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pronunciation standards
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noonlite



Joined: 23 Feb 2003
Posts: 23

PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2003 6:33 am    Post subject: pronunciation standards Reply with quote

I suspect that the immediate relevance of a high standard for pronunciation ability for a student living in a country that does not speak what is being studied may not be easily seen. If a student intends to or is actually living in an English speaking country, however, the importance of pronunciation will soon become a hot issue.

My own approach is generally to seek as high a standard as my students are willing to comfortably reach for. I offer native-like pronunciation as a possibility. I provide that opportunity as much as possible. It is not easy and it requires great sensitivity to the moment combined with sound techniques. It has taken me over seven years to reach a level where I can work with people's pronunciation with any kind of effectiveness. But I do make noticable gains with my students, especially privates.
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LarryLatham



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1195
Location: Aguanga, California (near San Diego)

PostPosted: Mon Mar 17, 2003 1:36 am    Post subject: Pronunciation standards Reply with quote

Quote:
I offer native-like pronunciation as a possibility.

A laudable aim to be sure. Trouble is, what is "native-like?" If you're from New York, native pronunciation is one thing. If you're from Glasgow, it is quite another. There simply is no "standard" English pronunciation. The best I can do, as a teacher, is to show students how I pronounce it. But I must make it clear that there are other ways to pronounce it correctly, and remind them that there are many Englishes.

Larry Latham
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Celeste



Joined: 20 Jan 2003
Posts: 74
Location: Fukuoka City, Japan

PostPosted: Mon Mar 17, 2003 6:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I try to reassure my students that while they will probably never speak with a native speaker accent, thet they can achieve a very understandable level of pronunciation. I remind them that some of the world's rich and famous speak English as a second language and that their accents are totally understandable, but not native. Some famous ESL people include Sophia Loren, Antonio Banderas, Celine Dion, Jean Chretien (Prime Minister of Canada), Gerard Depardieu, Jean Reno, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and many others.
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noonlite



Joined: 23 Feb 2003
Posts: 23

PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2003 11:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Larry and Celeste.

Thank you for your input.

I agree with Larry that it is important to help students become aware that there is no one single version of English that is the correct version. Indeed language is a changing growing and dynamic -some might even suggest organic- thing in it's own right that can't be pinned down.

That's why I chose the term native-like and the way I use it is to mean in a way that is almost the same as an actual native speaker of the language. It is not intended to imply that this would be the only native way of speaking or that such a thing as an incorrect way of pronouncing something even exists.

In the end it all comes down to functionality. Is the student able to be understood? That's the first level. I have observed many teachers work with students who can barely be understood who do very little to assist those students to be more understood. This is generally not because they don't care, but because they don't know how to teach pronunciation in an effective way. Not knowing how to do something, in my view, does not constitute evidence that it can't be done.

The second level goes beyond simple functionality and enters into social perceptions (just about all of which I do not agree with) related to language. In general, the United States, when compared to other countries is linguistically arrogant and ignorant as most Americans are (Americans typically don't speak another language and many are often offended by others who don't speak English well and even go so far as to assume some level of mental incompetence on the part of another who has not mastered this new language) unable to speak another language and have very little experience with the challenges and difficulities such an undertaking comprises. That said, the result is that if you want a good job, certain pronunciation barriers and grammatical errors beyond just being understood need to be overcome.

Deciding that our students can't overcome these barriers is a mistake in my view. Even if you've tried many things, there will always be something you haven't tried. Life has an element of infinity. There are no ends to possibilities unless we decide for there to be. I chose to keep my doors opened and my teaching benefits as a result. The general rule that works is sincerely knock, and the door will be opened.

The purpose of my post is to offer a more positive attitude toward pronunciation in general. After I read previous posters it seemed to me that they had very low expectations of what can and can't be achieved. I seek to balance that perspective with one that offers greater potential for success. A basic observable truth is that nothing ever gets accomplished by someone who decides that the thing they are seeking to do simply can't be done.
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noonlite



Joined: 23 Feb 2003
Posts: 23

PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2003 11:57 pm    Post subject: Re: Pronunciation standards Reply with quote

This is for Larry:

Are you really interested in finding answers to questions? If so, please share with me how it is that you "show your students how (you) pronounce it" and why you feel that is the best that you can do. Be specific. Then maybe we can help each other to get a better understanding how we can all improve in what we are doing.

I'll give you an example of different levels of ability in pronunciation teaching. I'll use the "th" sound like in "thing" as an example. Many language groups don't have this sound in their mother tongues and so have difficulty with it. It's the first day of class, we're doing Hi, how are you, fine THANKS and you? The word thanks is clearly mispronounced by several people.

