceive an standard accent as they have different accents depending on the region they live.
Mark Hancock's picture

Thanks Natacha, I think your plan sounds like a good way to go!

I believe that the article is very interesting and helpful, because it has clarified to me two of my biggest questions as a future teacher, which is how pronunciation affects the communication between two non-native speakers and how important is to sound like a native English speaker. Personally I think that the whole purpose of elf is to communicate regardless a “perfect pronunciation”, that is to say, is much more important that the message is clearly understood than if it was correctly pronounced following a standard that does not corresponds with our native language sounds and features. On the other hand I do recognize that it is totally valid to aim for a native accent and to work hard in order to achieve the features of that specific accent. The key, is that it should be optional to decide whether your objective is to communicate effectively or in addition to sound like a native speaker.

It’s really interesting what this article talks about. As it is said, it is important to keep in mind while teaching ELF, that a student is not likely to learn only one type of Standard English. And, at the same time, he would be able to understand not only one type of English but several ones. We must have in mind that the ‘native-like’ pronunciation is not always needed to achieve. For instance, for communicative purposes is good to focus and teach what is essential, such as productive and receptive competences, and avoid what it may be superficial. It is important to avoid accent snobbery because it is not helpful at all. Nevertheless, while teaching we have to make students aware of it, just because they might face it in the future. Moreover, as teachers, it is important to distinguish what is or is not intelligible, in order to teach students how they can be understood and understand each other.

Generally speaking, I think that the English language will change as it has done in the last centuries ago, and to focus in just one variety is not clearly the best answer. American and British English are the tip of an iceberg, meaning that under the surface you will find lots of varieties. Ok, we are future teachers, so we must achieve a native like pronunciation or being really close to it. But as I have mentioned above the language is changing, and we must be aware of that, so we as future professors should be capable of identify which are the best features to teach to our students phonologically speaking. So it will be their choice whether to pronounce as it should be (standard) or if they just want to communicate without being misunderstood. Today’s English language accepts many varieties and as the author says, it ends in a rainbow of different pronunciations depending on the local interlocutor region is, focusing more in the intelligibility more than in the pronunciation.

As far as I am concerned, teachers must be aware of this ELF premise and the metaphor of the prism. They must know that there is a wide spectrum of different accents for speaking English. Because of these different rages of accents, teachers should be able to make students aware of this situation and consider their main aims for learning the language. However, it is also true that in terms of features of phonology the forms such as weak forms, elision and linking are not as essential as phoneme distinctions, syllables and tonic stress. Based on my experience as language learner, I think that the most important thing while communicating in English is to be able to deliver a well-formed message rather than focusing on the pronunciation of the speaker. However, at the same time, I think that as future teachers we should insist students that some important features of pronunciation are important to consider or to be aware of, in order to make a distinction between, for example, English as a foreign language and English as a lingua franca.

As far as I am concerned the way in which this article deals with the teaching of pronunciation to non-native students seems to me quite interesting, since if I see it from my context; that is, as a language learner and a future teacher, I would say that although the pronunciation of the language is relevant, the most important thing; In my opinion, and as this article demonstrates, it is to achieve communication between the speaker and the listener, more than the accent that the apprentice has, if he manages to be understood: the goal of communication can be achieved. I think it is useless to maintain that ELF should follow a standard accent because in each country the way speakers pronounce is different, and it will be difficult for them to pronounce in a correct way or as a native speaker, that’s impossible! As in text says “people simply will not end up speaking one and the same accent even if this were desirable”, teachers need to be aware of it, they need to know that despite the fact that students need to learn certain aspects of pronunciation, these must be just the needed ones, as in the example of the car (essential and superficial features) teachers have to make a difference between what is and what is not important, in order to be able to offer their students the greatest amount of knowledge, but that these taught contents are necessary and productive, on which a mobilization of knowledge can be generated.

As a language learner of English and upcoming teacher, I found this article very interesting about the way of teaching phonological features, where we don't have to be very emphatic in a perfect way of pronouncing or speaking to someone, as we are not native-speakers we don't have to care about being extremely perfect in terms of phonetics and phonology. We came from a variety of countries, which each one of them has its accent, so it is clear and accepted that we can mix our accent with the new language, it is something that is part of us and we as teacher don't have the properties of denying this of our students, we have to encourage them in order to follow their own way of learning phonological aspects. In addition to this if our students want to learn as it is written for example a specific accent, we as teachers must to support their initiative and give some material which could help them.

