Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Context rehabilitation in (or as a substitute for) pronunciation and accent work

Part of the system I wrote about in 1984 (Acton 1984) included the almost tongue-in-cheek notion of "context rehabilitation." (See recent, relatively accurate, 2014, outline of that article by Polinedrio and Colon). The idea was to very proactively train students in how to influence the attitudes of their supervisors and co-workers as regards their  improving comprehensibility--while at the same time making substantive, noticeable changes in intelligibility as soon as possible in the program, of course! Some of that came from the early work of Rubin (1975) and others, and work on attending skills, e.g.,  Acton and Cope (1999).  

A recent, very informative review of research on the effectiveness in pronunciation instruction by Thomson and Derwing (2014) concludes with this interesting and revealing comment:  

"In immigrant situations, native speakers of the L2 can be helped to become better listeners as well (Derwing et al. 2002; Kang and Rubin 2012) . . .  Communication is a two-way street, thus L2 speakers’ interlocutors sometimes need support in building confidence that they have the skills to interact with L2 accented individuals." 

Other than the near-comma-splice, love that word "support" in that final statement. It may well be that educational campaigns and law suits to change societal attitudes toward accents will, indeed, in the long run be the most cost-efficient and effective approach to improving intercultural communication--and making much pronunciation instruction less (or ir-)relevant . . .

For a much fuller exploration of that and related themes, get a copy of a great-looking new (VERY EXPENSIVE - $176 CAD in hardcover and I can't find it in paperback yet) book, Social dynamics in second language accent (2014), edited by Levis and Moyer! (My library doesn't have it yet but most of the chapters seem to be obvious continuations of each author's best stuff.) 

Keep in touch. 

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