For general discussion between teachers

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Unread postby max_bt » 18 Mar 2009, 00:37

Should we teach pronunciation? yes or no

Pronunciation is important but let’s not forget that native like accent-less pronunciation is not crucial. Indeed, it is hard to teach using phonemic alphabet because such concept can be confusing and difficult for students who are not studying linguistics. However, keep in mind that certain concepts are worth introducing but do not dedicate too much time to this because most students will lose interest quickly and are not ready to deeply analyse language.

Pronunciation is something that comes naturally I think. Of course there are different factors that facilitate the learning process but being aware of certain phonetic phenomenon will not change anything for most students. Only a handful of students with high proficiency will understand and actually apply phonetic rules in a real-life context. I know people who are advanced learner who have taken a phonetics class and are still not able to apply what they have seen in this class. I think this example speaks for itself.

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Re: Pronunciation

Unread postby systematic » 18 Mar 2009, 04:34

Although the use of the IPA is generally only of use for linguists or people learning or working simultaneously with several language, TEFL teachers should nevertheless strive to actively engage their students in the practice of correct pronunciation. There are many excellent methods and materials for achieving this.

In countries such as Thailand, which are less open to foreign influence, and English is taught by rote, and the grammar-translation method, most students learn English from their Thai teachers who actually teach very wrong pronunciation.
A classic among many examples is the letter 'S'. There are four frequently used letters in Thai - ส ซ ศ ษ - that represent the 'S' sound which is very common , but students are taught to not pronounce 'S' at the ends of English words; hence for this and other reasons, the English spoken in Thailand is often unintelligible.
I offer any information or advice 'as is' and hope that it has been of help. I am not an admin of this board, and my postings do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board management.
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Re: Pronunciation

Unread postby Jo » 29 Mar 2009, 11:43

max_bt wrote:Should we teach pronunciation? yes or no
Pronunciation is something that comes naturally I think.

Pronunciation involves the use of a whole set of muscles in the mouth and jaw, some of which are more or less developed according to the native language. In some cases it is physically impossible for a speaker of one language to produce a sound that a speaker of another language can produce easily. To some extent pronunciation should come naturally, or be encouraged to come naturally, but - and this depends on the combination of L1 and target language - frequently careful explanation and physical training are required. Unfortunately, pronunciation is often relegated, partly because many teachers are unaware how they themselves physically utter a sound.

Another aspect of pronunciation that can never be overemphasized is stress - word stress and sentence stress. And to carry the Thai example on, Thai is a tonal language and not a stress-based language like English. Helping Thai speakers understand this basic concept will go a long, long way in improving their intelligibility when speaking in English. Conversely, I know native English speakers who have spent years trying to pick up Thai tones "naturally", without success.

We all learn our first language naturally. We learn it 24/7, even while in the womb. Yet it takes two or three years of this input before we utter a single word. The trouble is that as learners of another language we don't have that luxury. So while all natural approaches to language learning are to be extolled, it has to be accepted that additional methods are needed. Perhaps the phonetics classes your friends took simply weren't very good :roll: It's all very well sitting in a phonetics class looking at phonetic symbols, and even listening to their sounds, but unless someone explains to you where to put your tongue, so to speak, it will remain of academic value only.

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Re: Pronunciation

Unread postby FELINE » 12 Jul 2009, 11:09

Of course the job of a teacher is to correct a student's pronunciation.
However, there is a marked difference in the pronunciation of native speakers to that of non-native speakers, especially in Greece.
In this day and age when there is access to so much audio material, I can't understand why this problem exists. While it is true to say that there are different dialects throughout the UK, the pronunciation that is taught in some Greek schools is still erroneous.
For example, the conjunction 'and' is taught as 'end', not to mention the fact that the capital city of England is 'Landon'.What is more, the letter 'R' is 'er', etc......
Only when a person actually visits the UK does he/she realise that these words and letters are NOT pronounced in this way.
Therefore, I recommend that ALL teachers of English make use of modern technology and LISTEN to the spoken word rather than interpret it from the phonics in a dictionary.
In fact, there are some internet sites where you can look up the meaning of a word and actually hear it as it should be pronounced.

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