As a student of English Teaching, I consider that there are two different ways to analyse accurate production of English phonemes. For one thing, seeing pronunciation from a self-related perspective, analysing the way my own pronunciation has been corrected with the help of my teachers. This so-called correction came in different ways, but I found the definition “accent snobbery” extremely relatable, since I often experienced it whenever my pronunciation was not “proper English” according to some of my teachers, specially the older ones. For another thing, and from a pedagogical perspective, it is possible to build a better offer for students, considering the struggles that they have to face to accurately produce English phonemes. Usually, English programs only consider “British” or “American” accents as valid, and most of teachers often ask us which one of those accents is the one that we use, not giving any space to a more global pronunciation of English. During the early stages, it was very difficult for me to identify and distinguish sounds that sounded pretty much familiar, such as /ʒ/ and /dʒ/. In those first years of learning, I must say that the feedback I received from my teachers was very insistent, especially the correction of words that would have a whole different meaning if I produced a different phoneme, also known as the “essential features” of pronunciation. Looking back, I do remember questionable situations in which a teacher would tell a student off just because they mispronounced a phoneme, even if the feature was only “superficial”. From a personal point of view, I think that ELF is just as valid as any other English use, and I would dare to say that even more valid, as most of the English speakers use it as a Lingua Franca. I think it is time for us to let the languages evolve and let English enrich itself from all cultures around the world.

In my opinion, according to what I’ve experienced as an English language learner and a future teacher of English, the article is very interesting and all of what it says is really accurate to the reality of the process of teaching and learning English. The main purpose of ELF must be communication, the intelligibility of the language regardless the correct and almost perfect form of accent and pronunciation, moreover as in the text says, “we must accept that the outcome of pronunciation learning around the globe will be a wide spectrum of differing accents”, how can a global language have only one singular way of accent? It is impossible, and of course the idea that none of the different accents are more correct than others is certainly true. I think that in the case of schools and my future as a teacher, English has to be taught as a way of communication with intelligibility and not a way of trying to be a native´like speaker, the important point here is to understand each one.

According to the article. I think as a future teacher and student of an English program to achieve a standard accent and pronunciation or some features of it is part of the final objective because as a teacher I will be the nearest model for the students. However, for learners who aim is only communication, some features will be more important or essential to teach than others. Due to, the reason and context why English is needed it will determine the proficiency of the language. In addition, today exists a considerable number of variation of a language, and each of them varies in some rules and ways a pronunciation. Of course, the variations will depend on the region. Moreover, for the same reasons will be different phonological features that must be taught in order to convey in a better communication or intelligibility between non- natives or natives and non- natives.

The development of ELF has challenged the process of teaching and learning English. First, it affects us, future teachers, in knowing what kind of accent or pronunciation is better to teach when doing a class. Second, it affects directly students who are in the process of learning English. For that reason, I think that we as future teachers have to know the purpose of teaching a language, which is to achieve a successful communication between the participants since they learning English for different purposes. One of the important steps for this idea, is to concentrate in things that impede intelligibility, so in that way, students can be more fluid and more confident about the language. Also, it is important to teachers to encourage the students independently of their accent or pronunciation of certain words; but also very aware if they are doing it in the most understandable way for their classmates, in that way, teachers will be far away from the “accent snob” which is commonly present in traditional teaching. In conclusion, the decision has to be made in relation with the purpose of learning English whether be: a) the learner´s goals to achieve and manage English or b) the teacher as they are in charge to understand how intelligible their learners are, and what priorities should be in relation to intelligibility.

In my opinion, I think it is neccesary to apply for one standard accent while we, ESL learners, are acquiring a phonology completely different for ours. It would represent a good way to order the new codes and feautures, and would help to construct the target language in a easier way. However, it does not mean that the learner must replay the exact accent learned in class once he has developed the language in structural terms and is capable of producing. As far as allowed by the language, the learner is free of using some variations. The point of the “esscential vs superficial” contributes in this aspect, dividing the feautures based on the strictness of intelligibility and directly on the benefits of the speaker. In this conext, as teacher, I would apply for this methodology, teaching a standard model, but always contrasting it with other varieties in order to develop the critical sense in my students.

My personal view, based on my school and university experience and my future teacher performance, is that the fact that English Language has become the world’s tool of communication has changed the “English pronunciation” paradigm. I strongly believe the EFL premise of the global use of English as Lingua Franca, and therefore the pronunciation’s goals issue, because as we can see, people from around the world still have their mother tongue alive in everyday speech, with specific and particular characteristics that not only their minds make but also, are physically adapted to create those sounds. As the text separated the teaching of English pronunciation elements in two, essential and superficial, the need of a change in the feedback of each one affects on the teaching methodology of this new paradigm, which I personally agree with this modification urgency in order to prepare English speakers who are well equipped to communicate around the world, adapting themselves to understand the varied range of English accents.

