Review of Geoff Lindsey (2019) English after RP: Standard British Pronunciation Today Palgrave
If you teach English pronunciation, you will know that most
text books present a model which claims to be either standard American or
standard British. The latter is often referred to as RP (Received
Pronunciation), and is usually represented by a set of phonetic symbols chosen
over half a century ago by A. C. Gimson. Geoff Lindsey makes the point that if
a person speaks in exactly the way that these symbols indicate, they will sound
comically old-fashioned. His new book English
after RP sets out to describe they ways in which standard British has
evolved away from RP. He suggests alternative phonetic symbols which would be
more appropriate for modern Standard Southern British English, but he also
recognises that the traditional set will not be changed overnight, given the
number of text books still using them. If we are to stick with the symbols
currently in use, we will need to avoid taking them at phonetic face value –
the symbols no longer accurately describe the facts.
We sometimes dehumanize pronunciation in the way we talk about it. If a learner mispronounces a word, we might say, ‘It isn’t pronounced like that; it’s pronounced …’ (and then we model the ‘correct’ way). In the dictionary, there are transcriptions to tell us how words are pronounced. Talking about weak forms, we might say, ‘In these words, the vowel sound is reduced to a schwa’. On the topic of word stress, we might say, ‘Most two-syllable nouns are stressed on the first syllable’. I’ve highlighted the verb forms above to demonstrate how easy it is to slip into the passive when talking about pronunciation, which is fine, but what it does is conceal the identity of who is doing the action. It doesn’t tell us who pronounces things this way – it removes the human from the equation.
PronPack is now available in Australia from Bookery! To celebrate, we have added Australia to our atlas of “Air Traffic Control”boards – see a free sample of the game here. Download the various versions here (Activity 3.1 New Versions).
This article was first published in Speak Out issue 60. Speak Out is the journal of the IATEFL Pronunciation special interest group. In this article, I will suggest that following the recognition of English’s role as a global Lingua Franca, there has been an impasse created by two conflicting reactions: dogma and denial. I will discuss the possible implications of ELF for pronunciation teaching goals, and suggest how we can distinguish features which are important for global intelligibility from those which are not. I will highlight the importance of distinguishing productive and receptive goals, and consider the issue of what part models play in a context where accent variability is a central concern. I will consider contexts where simple intelligibility is not enough. Finally, I will suggest that a shift in how we express goals, from product (model accent) to process (accommodation) may provide a means of getting past the impasse of dogma and denial.Continue reading “ELF: Beyond Dogma and Denial”
1 Know your objective. Pronunciation is about being understood by people all over the globe. It’s not about pretending to be American or British. You don’t need to teach every small detail of the way they speak in the US or UK – very few learners will ever learn that, and there is no reason to anyway. English is a world language now – it doesn’t belong to any particular country.
2 I’m OK! Say that to yourself. Teachers sometimes feel they aren’t a good pronunciation model because they aren’t ‘native speakers’. That’s not true. If you are an intelligible speaker of English, you are a perfect model. When we think of English as a lingua franca, the term ‘native speaker’ no longer makes sense – we are all native speakers of it!
PronPack 1-4 has won an ESU prize for teacher resources in a ceremony in London on Nov 20th 2018, runner up behind David Farmer’s ‘Power-Up’ (NILE). This means that PronPack has now won two main ELT materials prizes in the same year – a rare achievement!
It is not always clear if sound and spelling patterns are a matter of pronunciation or of literacy, and for that reason perhaps it is sometimes overlooked in pronunciation teaching. However, in my experience, most learners come to pronunciation class already under the influence of written words and spelling-induced errors are some of the most frequent problems.