Pronunciation articles for DipTESOL students

I’m trying to persuade our DipTESOL students to engage with some pronunciation-related research. I’ve hand-picked these five articles for their relevance to our context (well, the last one is more general), and I’ll be sharing them with our candidates this week. Thought I’d chuck them on the blog as well, as others might be interested in them. I’ve left in the reasons why I’ve chosen them for the candidates here – you might find they connect similarly to your own context.

Darcy (2018)Powerful and effective pronunciation instruction: how can we achieve it?

This offers a nice summary on teacher attitudes to teaching pronunciation (14 respondents, teaching an intensive program at Indiana University). Check out the section ‘What’s holding teachers back?’ for some interesting opinions on the value of pronunciation instruction –are these true in your own context? Also, skip to page 30 to view the ‘central aspects of a pronunciation curriculum’ – would you agree with these?

Relevance to our context: the article highlights a mismatch between how much teachers feel that learners value pronunciation (a lot) yet how much they teach it (a little). We have pronunciation stages in every lesson – do you value these, and do you think the learners do?

Thompson (1995)Intonation on question forms

Thompson provides evidence from small scale research suggesting that intonation forms for questions vary depending on communicative intention. There is a tendency for teachers and teaching materials to simplify/generalise pronunciation rules to make certain pronunciation points “teachable’’. Thompson highlights that such generalisations are unreliable, and suggests an alternative approach.

Relevance to our context: there are 12 lessons in our pre-intermediate syllabus that teach intonation patterns for questions. Each opts for the general rule of falling intonation for Wh- questions and rising for YES/NO questions. Have you ever thought that this pattern seems a bit… contrived?

Zielinski (2006) The intelligibility cocktail: An interaction between speaker and listener ingredients

A very interesting yet small scale study. Zielinski got three native speakers to listen to an English language learner (Vietnamese) and assessed instances of ‘reduced intelligibility’. Basically, incorrect segmental features (individual sounds) and non-standard syllable stress patterns contributed to reduced intelligibility. It’s a small study, but highlights that listeners use both segmental and suprasegmental cues to aid comprehension – so we should focus on helping speakers get BOTH right!

Relevance to our context: we only teach suprasegmental features in our syllabus.

Hancock (2018)Pronunciation teaching post-ELF

A very accessible summary of pronunciation priorities for the post-ELF classroom. I’ve explored the concepts a bit here. Hancock introduces a hierarchy of skills for teaching pronunciation, a la Bloom’s Taxonomy (lower-higher order skills).

Relevance to our context: consider the pronunciation tasks in our adult syllabus. Where do you think they are on Hancock’s hierarchy of skills?

Jenkins (2002)A sociolinguistically based, empirically researched pronunciation syllabus for English as an international language

Well, that title might be enough alone to put you off… However, I feel that this article from Jenkins is actually a clear and relatively accessible introduction to the concept of English as an International Language (EIL), and the Lingua Franca Core (LFC). Skip to page 96 for the LFC stuff – if you find it a bit complicated then it’s worth looking at the ELF Pron site for an even more accessible route in.

Relevance to our context: Pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) is a very interesting one. You can find plenty of critiques on it, and just as many defences (this one from Jenkins herself is worth a skim read once you know the basics). For our direct context, the original priorities set out in the Lingua Franca Core are fascinating. How well do you think they align with the coverage of pronunciation features in our syllabus?

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