Do you remember the millennium bug? We were all warned that on new year’s day of 2000, our computers would cease to function properly. Didn’t happen. What DID happen around that time however was a quiet but seismic shift in assumptions about the goals of pronunciation teaching.
In the late nineties, people like Brian Jenner were already worrying away at the unchallenged assumption that learners should aim for one of the standard, prestige accents of English such as RP. Jenner (Jenner 1997) pointed out that millions of people were able to make themselves understood in any number of regional or global native accents, so why would we insist on a specific variety?
But why stop at ‘native’? Surely there were even more people around the globe who were effectively communicating with one another in accents of English which could not be considered ‘native’, so why even insist on a native-like one? This premise seems obvious in hindsight, but it took Jennifer Jenkins (Jenkins 2000) to make it explicit and begin to explore its implications. Let’s call the premise, The ELF Premise (where ELF stands for English as a Lingua Franca).
There have been plenty of arguments, to and fro, about the implications of The ELF Premise, but few people would coherently deny the premise itself – namely, that English is now used as a global lingua franca, and that this must be borne in mind when we are thinking about the goals of pronunciation teaching. If, as I suggest, the premise is unquestionable, then we no longer need to spend time arguing in its favour, and instead, we may concentrate on assimilating it into our pedagogical phonology model. This process of assimilation following the seismic shift is what I am calling Post-ELF. In the visual metaphor at the start of this article, ELF is the triangular prism. The white beam to the right is the pre-ELF idea of pronunciation teaching goals. The rainbow beam emerging to the right is the post-ELF idea. This is what I propose to speak about in my talk at IATEFL 2018, and in later follow up posts right here: Post 2; Post 3.
- Jenkins, J (2000) The Phonology of English as an International Language, Oxford, OUP
- Jenner, B (1997) International English: an alternative view, Speak Out! (Newsletter of the IATEFL PronSIG) number 21.