Teaching Pronunciation

August 23rd, 20117:20 am


Teaching Pronunciation

Teaching Pronunciation

Before describing the technology of teaching pronunciation it is necessary to outline some of the attitudes that in some cases are barely compatible with each other.

In modern linguistics the term “pronunciation” is used in narrow and broad contexts. In the narrow context “pronunciation” is a study of speech sounds and their production. We shall use this term in the broad context where it covers the whole phonetic structure of the English language: 1) a system of phonemes realized in concrete sounds which are allophones (variants) of certain phonemes; 2) syllable structure of the language (syllable formation, syllable division); 3) word and sentence stress; 4) intonation in its broadest meaning i.e. as a dialectical unity of melody, stress, tempo, pause, rhythm and timbre of utterance.

The term “phonetics” has several definitions too:

1) a component of the discipline of linguistics that deals with vocal sounds and their classification; 2) a branch of linguistics which deals with speech sounds and intonation.

Thus teaching pronunciation refers to the initial basic, instruction in recognizing and producing the “sound system” of the language and in establishing the most elementary framework of perceptive and productive skills at the phonological level of language. Phonology is usually defined as a branch of phonetics which studies semantic (notional) functions of speech sounds, stress and other means of communication. A pragmatical aspect of pronunciation involves elaboration of rational systems of pronunciation instructions that lend themselves to integration with almost any type of activity.

There have been many differences of opinion over the years in the language teaching profession about the value of teaching pronunciation and about how best to teach it.

Teachers using the Grammar-Translation Method and reading-based approaches have considered pronunciation irrelevant. In the direct approaches pronunciation is very important. The teacher is ideally a native or near-native speaker of the target language who presents pronunciation inductively and corrects via modelling (listen and imitate me as best as you can). For proponents of the Audio-Lingual approach, correct pronunciation is seen as prerequisite to developing speaking skills. As in direct approach, the teacher models (listen and repeat); however, the teacher now has, as an additional tool, the structurally based minimal pair drill for sound discrimination as well as oral production.

The Cognitive Code-Learning approach de-emphasized pronunciation in favour of grammar and vocabulary as more learnable objectives.

A Communicative approach to language teaching has brought a renewed interest to pronunciation instruction which establishes a threshold level of pronunciation in standard speech.

But though attempts have been made to devise and recommend standards, it cannot be said that any standard exists. Londoners speak in one way, Bristolians in another, Scotsmen in several other ways, and so on. American speech too (of which there are many variants) is very different.

The goals set by this approach enable learners to get above the threshold level so that the quality of the pronunciation will not detract significantly from their ability to communicate. This widely understood form of pronunciation is termed “Received Pronunciation”. ”Received Pronunciation” may be defined as a way of speaking which is clearly intelligible to all ordinary people (68, p.4).

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