TeacherA: Say back the correct pronunciation using "indirect correction" without actually mentioning that it was incorrectly pronounced.

Teacher B: Do the same as teacher A, but mention that people did it incorrectly and try to get some of them to repeat after you. After you notice they continue to repeat it incorrectly, you stop because you decide its wasting class time or you simply don't know what to do next.

Teacher C: Mention the mistake to the class, get everyone to repeat after you, zero in on the students with the incorrect pronunciation, notice what it is they are doing incorrectly, demonstrate with your own mouth and lips and tongue how it is done, explain the positions of these parts, and maybe even draw a picture with a side view of the human mouth to illustrate.

Teacher D: Follow teacher C and then guide each student in performing each thing you demonstrated and letting them know when they are close or not. Step one: stick your tongue out between your teeth. Make sure that people do this. Step two blow air only through your top teeth. Make sure that people are doing this. Step three remove the tounge and complete the sound. Step four get students to make the sound several times and to control their fluctuation between correct and incorrect attempt and help them become aware of these. Step five, add the other sounds of the word "anks" by getting students to slowly say only "th" and then pause and say "anks" and gradually bering the two sounds together. When they say it correctly their elation and satisfacytion will be well worth the effort. I've had people tell me that they have studied ESL for years and never been able to make that sound until they came to my class)

Teacher E: There is more that I'm currently aware of than this that I do that I'm not mentioning. Can anyone fill in the blanks for me? What is the next level? What is the level beyond that? Do any of you really imagine that there is an end to what can be accomplished?
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LarryLatham



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1195
Location: Aguanga, California (near San Diego)

PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 12:24 am    Post subject: Pronunciation standards Reply with quote

Hello again, Noonlight,

Well... Smile perhaps I did not make myself clear in my post above. Looks like you've spent quite a bit of time wrangling with this issue and have come to some conclusions of your own which are informing your classroom practices. I have nothing but respect for that, as it is the hallmark of a true professional. Smile

I try hard to do the same thing myself. Cool When I suggested earlier that the best I can do is show students how I pronounce something and make clear that there are other ways to say it, that did not mean that all I do is say something and leave it at that. My full approach is something like your Teacher D above (not exactly, but similar), with the addition that I often suggest that students having difficulty with a particular pronunciation go home and watch themselves in the mirror to see for themselves whether they are sticking out their tongues at the appropriate places (in the case, for instance, of your particular example). This after they've watch me exaggeratedly pushing my tongue between my teeth several times, perhaps up close and personal, while they were trying to emulate what I did. Smile

My intent in the earlier post was to take issue with teachers who insist that there is a "correct" way to pronounce any particular word of English, leaving the implication that all other ways are not correct. Apparently I misinterpreted your first post. My apologies.

Congratulations on your work. Sounds to me like you're a sincere and professional teacher. The field needs as many of those as it can get.

Larry Latham
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Celeste



Joined: 20 Jan 2003
Posts: 74
Location: Fukuoka City, Japan

PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 2:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Larry-
I go one step further than you do; I bring pocket mirrors to class. When we work on pronunciation I show my students the diagrams from the pronunciation book that I use (I like Pronunciation Pairs and Clear Speech) I show them my mouth (up close and personal-breath mints are a must!) I teach them where to monitor for vibration and aspiration, and then I have them work in groups with the mirrors while I come around and give feedback.

If it is in a lesson where pronunciation is not the focus, I am still pretty quick to whip out my own pocket mirror and SHOW the students what they are doing wrong, because they can't always feel it or hear it.


Last edited by Celeste on Thu Mar 20, 2003 1:00 am; edited 1 time in total
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LarryLatham



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1195
Location: Aguanga, California (near San Diego)

PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 6:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Celeste,

Yep! That's further than I go.

I like, by the way, your idea of mentioning famous people who are not native English speakers. Perhaps your students find that reassuring. I'll borrow that one, if you don't mind. Cool

Larry Latham
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Showem



Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 80

PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2003 10:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, I'm going to add my two cents here. To be honest, I normally don't make a big deal about pronunciation, as I feel there are more important aspects to be covered.

In the sentences, "Hi, how are you", "Fine THANKS and you?" my concerns in order of addressing them would be:

a) Do they understand all the words?
b) Do they understand the difference between "How do you do?" and "How are you?"
c) Increasing their vocabulary with other words that could be substituted for "fine".
d) Making them understand that "I have a cold and my sinuses are all backed up" or "Yes" are not normally appropriate answers to the question.
e) Rising inflection on the questions.
f) The "TH" sound in thanks.

