lingua franca core

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? (more…)

Pronunciation priorities

Uh-oh! Here comes a ‘Teacher Pete thinking something through out loud’ moment. Tut. I hate these…

Mark Hancock shared a good article on LinkedIn the other day called ‘Pronunciation Teaching Post-ELF’. It’s got thinking about my own attitudes towards pronunciation and what features of pronunciation should be addressed in class.

According to Hancock, what we need to teach is pretty much established:

I’ve seen these particular priorities outlined before in Gibert’s ‘Six Pronunciation Priorities for beginning students’. I asked him how he arrived at these essential features. Was it based on research, a certain model like the Lingua Franca Core (LFC), intuition etc? He commented:

‘Not research or LFC, and I don’t think it’s intuition either. I think it’s more or less by definition: features of reduction and simplification in the sound stream in connected-speech are speaker oriented, i.e. for ease of articulation – and the clue is in the label. Reduction. Simplification. Linking. Etc. Pretty much tautology then. The fact that there is some overlap between the LFC could be coincidental. Except that it probably isn’t, [the essential features] are found to be essential for intelligibility and for good reason!

Jenkins’ LFC highlights some similar priorities from a research-based perspective…

I understand the premise in general – equipping learners with these pronunciation features is essential for ensuring intelligibility in a global context. Some things confuse me though…

From Jenkins (in Walker 2010:143)

‘Essentially, then, the Lingua Franca Core consists of: most consonant sounds; vowel length (but not quality) distinctions; absence of word-initial and – medial consonant deletion; and nuclear stress. For ELF, all the rest is in the realm of ‘non-core’.’

I guess ‘non-core’ is kinda Hancock’s ‘superficial’. However, both authors highlight that teaching these non-core features is worthwhile for receptive purposes. Phonology and listening are obviously linked (I’m still on the Cauldwell bandwagon by the way), which makes Jenkins fleeting categorisation of features of connected speech as ‘inconsequential’ seem a bit strange to me. The priority really is, as Hancock suggests, whether we are trying to understand or be understood. Good point, but if it is to be understood then is it right, according to Jenkins, to go for such a narrow pronunciation focus? I like Wells’ response to this… (more…)