Thursday, March 15, 2012

Speaking of prose in pronunciation work

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia
Generally "speaking," integration of pronunciation should focus on practice of conversational language and style--not simply dictionary entries, word lists and internet "magazine"columns. In the EHIEP framework, work on new sounds and "fixing" older ones is done exclusively using vocabulary that (ideally) the learner has at least a reasonable chance of encountering in speaking and listening.

Even in the EFL context, the target should be accessible for practice of some kind. In other words, especially because of prosody, dialogs, drama and oral reports of various kinds are essential for efficient integration. I can think of an exception.
There are texts that are not conversational but still meant to be read out loud. (Some previous posts have dealt with explicit reading of poetry, for example.) If you are a native speaker (NS) or a near native speaker (NNS) here is good test for you based on a piece from one of the greatest writers of English prose of all time: James Joyce.

As you may know, he insisted that his prose could not be truly understood unless read aloud. His control of the prosody of written narrative, such as a shot story was extraordinary. Try this. Record yourself reading the linked excerpt from "A portrait of the artist as a young man" two or three times without listening back until you are finished.

Assume that you are reading it for a sick friend, for example. Listen to the last cut first and then the first. As language teachers our speaking style in class can become all colors of strange. If you want to know what it feels like to communicate well in the classroom, the felt sense of personal expository talk and mood that is both genuine, composed (not hyper- teacher-talk-ish) and yet still comprehensible for students, there you have it. 

2 comments:

Angelina Van Dyke said...

James Joyce is a favourite - thank for putting this together.

I also like NNS decoded as "near native speaker" - it's much more validating.

Bill Acton said...

Finnegans Wake is favourite of mine. (I found myself reading it out loud when I was working night shifts to stay awake. What I discovered was the "Joyce" experience!

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