I regard as a student of an English teaching programme and also as a learner of the language that the use of the English as ELF is very important and useful in terms of communicating at anywhere. First of all, we all must consider the prism and light metaphor because there it is explained that there are a central model of pronunciation, but there are also a lot of variations. To continue, when a student is learning the language, he is considered as a snob and he is exposed to all kinds of accents, and obviously, he will not produce the same pronunciation that he heard, that is when we found the difference between being productive and receptive. He may receive the message very well but he will not be able to produce as it was. So, when we are learning the language and its pronunciation we must know that there are always essential and superficial features, which help the speaker and the listener in order to get a clear communication between them. To finish, I want to make clear that children or people who is starting the process of learning should worry about being understood by the ones who are listening to him and also understand what the other people say. We don’t have the necessity of having just one specific pronunciation if there’s a lot of variety for you to learn, and of course, we can choose the one that fits better with us.

As a soon to be English teacher, I strongly agree with what's presented in this article about ELF . It is a well known fact that we do not need to sound native like to be understood and nowadays the ultimate goal is that, to be understood and be able to communicate according to our needs. While at school we don’t have a lot of time to teach our students perfect pronunciation and we certainly can’t make sure they all sound native like with two or three hours of classes per week, that’s why I believe we, as teachers, should concentrate on helping our students learn about the importance of the understanding of their message, making effectiveness their main goal and ours to observe and supervise the process rather than the product, providing feedback and not empowering students so they can modify and accommodate to situations so they can be easily understood and able to also understand different varieties of accents.

In my opinion I think that we as students of English teachers have to be very acquarite in terms of prununciation. We are the closest "image" to a native for the student, so we have to speak like the standards (American-British). Here in our country we don't have contact to native speakers so in that case as I said before, we are an image to imitate. But I also think we will never sound like a native because we are not a native speaker of english. Our accent will influence always the pronunciation and it's going to happen always with every other person depending on their country. The idea is to be able to speak the language in a way to be understood, not in a perfect way. Many people around the world use the language to only communicate in certain cases such as business, when you are a tourist and you have yo ask for directions, etc. As I said before the idea is that the message must be understood and nothing more.

As a future teacher of English, I believe that pronunciation teaching is a challenge we have to face. English is the global language, and to accept that means accepting the outcome of pronunciation learning varies around the globe. I think it’s as interesting as challenging to not only understand English as a global language, but also to change the classroom practices according to that idea. We, teachers of English, have often been taught that the native-like model is desirable, and, even though we do have to develop a correct pronunciation and acquire knowledge about phonetics and phonology, we have to be aware that student’s goals are not the same as ours (teachers). As the text says, pronunciation skills as “accommodation” should be the target in the classroom. In this way, the focus would not be in achieving a certain model, but to actually develop intelligibility. In this way, the role of the teacher is fundamental, in the way that he/she will have to decide which features of the pronunciation are essential and which ones are not. I also believe it’s crucial the point that states that feedback has a fundamental role in the classroom. Teachers shouldn’t correct every single mistake, as the aim is not related to that. Instead, feedback should way of showing when intelligibility is at risk, and also it could help in order to give students options in terms of superficial features. To sum up, I agree and find very interesting the idea that pronunciation teaching should be focused on intelligibility, and considering that communicative approach, there has to be a process of questioning and adapting what is taught and how it is taught.

In my opinion this is a really good article that help us as future teachers of English to understand what is the real importance of a perfect pronunciation. There are many people that think you must speak like a native speaker, that we have to imitate an almost perfect accent, but it is extremely difficult to speak like a native speaker, because of the way the different cultures that use English as lingua franca are used to speak, the sounds they produce, the way they use the speech organs, etc. I agree with the idea that we do not have to be intransigent teachers, and that we have to make our students aware of those mistakes that could affect the correct communication, the essential features of the language, in order to speak an intelligible English and be understood but regarding to superficial features, we have to give them the choice to imitate them or not.

From my experience as language learner I have to say that it is a difficult process. It requires a lot of effort, work and study. It is necessary to keep ourselves constantly learning and studying the language's essentialities. In the case of pronunciation, from my personal experience, I consider it is difficult to achieve. It is a quite challenge to modify my Spanish accent for English accent. Nevertheless, we as future teachers of the language it becomes necessary to speak properly, clearly and closely to the English native language, because we are using the idiom not just for communicative purposes but also for teaching. Regarding to the article, it is a well written work with the ideas clearly displayed. Plus, It is interesting and dynamic the way that the topic is explained through all the pdf. The use of images and metaphors make it understandable. I appreciate the shared knowledge.