To me, I think that as long as the word is recognisable, pronunciation isn't a key issue. I suppose it may partly be that I work mainly with Germans, whose pronunciation isn't too far off English in the first place. Obviously, sometimes it is very important and comes second right after comprehension of the word. But if you worry about it too much, you would walk through Dublin with your hand mirrors, trying to get all the Irish to change the way they way, "Tirty-tree and a tird". Laughing
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Celeste



Joined: 20 Jan 2003
Posts: 74
Location: Fukuoka City, Japan

PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2003 1:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Showem-
You are fortunate that your students have comprehensible pronunciation. I remember a few years ago in Vancouver I had a student who was looking kind of tired. I asked her what was wrong and she said "no beh-piss " After I asked her to repeat several times, she finally wrote the words NO BREAKFAST. I would not presume to attempt to change the dialect of our Irish colleagues, but then again, they don't have difficulty making themselves understood. (okay- I can understand the dialect but I remember translating English to English once at the Dover-Callais crossing for an American from Texas and an Irish customs officer- Laughing )
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Norm Ryder



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 118
Location: Canberra, Australia

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2003 4:35 am    Post subject: native speaker pronunciation? Reply with quote

Hi all
I guess my experience is regularly like Celeste's. In fact, I find that other members of the class who have progressed further in their English can sometimes translate for me - and they don't even have to have the same first language. I excuse myself on the grounds of age, and failing hearing; but it does offer them a motive for working harder at some of the basic features of English pronunciation, especially if I tell them that the Australian population as a whole is aging rapidly!

But, to be serious, I'm copying all your contributions because each has relevance for particular students according to their reason for learning English. Younger people who are looking for work will often need to be intelligible on the telephone; and if you're teaching in Korea, for example, you will want to know if their business will be mainly with speakers of American, Filipino, Australian or Indian English. You'd at least have to find tapes etc. with the appropriate variety, and might have to work a bit yourself at discovering how to produce some of its more distinctive features.

Here, many of our students are refugees with the hope of being able to practise their trade in Australia, so we have to help them recognise that in Australia there are at least two varieties of English spoken, depending to some extent on social and educational levels (although not, fortunately, on location). The first art they have to acquire is to listen and report what they think Question they've heard to the class.

Here, too, we have a lot of older people who are learning English for social reasons; and people are probably more tolerant of their pronunciation problems and more willing to meet them half way - except of course for their grandchildren who tell them pretty quickly where they are wrong! Actually Celeste's mirror would give them quite a bit of amusement, and with a lot of grimacing and glaughing Rolling Eyes they'd make a valiant effort in that class - but no guarantees for the next !.

In fact, where I work, we have a special class each week for pronunciation because many students see it as something they want to work on explicitly.

Cheers
Norm
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wolfstone



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Posts: 3
Location: Spain

PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2003 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

English pronunciation is a hot issue and I think that the big problem is within the English language itself. I've heard many times that it doesn't matter whatever Standar English you choose, and it doesn't matter your foreigner accent either. But it's actually fake in many situations. I read this interesting article written by a British author some days ago :


Quote:
In my previous page I mentioned George Bernard Shaw, and his criticisms of the English language. In the introduction to his play, Pygmalion, written in 1912, and later made into the film, My Fair Lady, he said, "It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making someone hate or despise him." Here we are 90 years later, and it is still true.

This verdict may seem a little strong, but as I mentioned last week, he had good reason to say that, and I want to explain why.


You are not judged by your appearance, but, as Shaw pointed out, by the way you speak. When you open your mouth to speak, you are classified. It is something automatic, and normally goes unnoticed by both parties, but you are labeled.

Unfortunately, the British are a very xenophobic lot, and dislike anything or anyone which is different. My sister once moved house, and her new neighbors said to her, "Oh, you've moved into the foreigners' house." These foreigners had in fact moved from another town less than 20 km away, and had lived there for more than 25 years. But they were labeled as foreigners when they arrived, and foreigners they still were 25 years later.

So anything different is disliked, and you are recognized as being different, either geographically or socially, by your accent, and treated accordingly. This is what Shaw was referring to. Remember that he was Irish, and to be recognized as Irish within the context of 'the troubles' which have continued to plague Anglo-Irish relationships for so long was guaranteed to lead to ostracism.

