If we want them to get better at reading, she proposed, help them to improve their pronunciation. How this is, how pronunciation operates as the glue that holds everything else in teaching English together, I’ll explain in my webinar in December.I’ll also look at goals for learners, because if the goal in the past was to sound like a native speaker, the situation today, with English being used the world over as a lingua franca, is not so simple.
But pronunciation is also about listening; it is not enough to recognise a word in writing, because if you don’t know how it’s pronounced you won’t recognise it when listening to someone using the word.
Spanish learners of English can fail to recognise the word ‘average’ even though it is spelt the same way in both languages.
The accent problem seems to begin early on in the education process at elementary school levels, when Japanese katakana pronunciation is applied to the English vocabulary being taught.
Words like ‘fan’ and ‘fun’ become indistinguishable from one another and longer more complex words are transformed into something that most native English speakers can’t properly decipher.
It’s logical, then, that if they are short of time something will have to give, and pronunciation is an obvious choice, especially with courses that focus more on written than on spoken English.
But can we really push pronunciation out to the margins of ELT like this? The connection between pronunciation and speaking, for example, is immediately apparent to anyone who has started learning a new language.My own students kept using ‘Festival’ to start their essays.I couldn’t work out why and until they explained that it was the way I started any instructions I gave them in class. What I’d been saying was ‘First of all’ but because of their poor pronunciation they completely misheard what I was saying.I’ll be looking at priorities for our learners’ pronunciation, too, because if there isn’t much time to fit everything in, we need to focus on what matters most.An American twang is no match for a lyrical Irish accent. Although no accent should be considered better or worse than another, some accents are judged to be more aesthetically pleasing than others because of the social connotations of the group of people who speak them.Robin Walker is a freelance teacher, teacher educator, and materials writer.He has been in ELT for over 30 years, and regularly collaborates with Oxford University Press and Trinity College London.Who will understand you if your pronunciation is poor? Yes, the case for teaching pronunciation seems pretty solid, but the reality in classrooms around the world is often very different.Time and time again, when I give talks and workshops on pronunciation, teachers confess to me that what I’ve said has been enlightening, but that sadly they don’t have time for pronunciation in a syllabus that is already busting at the seams.Yet there’s something irresistible about a Southern accent that conjures gentlemanly qualities. A rugged Scottish burr is seductive because of the men who speak in it: Sean Connery, Richard Madden, and Ewan Mc Gregor.Unfortunately, many accents get a negative reception.