I recently read an article on the importance of pronunciation in language learning and realised, sadly, that teachers are still talking about it 20 years after I first heard the discussion. The reasons may have changed from learning it to sound British or American to sounding ‘intelligible’ but the reasons are still solid.
Many teachers still fail dismally to incorporate pronunciation into their lessons and most course books are even worse, with token ‘pronunciation spots’. Learners take the time and effort to learn new lexis, meaning, form, use, synonyms etc. but if they can’t say it, all those efforts are wasted. Therefore, pronunciation work should be a critical component of any course, not an add-on after thought.
Some teachers use ‘Speech Shadowing’ to help their students.
Shadowing is a useful tool and will help but one problem I have observed [I always hold practice sessions in classes] is the reason the learner has a problem is either, a) L1 interference [first language] ie the ‘sound’ [phoneme] doesn’t exist and/or, b) the learner can’t hear the sound [error] they make and will still have a problem hearing it, whether it’s modelled by a teacher/video/CD, including their own recording.
Of course, the activity is still helpful but not the most important tool in the box. After 15 years of developing a ‘learner training’ module and integrating it on day 1 of all courses, irrespective of level, I have found learners become much more autonomous, particularly when they are introduced to the aspects of pronunciation – word stress being the most important for global English ‘intelligibility’.
Aspects of pronunciation in learner training also enables everyone to utilise peer and self-correction much more – hence autonomy and a faster learning curve. That said, the power of listening is greatly underestimated and underused.
As Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
Tangent Training offer short intensive Pronunciation courses – find out more contact them firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noel Chivers is an e-Learning Language Consultant with over 15 years’ experience teaching all over the world.
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