As a non-native English learner and future English teacher, I found this article very intriguing. We can see how both sides can improve one of our main goal, which is intelligibility. Most of the time we face the two realities presented of learning the proper rules of English and also learning how to communicate and understand the language. It is important for English speakers and learners to know about at least the basis of phonology, as they can help us to facilitate the process of communication, no matter the range of accents we hear. However, as teachers, we should be more aware of all the implications and varieties of accents so we can give better feedback to our students while they are acquiring the new language. For communication, sounds and specific phonological features are maybe superficial skills, but they can be a key element to improve a better understanding of the language. We should also be aware of how different the learning process is for each person. Why should we look for a perfect set of rules immediately as a product from everyone when we can focus on the process of acquiring different skills, and enhance the quality of what the students are learning as a whole.

Such an interesting article, since it is a totally different point of view of what we are used to be told and taught. As a student of the English Teaching Training Program, teachers make us choose and reach a native-like accent being the options RP or GA. This is something I have never agreed. First of all, the main purpose of learning another language is for communication so, does it matter the accent if the message is intelligible? Secondly, there are other aspects of a second language that are more important than the accent, for instance grammar, spelling (in writing performance), vocabulary, etc. Also, I think accents are beautiful and make English evolve and more interesting to learn. When become a teacher, I will certainly provide different feedback for the two kinds of pronunciation features and make my student know that accent is not important but to produce an intelligible message is. Also I´d like to teach them different accent of English in case they ever want/need to use English as lingua franca with other EFL person.

I have been studying English during the last nine years – first, I graduated from English-Spanish Translation, and I am currently in an English Teacher Training Program – and all this time I have had this feeling of being the only non-native speaker in the world who thinks that it is not necessary to sound native-like when speaking a second language. This article proves that I was not as wrong as I thought. Many people want to learn a new language because it is an additional skill that allows them to get a better job or just because they enjoy learning foreign languages; however, it is very common to find people lost in this accent snobbery, obsessed with a specific accent and forcing themselves to reach this native-like sound. As you stated previously ‘(…) all the participants in the communication event are participating in good faith and without prejudice. However, I certainly wouldn’t want to deny the existence of prejudice (..)’ I completely agree with you and I think that nowadays it is almost impossible to get rid of the standards imposed by the community itself. Wherever you go, you are supposed to talk in a perfect accent and, if you don’t, you are either judged or corrected. In my opinion, I truly believe that no matter how hard we practise and try to improve our second language, we are always going to sound non-natives. We second-language learners are never going to sound native because we were born neither in the United States nor in the United Kingdom; therefore, we are not natives! It is impossible for learners to memorize every phonetical exception for all the different varieties of English; it is even more impossible to speak in just one of this varieties since each of them has different types of pronunciation, collocations, etc. It is inevitable for us to get confused and mix standards. Language dogma should be just a guide, not a must. As long as intelligibility is not affected, the standard or the form in which we speak in English should not be a matter to concern about. Obviously, it will also depend on the purpose each second language learner has. If a person wants to speak like a real native speaker, then it is fine having him practising just one accent; if a learner only has a communicative purpose, then exceptions to the phonetic rules are really unnecessary. Nevertheless, we, as future English teachers, must know the standards and appropriate use of English and, as specialists of the language, we are responsible for what our students will learn depending on the aim to reach.

This article represents the reality of almost every learner in the context of ELF. Also, it explains some very solid implications for teaching. Personally, I feel completely related to the situations presented in the text; on one hand, as a language learner, sometimes it’s difficult to follow entirely an English standard accent. In fact, our mother tongue sounds will remain noticeable until hours of practice and pronunciation drills have been done. Moreover, we must consider that it is very unlikely that any English learner (as a foreign language) may talk in English most of the time outside the class; instead, he/she will fall back to their mother tongue. The results of this constant loop are actually countering our pronunciation skills’ progress – something that is awfully problematic. On the other hand, as a future teacher of English (L2), this article illustrates the significance of the study of phonology in the classroom; the most remarkable thing, in my opinion, is how the hierarchy shown portrays the process of our pronunciation skills development.

