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To Reduce or Not to Reduce: That is the Question
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Echidna



Joined: 15 Dec 2003
Posts: 13

PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2003 8:28 pm    Post subject: To Reduce or Not to Reduce: That is the Question Reply with quote

Hey everybody! Recently, I got into a little disagreement with a classmate of mine in our MATESOL program. She staunchly refuses to teach any pronunciation reductions to her students: no "gonna, wanna, hafta, outta, etc." She also refuses to teach the pronunciation of other reduced forms, such as pronouns (them to "'em", the various pronunciations of "you", etc.) articles, prepositions, and other function words. She told me that these forms, even spoken, are not "proper English," in her book.

In my humble opinion, I think that these forms are indeed important, if for no other reason than to help in comprehension.

Anybody feel passionate about the subject, one way or another?

Many Thanks!
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2003 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Absolutely! In teaching American English, I wouldn't/couldn't teach any way but to use reduced forms. My students are always thanking me for helping them improve their understanding of spoken English. I explain that it is not necessary to make the reductions and liaisons when they speak, but we practice it in class anyway to make them familiar with it. I think your colleage will do her students a disservice in not explaining language as it is spoken. I can't speak for other varieties of English, but if you listen to American English on the radio, TV, the bus stop, etc., you will hear the reductions.

I remember long ago when I had a class in French linguistics (after having studied French for ten years in high school and college) in which the teacher explained how reductions were made in that language. It was a revelation. I can do no less for my students.

(Yeah, I'm passionate about it too Wink)
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LarryLatham



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

PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2003 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right on, Lorikeet! Beautifully put. I couldn't agree more. It's too bad there still are some grammar mavens who believe English usage is going to hell in a handbasket, and have appointed themselves as the saviors of "correct" English.

Stick to your guns, Echidna! Very Happy

Larry Latham
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EH



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 174
Location: USA and/or Korea

PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2003 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I completely agree with you guys. If a teacher is going to do listening practice at all with the students, then reduced forms of words and phrases cannot be overlooked. It especially bugs me when teachers tell their students never ever to use reduced forms, and then the teachers go out and use those same reduced forms themselves (because after all, everyone uses them, even if they're not totally aware of it). I'm a firm believer in preparing students to at least understand, and hopefully also use, all the possible locally used pronunciations of commonly used words and phrases. After all, better communication is the goal, right?

-EH
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sita



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 261
Location: Germany

PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2003 3:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello!

I also agree.
Sadly a number of German colleagues also do not teach this because it is bad English....

Some British colleagues dislike AE and do not permit it in class.( shudder)

Siān

PS My motto is English is for life, not for the classroom.
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dduck



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 265

PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2003 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sita wrote:
Sadly a number of German colleagues also do not teach this because it is bad English....


The counter to that is "I teach REAL English, not supposed correct English!"

Iain
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2004 11:24 am    Post subject: In her book.... Reply with quote

Hey there!

And she just might be right, in her "book" such things would not be "proper English" unless they were included in dialogues between characters with a specific dialect.

However, as all seem to agree, that teacher will be doing a great disservice to her students in teaching them to pronounce clearly every one of the sounds that make up the individual words of their utterances in English, especially on a comprehension level, since only other students with the same, stilted pronunciation are likely to say the things they say in the way such students expect to hear them. Even in the artificial speaking of actors on stage, there is reduction and liaison taking place.

I can imagine not teaching the spelling of such combinations, but leading students to believe that "got to" with the two "t" clearly and perfectly pronounced is "correct" or "proper" English is just giving their tongue too much work to do, and I've not heard any native, not even the Queen of England, pronounce those two "t"s!

Just jumping on the band-wagon, have that teacher take a look at our comments, mine come from 22 years teaching exactly that, reduction, liaison and rhythm, helping students get over "proper" English and get on with speaking English.

peace,
revel.
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agava



Joined: 10 Jan 2004
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2004 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, I am pleased that I could read all your opinions. I teach English to pre-intermediate (or lower) levels and I do not find it useful to teach them those shortened forms, but for advanced learners it is obviously essential to know them! Smile
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2004 8:52 pm    Post subject: It's true, yet.... Reply with quote

Hey all!

I can see where learning reduction could prove a challenge for beginners, and yet, once the grammar is understood, I think the reduced form should predominate. This is always reflected with the verb "be" in the present tense, I'm, you're, he's, she's etc... as well as in negative forms like don't, isn't etc.... these are probably easier for students to swallow because they have written equivalants. Naturally, I'd is also written but not so often found in early levels.

However, just because it is not written does not mean that it is not there. The reduction in "Yes, she is" means that the "s" of "yes" disappears, and if the student is not ready for that, he or she will miss not only the "s" but perhaps also the meaning of the utterance. To not point out the liaison in "No, he isn't" (that is, forcing an aspirated "h" in "he "when in a natural way we use a "w" like sound between the long "u" sound of "no" and the long "e" sound of "he") might also lead to misunderstanding.

