mercoledì 4 febbraio 2015

A LinkedIn Post Goes Long

Dublin's not a great town for English Language Teachers to turn into ELT Writers. ELT Ireland is doing their best to change that. But still I think I can count on one hand the people I know who have been published here. Louise Guyett, John Byrne, Marianne Jordan and Tony Penston. Tony wrote A History of Ireland for Learners of English. I picked it up about 4 years ago. It could use a chapter about the 2008 Bank Bailout and the Right2Water Campaign now but aside from that it'll always be a useful little book for teachers here. I think publishing for a local audience is great. The history of local newspapers and the tandem delocalization decline of journalism is worth talking about. He's working on a new book now and was on LinkedIn asking this question:

  • First it's great to see English Language Teachers on LinkedIn. It is your profession. If you don't treat it like one now, when will your 'employer'? 
  • Second, certain groups get a lot of traffic and the discussions are as good as any you would have at a conference or a (really good) staff room. You might find yourself talking with first time teachers of course or 25-year published ELT veterans. The pronunciation stuff is personal hobbsession and no one has really ever commented here so if I want a readership, I need to comment in the social media world. I have avoided it too long. Now this group ESL International has 38k+ members.  In the 8 year lifetime of this blog I think there have been approximately 3 subscribers. One of them may now have stopped using technology in a bout of extreme neo-luddism. 
  • Third, if you ever want to start a debate on a ELT social media site, British English vs American English is a guaranteed rabble rouser. Maybe you can stay above the fray but I am not made of such fine stuff. 

My contribution went long and ranged as wide as a Texas longhorn. I should say I'm not proud of it but... Here it is in the full director's cut. I have inserted some comments as necessary. Enjoy!

Hi Tony, redesigning the chart is important. Establishing a national standard will be problematic because standards are local. I'd suggest the Wikipedia pages on English. 
I meant this as the page. Wikipedia's still pretty a good jumping off point. Don't believe Peter Roach on everything.  Not everyone writing there is a know-nothing poser pleb. I've paid for his book because it's worth it.

The notation differences are academic differences. Make your choice and justify it. The /y/ or /j/ is depends on who you think will be using your stuff. It's like adopting the metric system. I like Wikipedia and its adoption of IPA because it the Association's internationalism. It's more robust and inclusive even if it is less familiar to some teachers from the US. Pros and professors will see the benefit.  I found this a very useful guide.

The ELT Ireland Bulletin will be addressing both sides of the issue in its inaugural issue. Peter Lahiff may be able to get you a rush copy. My take is that the RP chart is like a grammar book from the 1890s: retro-cool, but not useful universally and never intended for the to be helpful at 100+ . 

I echo Judy: the RP chart (or any phonemic chart) is not the best pronunciation teaching tool because it focusses on phonemics instead of the features that improve intelligibility- the suprasegmentals. Totally agree on the syllable stress complaint, Judy. But Indians learned English before the Aussies so a little give and take is needed. Democratically, they are a major English accent. Americans can be downright imperious when it comes to Indians (old habits? PS I grew on land finagled in the Walking Purchase). We may have a set of accents we like, but a clearlier-than-thou attitude can be more grating than even my native Philadelphia-lite. 
Here I'm talking about and then to Judy Thompson. She's on lots of forums and has strong opinions and shares them- and loads of good ideas and techniques. Heck she has a YouTube channel and a book. She's not a big fan of Indian English and seems to be crafting a scheme to be the head pronunciation teacher for the subcontinent. I remember her getting into a few scraps with Matt Bury, a good pronunciation guy and very helpful Flash user. But there's enough room for all, isn't there? (No, not if you are a Native American apparently.) Let's continue...

The RP of Gimson's '62 chart it is outdated. Peter Roach (of Peter Roach fame) also believes RP and phonemics in ELT have been damaged by the publisher preservationism of the old standard. See for the story.
My previous post touched on this. I've been in touch with Peter. He's confirmed this.

(I'm going for record length here, guys...) 
As I recall there's a 4000 character length limit. It's like Twitter supersized.

Regardless phonemic charts are still play an iconic part and should be redesigned and personalized so that teachers recognize their voices in them and see them as helpful learning aids not an imperial intrusion or something that got left over by a careless elocution teacher. 

A great example of British bravery is Mark Hancock's month-old chart. Visually it is a helpful design improvement. The content shows some critical thought as well. It (FINALLY) includes a glottal stop. He said he thought long and hard about it- but keep calm and look around... the world is still spinning. He's absolutely right. Learners need it receptively and culturally ...and it wouldn't be sinning to use it productively. The glottal stop is as British as cricket. Here's a link: He also wrote the popular English Pronunciation in Use.

I am a USAer teaching in the EU, Ireland mostly. My students here just want to be intelligible like John Levis said (University of Iowa, again) in that 2005 TESOL Quarterly. He's right, I think. They want to know why they don't understand things: how do we justify dropping and shortening words. 
If you are reading this, a link to the pdf of this enormous and important paper is free and here. Do download. Academic papers really should be in the Creative Commons.

Sure a Japanese student will want to know how we can tell the difference between /l/ and /r/ and Italians need awareness raising about extra syllables at the end of consonant final words- and phonemics are a good way to focus attention.

It's teachers who need to know that phonemics is a foundation tool for THEM. Pronunciation can be improved to an intelligible level by someone who knows about how mouths work much more easily than someone who teaches like a tape recorder. A basic understanding of articulatory phonetics, perhaps the physical basis of phonetics and phonology and reason for the foundation of the IPA, is a missing component of teacher training. That's why the phonemic chart is important. That's why your work is too. 

Well I've exceeded the character limit. I'll go into it more on my old pron blog. 
No I didn't include a link to me.

Sir, I look forward to seeing your work. Can I pre-order?
And I absolutely will. And good luck to all you all you ELT writers.

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