After reading this article many ideas have come to my mind. First of all, the prism and light metaphor helps me to confirm that all humans are different, as well as their capacities (in these case English pronunciation). As a student, I have always asked myself why I have to pronounce like a native speaker to be proficient on the language. Why I need to be “native-like” to achieve a higher level, why I cannot just be myself and use my own accent. Through these past years I have noticed a difference among teachers. Some of them had given me some feedback just to help me to improve my English as much as possible. But some others had corrected me insistently, and told me I was wrong every time I did not pronounce the word as I was supposed to. Nevertheless, this article has shown me that I have to be like the former ones. There is no need to put an enormous pressure on my future students if they cannot pronounce as a native speaker. I will teach them to focus on communication and on being understood by others. Keeping in mind that feedback is essential to teach and reinforce English pronunciation, as long as I am aware of what essential and what is just superficial for the students. “Language is the key for communication, not for showing perfection”.

Few days ago I read an article about ELF and everything that some teachers had taught me “fell apart” but not in a bad way. Now with your article and with the prism and light metaphor I see it clear. ELF is the way we need to teach our students, I totally agree with everything you stand. English – as every language- is used to communicate ideas, feelings and mostly everything we want. And for that purpose we do not need to have a standard pronunciation but we need a pronunciation that can be understand by everyone (in this case English speakers native or no native). So as a future English teacher, I will focus in the process rather in the product. I will also explain to my students that there are a huge variety of English and that they can adopt the one they feel more comfortable with. However, I will insist that the most important thing to consider is the intelligibly of the language. Now, I’m in the ‘Post-ELF’.

I agree with the text and I found it very interesting. First of all, we are not native speakers, so it is hard for us to use a correct accent of it. We are not insert in the language, even if we try it. Obviously, this doesn’t mean we cannot do it or acquire it. According to the text, I agree with the idea of teaching the features of the pronunciation leaving the option for the learner of choosing what is easier to him to acquire and try to improve what is more difficult. As teachers we need to look for a balance between the RP and LF, both are options to the students. If we want to communicate our ideas, we can buy a full equipment car or we can use a standard not very equipped, but both are giving us the chance to reach the destiny.

Learning English as a second language is very important in this world. English is the language of business, pop culture, medicine, etc for this reason many people from different countries have decided to learn English as their second language. Communication allows us to relate to the world and be aware of the global situation. The aim of learning English is to achieve a successful communication with native and non-native speakers of English, that implies a lot of accents to recognize and understand. In my opinion, teaching the different types of accents it is important because that enables us to understand whoever we are talking. On the other hand it can result difficult to produce speech with sounds that are not used in our native language. To deliver our message successfully is important to consider specific aspects that result essential for achieving meaning, such as phoneme distinctions, syllables and tonic stress, but there are others that are superficial, according to the article these are; weak forms, elision, assimilation, linking and schwa. ELF approach considers that learning accents is important to understand messages, but not vital for producing output. As English language learner I have realized that a native like accent is not important to communicate with native speakers, but learning the way accents sound have allowed me to understand people from different regions. I have also realized that over-focus on achieving a native like accent is sometimes unhelpful and even makes the speech creation more difficult, while focus on fluency allows us to produce and receive more message.

In my opinion, this model seems interesting for my context, as a Chilean person. In my personal experience, I did not have much interaction with the English language in terms of pronunciation when I was at school, but that may be because our national curriculum does not have emphasis in production. This ELF seems as a suitable option for our classrooms, as it does not focus on being native-like, but to be able to understand other speakers and to give the needed competences to produce the language with confidence with other English users around the world; goal which is coherent, as our world is always evolving towards globalization, and let’s be honest: English IS the language which will open new opportunities to the people, learning it is a must, especially for us, the people who do not have any interaction with the language, as it is a totally foreign language. In this model, communication is the most important object of study, and it seems absolutely clever, because the main purpose of language is communication. As a future English teacher, I think that this model could be a contextualized answer to our country’s low levels of English.

As an English learner I strongly believe that a good pronunciation is very important when we are learning a language and even more when we are teaching the language, because everyone wants a native pronunciation, because is the best way to speak. But I also believe that is very important to be aware of the existence of the different accents that exist in English, as a future English teacher it will be very important for me that the students know the diversity of accents that exist in English, because they have many benefits, for instance, it help us to know more about the country or language that we are studying and to feel more comfortable speaking with one accent instead of another. Also because in this way the students can assess the language in a better way, because they will turn capable of handling the language in the world and not only close in one type. For the same reason and as a conclusion I think that is more important to focus on the learning rather if the student speaks as a native speaker. It has more importance if the students can establish a conversation instead of an excellent pronunciation, that would be more significant to me, which will be my main goal when I become a teacher.

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