giovedì 8 maggio 2008

What studying pronunciation does

The symbol set we see in the dictionary is useful because:

  • It provides a vocabulary for students and teachers to discuss pronunciation phenomenon
  • It promotes a knowledge of the physical visual side of sound production so that students can construct the skills to make a new sound even if they are not natural mimics
  • It provides a level playing field between students from mixed language groups and abilities- a person’s awareness of pronunciation can always improve
  • It provides a structured way of finding, analyzing and resolving repeated pronunciation problems
  • It provides the basis for an acceptance of real, natural speech on a rational basis instead of a dictatorial basis
  • It can open students minds up to beauties of the ambiguity in song lyrics and poetry
  • It promotes an appreciation the validity of all accents including yours and mine
  • It will aid them in their study of a language as well as giving them insight into their own native accent and/or dialect
  • It shows the necessity of patience, acceptance when listening and involves them in a 100-year-old search for an international common ground.

This is a code used by linguists, actors, phoneticians, interpreters, anthropologists, singers, speech therapists, and us.

Our relationship with with this body of terminology helps determine our students’ level of comfort with it. I believe it is as necessary as the any other specialized vocabulary necessary for our work, be it grammar terminology, didactic terminology, TEFL terminology, IT terminology.

You can avoid it. But it is hard to improve as a teacher of listening and speaking skills without it. And it's harder for the student as well.

(Do you feel that shadow of guilt? Ah, my mother would be proud.)

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