“Beyond `Listen and Repeat`: Pronunciation Teaching Materials and Theories of Second Language Acquisition and PracTESOL: It’s Not What You Say, but How You Say it!”

  • Beyond `Listen and Repeat`: Pronunciation Teaching Materials and Theories of Second Language Acquisition

Over the past half century, the fortunes of pronunciation teaching have waxed and waned. Irrelevant in the grammar translation approach, pronunciation grew in prominence with the rise of Direct Method and Audio-lingual, only to pushed again to the sidelines with the ascendency of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and Natural Approach (Kharsen, 1982).

Today, pronunciation teaching is experiencing a new resurgence, fuelled largely by increasing awareness of the communicative function of supra-segmental features in spoken discourse (Brazil, Coulthard, & Johns, 1980; Brown & Yule, 1983). In the late 1980s, researchers called for a more ‘top-down’ approach to pronunciation teaching (Pennington & Richards, 1986; Pennington, 1989), emphasizing the broader, more meaningful aspects of phonology in connected speech rather than practice with isolated sounds, thus ushering pronunciation back into the communicative fold.

Although they profess to teach the more communicative aspects of pronunciation, many such texts go about it in a decidedly uncommunicative way. The more pronunciation teaching materials have changed, it seems, and the more they have stayed the same.

Contemporary materials for the teaching of pronunciation, thought still retaining many of the characteristics of traditional audio-lingual texts, have begun to incorporate more meaningful and communicative practice, an increased emphasis on supra-segmental, and other features such as consciousness-raising and self-monitoring which reflect current research into the acquisition of second language phonology. Much, however, remains to be done to bring materials in line with SLA research findings.

Writers of pronunciation teaching materials in coming years will likely pay more attention to learners’ sociolinguistic situations and the political implications of attitudes toward nonnative accents. They will also increasingly find ways of dealing with the psychological aspects of pronunciation training, integrating confidence building and reflective activities into their courses.

The explicit teaching of rules will remain, but will be tempered with more and more opportunities for free practice, and training at the monitor will continue to be emphasized with exercises in self-assessment. Finally, pronunciation will, whenever possible, be taught in concert with other skills, not as separate entity, but as another string in the communicative bow.

 

 

 

  • PracTESOL: It’s Not What You Say, but How You Say it!

To communicative effectively, language learners need to become proficient in using the semantic, syntactic, lexical, morphological and phonological elements of the language being learnt. They also need to understand its pragmatic use. The focus in ESL literature has tended to be grammatical, thematic and functional approaches to ESL syllabus design.

Words stressed incorrectly or with inappropriate pitch or intonation will impede the learner in getting the intended message across. Phonology, then, should be an integral part of any ESL lesson/syllabus. What follows is an outline of one way to approach incorporating a phonological component into ESL lessons. It is on the following assumptions about oral communication:

  1. Speaking usually involves two or more people who use language for interactional or transactional purposes.
  2. Spoken language imparts referential an affective meaning. When we speak, we reveal our interest and attitudes toward the topic being discussed and toward the people we are speaking with.
  3. Native like speech, especially for adult learners, takes time. For low-level learners, it is probably better to focus on the global aspects of oral production than on accuracy (except in cases where inadvertent mispronunciation will cause embarrassment). A learners intelligibility will not be affected if she substitutes one phoneme for another. For example, /dis iz di kæt/ instead of /ð is iz ð ә kæt/.
  4. Not all ‘problem’ will be at of production; some will be associated with perception.
  5. Learners need to have some understanding of the role phonology plays in language learning.

We as a teacher have to strongly believe that in making learners aware of phonological concepts, the learning process become more comprehensible and enjoyable. It’s not only about how putting s on plural /s/, /z/ or /ɪz/, or making past event with past-tense markers /t/ or /d/. By making learners aware of the role of phonological elements in discourse, we as a teacher provide them with a means for decoding and encoding meaning exchange.

We as a teacher provide learners with a key to how the culture is articulated through language and how to use language. Without this key, it is difficult to understand ‘why and how’ people convey their indeed meanings.

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