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How to Practise Listening to Non-native Accents

 
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daniel_hayes



Joined: 18 Jun 2007
Posts: 177

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 1:17 pm    Post subject: How to Practise Listening to Non-native Accents Reply with quote

One of my students, a businessman, told me his biggest problem in English is talking on the phone, particularly to non-native speakers.

So, this guy has to speak to Finnish, German, Iranian, Swedish, and more people talking IN ENGLISH. He asked me what to do about it?

I told him that the more he listens to any English, the better his listening will become. But I know that a) speaking on the phone is very difficult due to the lack of physical interaction b) there is a huge range of accents, and all have their own problems.

So my question really has two parts:
1) What are some good ways for students to improve their telephone conversational skills? (is it true that ANY listening practise will be beneficial). Any good websites to recommend?

2) This problem with the range of accents is very important in the Global economy. Has much work been carried out into this field? Are there different ways to teach English as a Lingua Franca?? So many people these days communicate in English, but not with native speakers.

Thanks in advance.
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can't help you with phone skills except to say the obvious (practice).

As for accents, you will never get used to the hundreds of accents/dialects. Best thing to do is increase exposure to authentic English. Movies, videos, podcasts, radio, etc. If there is a script to follow, use it but as a STUDY GUIDE, not a crutch. Listen without it for 20-30 sec, jot some notes, then confirm with subtitles on or by reading the script. Repeat. It's not colorful or exciting, and it will take a long time, but it's practically the only way. Make that 100% clear.
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 12098
Location: Ultima Thule

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 2:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Once upon a time, people used to travel to become aware of this sort of thing. Now everyone wants a technological fix !

Last edited by scot47 on Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:47 am; edited 2 times in total
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choudoufu



Joined: 25 May 2010
Posts: 3325
Location: Mao-berry, PRC

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

have a look/listen to "accent tag" on youtube.
seems to be a current fad for those of various english
accents to record and post videos of themselves reciting
a list of common words.
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Kofola



Joined: 20 Feb 2009
Posts: 146
Location: Slovakia

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 4:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think there are two areas here. The first is that telephone calls are very formulaic, but the formula tends to be very language/culture specific. This makes the beginnings and endings difficult, with people speaking in the wrong place and not doing what the other person expects them to do.

For native speaker calls, there are all sorts of materials that take you through a typical phone call in English. These will not help your student deal with non-natives but he might find some of the other phrases useful. Esp. things like phrases for politely repeating when you're not sure if you've understood. e.g. 'So, you're saying ....?

Also from personal experience (phone calls in Slovak), even now I sometimes find the first content information in a phone call tricky esp. if I've been working in English and don't know who the caller is (i.e. no context). I often find that my brain takes a while to tune into the Slovak, by which time I've missed the key caller information and am left frantically working out who is calling and what they're on about. Once I've got that I'm usually fine. I suspect that this stage in a call causes difficulties for most learners.

Good training to deal with this might be playing really short extracts with no context and no help (TOEIC listening exs spring to mind) and getting the student to identify the key information. This kind of practice is likely to be more effect IMO than listening where there is a clear context.

The other main area is dealing with different non-native accents. This can be very taxing as the mind has to identify the non-standard pronunciation patterns, while responding to the call at the same time.

One way to deal with this might be to identify exactly which accents your student comes across most frequently and then expose him to these. In order to train his mind to tune into the accent he needs to realise what the speaker does that makes it hard for him to understand. For example if you know that the Chinese often produce 'l' instead of 'r', it is easier for your mind to work out what they are saying. Or at least that is the theory. In practice, learners often use bottom up processing and get totally blocked by focusing on the word they think they heard. Still, on balance, I think exposing him to the accents he hears most and getting him to work out why he misunderstood will help (try youtube but listen rather than watch).

