Social, linguistic, psychological and methodological factors in teaching pronunciation

August 20th, 20116:31 am


Social, linguistic, psychological and methodological factors in teaching pronunciation

Social, linguistic, psychological and methodological factors in teaching pronunciation

There exists another point of view on the issue of threshold level. Some phoneticians speak about two kinds of pronunciation: orthoepic (from Greek orthós – correct and “epos” speech) and approximated [11, c. 7].

Orphoepic pronunciation is a pronunciation that practically coincides with literary standard pronunciation of native speakers of English. This pronunciation is taught in specialized schools and the pupils with phonetic aptitude can master it.

The approximated pronunciation is a pronunciation free from phonological mistakes (where one phoneme is replaced by a similar one), but it allows certain amount of non-phonological mistakes (where one allophone is replaced by another one), which makes it possible to understand those who speak or read aloud.

In Vasiliev’s view, it is practically impossible for most school learners to master orthoepic pronunciation therefore they can only learn approximated pronunciation.

The linguistic aspect of instruction includes the sound system, word and sentence stress and intonation pattern. The study of the sound system can be carried out in different directions:

1.      The study of perception and articulation of the English speech sounds (physiological phonetics).

2.      The study of the role and semantic function of speech sounds as sense differentiating units (phonology).

3.      The analysis and description of peculiarities of the speech sounds (acoustic phonetics)

4.      The study of phonetical structure at different stages of historical development of the language (historical phonetics).

5.      The study of phonetical phenomena employing experimental methods of investigation (experimental phonetics).

A phoneme is a speech sound capable of distinguishing one word from another word or one grammatical category from another category. There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, which give us 44 phonemes (20 vowels and 24 consonants). There are many speech sounds in English that also occur in Ukrainian. At the same time there are some phonemes which present a difficulty for Ukrainian learners and others. The combination of phonemes  which occur at the end of words requires special explanation in terms of articulation and practice.

The speech sounds in English can be divided into three groups: vowels (monophthongs, diphthongs, diphthongoids) and consonants (voiceless, voiced, sonorants). Special attention should be paid to positional length of English vowels and aspiration of English voiceless occlusive phonemes (p, t, k).

The variables that seem to impede or enhance acquisition of reasonable pronunciation cover the main factors:

1.   The learner’s native language.

Mother-tongue transfer is generally more systematic, pervasive, and persistent in the area of pronunciation than it is in grammar and lexicon. This makes it important for teachers to know something about the classification of vowels and consonants in order to anticipate problems and understand the source of errors.

2.    The learner’s age.

The younger the age when the learner begins to acquire English, the better the learner’s pronunciation. In fact, complete mastery of English before age twelve generally results in accent-free speech, whereas acquisition after fifteen virtually guarantees some degree of accentedness in speech.

3.    The learner’s exposure.

Exposure to the target language can refer to both the length of time and the intensity of the exposure over time. Generally speaking, the more time spent on learning the spoken language, the better the pronunciation. Exposure is directly proportioned to quality; learners exposed to better English speaking models and better explanations of the English sound system generally make more progress than the learners with poor-quality models and inadequate information do.

4.    The learner’s innate phonetic ability.

Some people simply have more skill at or aptitude for imitating and producing sounds and sound patterns that are new to them. All other things equal, such learners will achieve better pronunciation than will those learners with lesser aptitude.

5.    The learner’s attitude.

The attitude the learner has toward the target language and its speakers may affect his or her pronunciation (the more favourable attitude, the better the pronunciation).

6.    The learner’s motivation and concern for good pronunciation.

The factor is of great importance in pronunciation instruction; if the learner’s motivation to improve is strong and if the investment of time and effort is great, there will be improvement.

Близнюк М.І. Курс лекцій з методики викладання англійської мови. – Чернівці: ЧДУ, 1999 – с.