Once when I returned to England on holiday after living about 5 years in Brazil, teaching at an American English school, it was impossible to speak to people without, after a few minutes, curiosity getting the better of them. "But where are you from?" they would ask, "Youíre not from here, are you?" The rising intonation on this last tag showed they were really confused. The years of contact with American English and Brazilian Portuguese had changed my accent. They didnít know how to categorize me. And they felt very uncomfortable because of that.

Your accent doesnít just say where you are from, but also carries your socio-economic history. Whether you are lower class or upper class. Whether you had gone to the right school. Whether you used to be working class, but are now climbing the social ladder. Itís all imprinted on the way you speak, and analyzed by your interlocutor as you speak

Geographically, the situation is just as complicated. When I hear people say they prefer an English to an American accent, or visa versa, I always wonder just which English or American accent they are referring to. There are so many, and they can be very different. When my cousin married a Londoner (300km distant), it took me two weeks to begin to understand him. Talk about negotiating meaning, I used all of the strategies I knew to get him to repeat: Sorry? Could you repeat that? What? Pardon? Run that one past me again? Noisy in here, isn't it? I tried nodding intelligently or saying uh-huh, which worked well most of the time but occasionally landed me in difficulties when I unknowingly agreed to things that I would never agree to. My only consolation was that he was having as much difficulties with my Stopfordian accent.

These differences which can lead to total breakdown in communication, are more marked at the lower levels of the social scale i.e. working class, and the higher you climb up the social ladder, the less noticeable they become. At the top end of the scale, there is very little difference, so the Lords all tend to sound the same, irrespective of there geographical origin. Normally, when travelling, you tend not to have so much contact with people from the lower social levels, and so although we might notice that people speak differently, it doesn't normally interfere too much with effective communication.


Do you think that English learners and even native speakers should know that there are these problems with pronunciation and accent in many situations, according these article, and you don't only have to say " Well, if you pronouce well all words, you will always be understood" ?

See you
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Pink Piggy



Joined: 27 Feb 2003
Posts: 28
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

PostPosted: Wed Apr 02, 2003 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[Do you think that English learners and even native speakers should know that there are these problems with pronunciation and accent in many situations, according these article, and you don't only have to say " Well, if you pronouce well all words, you will always be understood" ? ]

Other than from a socio-cultural stand point it is generally a moot point. Rarely do students ever come close enough to "native pronunciation" (of ANY kind) for them to consider what "class" they may feel an affinity with; those that do probably don't need to discuss pronunciation with me because they must have remarkable ears for stress, pitch, etc. to start with!

However, I do discusss the variety of not only pronunication, but actual "Englishes" with them. For example, "I'd not thought of it" is never used in Canada, but is used in other places. Americans and Canadians flap /t/ when it follows a stressed syllable, but starts an unstressed syllable. This is useful information for both comprehensibility and listening.
Most students I have understand this difference quickly because a variety of dialects (both pronunciation and usage variations) exist in their countries. It is always interesting to discuss what meaning is carried through these accents. I've found out a lot about the regionalism that exists in other countries through these chats.
So to answer your question: If you are pressed for time, knowing about the varieties of English out there may not be a priority, but otherwise it makes for an interesting chat. Not to mention that I can always get a good laugh from my students by showing them how a specific word might be pronounced around the world. My theatre training comes in handy!

-Pink Piggy

ps. Why is it everyone here seems so focused on articulation only? [/quote]
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Norm Ryder



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Posts: 118
Location: Canberra, Australia

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2003 4:05 am    Post subject: Articulation? Reply with quote

"Why is it that everyone here is so focused on articulation?"

Well, Pink Piggy, don't miss your chance. Why not open it up for us?

Here's looking at you ....

Norm
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toyboatt



Joined: 22 Apr 2003
Posts: 7
Location: china

PostPosted: Tue Apr 22, 2003 5:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

noonlite wrote:
Quote:
In general, the United States, when compared to other countries is linguistically arrogant and ignorant as most Americans are (Americans typically don't speak another language and many are often offended by others who don't speak English well and even go so far as to assume some level of mental incompetence on the part of another who has not mastered this new language) unable to speak another language and have very little experience with the challenges and difficulities such an undertaking comprises.


Shocked As an "arrogant and ignorant" American I must point out that writing that comment in an international forum on teaching is, well, arrogant and ignorant.

Now, about the topic: I think the children have a better chance of understanding other English pronunciations if they first master one. So I say dont spend too much time teaching them the many different ways to say a word unless it's just funtime to blow off steam. I agree they should be aware of the differences, I just think they should hold off practicing them until they excel at one form of pronunciation.

Phil
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