Hope it helps!
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Cool Teacher



Joined: 18 May 2009
Posts: 887
Location: Here, There and Everywhere! :D

PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2012 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1) Telephone strategies are useful getting students to use clarifiaction questions and requesting infromation to be emailed plus phonetics for speelinng. These are useful ideas I think Cool

2) Also a useful thing is to use textbooks with foreign accents such as Economist's Intelligent Business (I think??). Cool
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coledavis



Joined: 21 Jun 2003
Posts: 1828

PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2012 4:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

May I suggest a non-technological fix? Get the students to talk to each other facing away from each other. For an attempt at verisimilitude get them holding a mobile phone to their ear. Technological fix: Get them talking to each other using said mobiles.
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daniel_hayes



Joined: 18 Jun 2007
Posts: 177

PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2012 8:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some great suggestions there; this guy will think it's his b'day!!!!!!!!

I did some hunting on Google and located an interesting thesis, entitled 'English as a Lingua Franca: Teachers' Discourses on Accent and Identity'

Here is a link to it: http://www.helsinki.fi/englanti/elfa/ProGradu_Silke_Majanen.pdf

And I will try and use some of the suggestions.
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riverboat



Joined: 22 May 2009
Posts: 113
Location: Paris, France

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had a colleague with a student who wanted his lessons to focus solely on English for the telephone. For his last few lessons, my colleague collected tons of phone numbers of hotels, driving schools, tourist info offices etc etc located in various English speaking countries (Ireland, S Africa, Australia, US, UK etc) and had the student call them to make bogus inquiries (she told him the info he had to find out beforehand) during the lessons, on speakerphone so she could monitor and see what sort of problems he had re: comprehension and language.

I think it worked because the student had a decent enough level already, and the company didn't mind paying for long distance calls. I thought it was a novel idea, but I haven't yet attempted it myself - maybe with the right student!
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 8928
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice idea. But maybe not for non-native speaker accents in those countries : )
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golsa



Joined: 20 Nov 2011
Posts: 168

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 3:40 am    Post subject: Re: How to Practise Listening to Non-native Accents Reply with quote

daniel_hayes wrote:

1) What are some good ways for students to improve their telephone conversational skills? (is it true that ANY listening practise will be beneficial). Any good websites to recommend?

2) This problem with the range of accents is very important in the Global economy. Has much work been carried out into this field? Are there different ways to teach English as a Lingua Franca?? So many people these days communicate in English, but not with native speakers.


How about having the student listen to samples over at http://www.dialectarchive.com ? I use this collection to shock students into understanding how diverse native speakers' accents are.
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rtm



Joined: 13 Apr 2007
Posts: 518
Location: US

PostPosted: Wed Feb 13, 2013 4:36 am    Post subject: Re: How to Practise Listening to Non-native Accents Reply with quote

golsa wrote:
How about having the student listen to samples over at http://www.dialectarchive.com ? I use this collection to shock students into understanding how diverse native speakers' accents are.


Another good resource is the Speech Accent Archive at George Mason University -- http://accent.gmu.edu/
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Denim-Maniac



Joined: 31 Jan 2012
Posts: 1238

PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I teach from the Face2Face series a lot, and they seem to recognise the accent and type of English thing. On the recordings they have a wide variety of UK accents as well as American accents, and one of the lessons I teach has an Italian women who 'speak-a English like this-a'. Some of the listening tasks focus on the specific differences between US/GB English too.
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amisexy



Joined: 24 May 2012
Posts: 72

PostPosted: Thu Feb 14, 2013 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="riverboat"]I had a colleague with a student who wanted his lessons to focus solely on English for the telephone. For his last few lessons, my colleague collected tons of phone numbers of hotels, driving schools, tourist info offices etc etc located in various English speaking countries (Ireland, S Africa, Australia, US, UK etc) and had the student call them to make bogus inquiries (she told him the info he had to find out beforehand) during the lessons, on speakerphone so she could monitor and see what sort of problems he had re: comprehension and language. [/quote]

I have also seen this method employed, and I think for a high level student it can work very well.

To ensure the student gets exposure to a number of native accents is probably not that difficult. Think of places were you will find good, non-native English speakers.
I'm thinking of international/ 4*/ 5* hotels, International businesses, tourist information offices which receive a large number of British/ American/ Australian visitors. I'm sure there are many more.
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