Pronunciation: Teach a skill, not an accent.

Being interviewed here by Rebecca Place of TESOL Spain.  Here are the main points:

1. Pronunciation teachers need to filter the material they teach. Don’t just teach all features of English phonology ‘because they’re there’; teach them because the learner is likely to need them.
2. Idiosyncrasies of individual accents, including R.P. for example, are not necessarily relevant, in a world where English is a lingua franca.
3. For example, weak forms and schwa, common though they are in, say, British native accents, are not essential for intelligibility. Learners need to deal with them receptively, but for production, they are optional.
4. The schwa is central on my vowel chart not because it’s important but because it’s exceptional – different in kind. Never get into the business of trying to demonstrate the difference between the schwa and the vowel sound in ‘duck’!
5. Pronunciation is strategic – a tool for intelligibility in the process of communication. It’s not about copying and producing any specific model accent.  Process, not product.

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