Reduction and liaison help the students spit out the sound chains with more ease, less work for the lip tongue teeth. It may only need to be a focal matter in advanced classes where accent reduction is the goal, but should be brought to light and practiced from an early contact with the language, as we know that habits, maybe even learned habits, are hard to break.

peace,
revel.
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Sat Jan 10, 2004 10:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

agava wrote:
Hi, I am pleased that I could read all your opinions. I teach English to pre-intermediate (or lower) levels and I do not find it useful to teach them those shortened forms, but for advanced learners it is obviously essential to know them! Smile


I start absolute beginners on the idea that English has liaisons between the ending consonant and the next beginning vowel by using phone numbers. All the numbers before 8 and 0 connect. For example, a number like 668-9090 (American phone number Wink ) sounds like sick sick sate nigh no nigh no (please excuse ridiculous spelling to get across the point.) I also teach "an apple" as "a napple" in pronunciation, making a linking mark between the "n" in "an" and the "a" in "apple". I never had a problem with those low levels not understanding, and it helps them get the idea early. Why wait until they are advanced and wonder why they can't understand anyone talking?
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2004 8:48 am    Post subject: Righ ton! Reply with quote

Hello all!

Lorikeet has it righ ton! I teach the magical "zar" that appears in so many plural sentences: "Tho [zar] bottles." "The boy [zar] in the room." It even becomes "zaron" and "zarin" when "on" or "in" follow the verb. All my students make an extra effort to do such once it is pointed out that such is what a native speaker would do. It has never gotten in the way of learning or understanding the grammar and the structure; rather, it has helped the students stop thinking about if it should be "is" or "are", thus facilitating the usage.

peace,
revel.
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Lorikeet



Joined: 18 May 2003
Posts: 1372
Location: San Francisco, California

PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2004 3:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hee! I guess then I must teach [zer]... "The boy [zer] walking to school." "The boy [zerin] the room." (I guess for me "are" is reduced to "er" most of the time anyway.)
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revel



Joined: 06 Jan 2004
Posts: 532

PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2004 6:06 pm    Post subject: zar zer zii zuu.... Reply with quote

Hey there!

Yes, zerin at times zarin, depends on whatever physcial exercise we are doing. Today it was "Regularly, Repeat, Review, Reward". Zaron comes when I'm trying to get them to open their mouths more, funny how when students have to say something in English their mouths get so small and nothing comes out! Good for that problem is "aisle -- alley" and make them think that their lips are a rubber band being stretched vertically and horizontally....with the younger kids I give them a rubber band and make them stretch it as they are stretching their lips, good clean fun!

peace,
revel.
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ardsboy



Joined: 11 Dec 2003
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2004 8:25 pm    Post subject: Aida Dunnett 2, wouldn't you? Reply with quote

I dislike the term 'reduction', since contractions and the like are not only right and proper, as everyone points out, but more importantly also the perfectly natural, normal, no-tricks application of some basic phonological rules of English which may get overlooked if one only thinks of 'reductions' as orthophonetic contractions. For instance, the pronunciation of any given vowel in any given syllable is dependent on a word's syllable stressing. Thus, 'photograph' is pronounced /fówtugrąef/ [= primary stressed syllable + unstressed syllable (schwa) + secondary stressed syllable], whereas 'photographer' is pronounced /futógrufu/ [= unstressed syllable (schwa) + primary stressed syllable + unstressed syllable (schwa) + unstressed syllable (schwa)].

However, the preceding are information/content words with unchanging pronunciation. Function/grammar words such as pronouns and auxiliaries are different in that they all possess at least two pronunciations: one stressed pronunciation and one (and often two or three) unstressed pronunciation, each of which - unsurprisingly - occurs according to rule in stressed and unstressed sentence contexts, respectively.

My favourite class/course example is "If you had asked him, he would have told you", which at its most rapid is easily pronounced /fyudįestimidutówldzhu/, in pronouncing which learners have little difficulty when it is presented to them as a traditional Irish Gaelic greeting. Alas, the difficulty increases again when they realise it's actually English and the accompanying written-worditis kicks in! Cheers, john.
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Tara B



Joined: 10 Feb 2005
Posts: 126
Location: Sterling, VA

PostPosted: Fri Feb 11, 2005 9:38 pm    Post subject: written/spoken distinction Reply with quote

In teaching "gonna" "wanna," etc, I think it is important to make the distinction between the written and the spoken language. The true test of what is "correct" is "what monolingual native speakers do." It's hard to argue that "gonna" is incorrect if 99% of people use it.

I believe the key to teaching these things is to tell the students the truth: there is more than one "English" and all of these varieties may be appropriate in various situations, just as they all may be inappropriate in other situations. The key is to gain mastery of both formal and informal language and know when to use them. Naturally, ESL students sound pretty weird if they say "going to" 100% or the time, or even worse, "will."

However, teaching multiple ways to say the same thing is not a task for beginners. Save that for your intermediate and advanced classes. To beginners, teach them one way to say it, and let them get comfortable with it. I teach my beginners "going to" and save "gonna" for the intermediate class.

I also find it helpful to classify contractions as part of the spoken language and separated words as written language. I tell my students that in conversation, they MUST use contractions or it is not correct. I think that is the easiest way to learn it, and I have hope for them because native speaking children actually learn the contractions first, and analyze them into their components later on in thier development. Try to find a 2-year-old saying "going to" or "do not." You won't.
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