Thursday, July 20, 2017

Students' pronunciation bad? It's important but not your fault!

Hot off the presses. Large scale study relating to what teachers think about teaching "pronunciation".
(The blog post was actually inspired by a comment from a neighborhood ESL practitioner recently.) Some conclusions, summarized by Science Daily:
  •  . . . it's important that students have strong PRONUNCIATION skills, and they (teachers) have a role to play in fostering them.
  • PRONUNCIATION learning supports need to be personalized to meet students' different needs. A formulaic approach may not benefit all students.
  • . . . many educators do not have support or know how to allocate time to helping students develop PRONUNCIATION skills
  • Professional development and resources for PRONUNCIATION learning should be available to educators who will be responsible for teaching these skills
  • Many factors outside the school's control influence students' PRONUNCIATION learning, and it is not clear which interventions have the greatest impact on students. Thus, schools and teachers should not be penalized for factors outside their control.
  • (Paraphrasing here) Teachers should not be judged or evaluated based on their students' PRONUNCIATION.
I lied, sort of. Those conclusions come from a large study of emotional intelligence work in public schools in the US. I just substituted in PRONUNCIATION for SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT  OR INTELLIGENCE . . .

But the connection between social and emotional development or intelligence and success in developing adequate pronunciation in an L2 is well established in research in this field. I find the last two bullets intriguing. Evading responsibility for bad student pronunciation seems to be a standard (or at least implicit) objective in many L2 teacher education programs--and for pretty much the reasons indicated above.

Absolved of guilt and responsibility with lowered expectations, anything passing for individual intelligibility is fine. To paraphrase Gandhi's comment on Christianity: Pronunciation teaching has not been tried and found guilty (of messing with learners' identity,  social and emotional development, etc). It has just been found difficult and not tried.

Or an even better analogy is the great scene between John Belushi and Carrie Fischer in "The Blues Brothers"  . . .

I feel better already.

1 comment:

  1. Just got note that I should retitle the post to: No fault pronunciation teaching. I love it! "Mea non culpa!" might work as well but then some might make a mistake in pronouncing that, of course.