Showing posts with label pronunciation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pronunciation. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

TESOL 2014 - Pronunciation with Obama

I have attended several Tesol Conferences along the years and, since one of my great interests is Phonetics and Phonology, I tend to participate in several presentations on the topic.  To tell you the truth, I have not been happy with what I have previously seen. Presenters have repeatedly used the same activities and strategies to help students overcome their difficulties – minimal pairs, rubber bands, tongue twisters, traditional songs, nursery rhymes, among others.

When I came across the title: Obama as pronunciation Teacher: Using Political Speeches for Suprasegmentals, I was really curious about how the presenter would use Obama’s speeches to teach pronunciation.

The presenter’s objective was to make clear how essential pauses, stress and intonation in sentences are to accurate pronunciation. Her point was to provide students with effective models to help them successfully use suprasegmentals when they use the English language. The presenter, Mary Rommey from the University of Connecticut, used Obama’s political speeches as examples.

She offered a six-month course at the University of Connecticut for candidates as Teaching Assistants for whom English was not  their native language. She conducted a pre test and a post test with these candidates. She videotaped them when they were talking about familiar topics related to their daily life before and after the course. The results were fascinating ! Students improved a lot regarding pause, rhythm, stress and intonation.

She started by asking students to mark the pauses on transcripts of Obama’s speeches. Then, they watched videos and checked their markings. She explained that he was a convincing speaker because of the pauses he makes. Then she worked with stress and later with intonation. When students received the transcript, they read the speech first, solved vocabulary doubts, and asked about content. She made sure the text was grammatically transparent and that the meaning was clear to all students. 

The presenter’s objective was to show that suprasegmental aspects influence communication and that the speaker has to be intelligible to communicate effectively.

Lúcia Santos

Monday, April 07, 2014

TESOL 2014 - How Wide is the World of Pronunciation?

With every year that passes, TESOL is acquiring a more egalitarian personality and is more dedicated to the recognition of the various purposes for English teaching, the broad spectrum of ownerships of the somewhat organically mutating language that we know as English, the ways in which this language unites many different collectives around the world. That’s a long sentence; in a way, it tries to convey the scope of the conference we attended and the direction it took. 

Among some of the teaching concerns being approached along refreshing new lines is pronunciation. With the acceptance of the nature of English as a multi-communicative connector, the influence of pronunciation is also shifting slightly in intent and interpretation. In previous conferences, I have attended several sessions dedicated to a focus on pronunciation as having a form of purifying influence on the production of English, creating exercises and games to attend to the oral exactness of the “th”, the shaping of vowel sounds, the oddly difficult combination of “orld” in “world”, etc. Attention to pronunciation more recently is not related to what, in the past, were common references like “standard American English”, “standard collegiate English”, etc. After all, what is “standard” in South Carolina is not necessarily standard in Oregon or Nevada, and the “college” in question might be in Sidney, Glasgow, London, New york, or somewhere in South Africa or India. 

Twenty speakers in different locations around the world might give surprisingly different renditions of the following sentence: “I hurt myself working on the hood of the car in the late half of the day.” What is definitely a priority concern is the intelligibility of the message, the immediacy of its power to communicate; this concept broadens the scope of how to regard pronunciation and its effective connection  – for better or for worse – to the result of an attempt at general communication.

One of the sessions I attended took me momentarily back to a bus tour that I took some years ago in Scotland.  I was sitting right behind the bus driver and happy to be receiver of many side comments he made during the trip; one of these remarks was offered to describe what a large number of laborers were doing on the road at almost dusk…the driver said they were walking/working on the road, and in my interpretation of the driver’s tone, neither activity was appropriate for that time of day. The problem was one involving accent; I couldn’t for the life of me determine (even upon further inquiry) whether those people were “walking” or “working”, because of the pronunciation of the vowel in the main verb….and no amount of repetition on the driver’s part shed any definitive light on the subject. I finally decided that those men just shouldn’t be on the road doing anything and would be better off at some nearby pub. End of subject. 

Fortunately, the subject of pronunciation has not ended, and this conference was an example of the variety of views that are developing with regard to the influence of pronunciation on communication and to how general is the acceptance that the “native English speaker” is not “the” norm, but - instead – just one of them.            

Katy Cox

Sunday, May 12, 2013

IATEFL 2013 - Pronunciation for Listening

One of the talks I attended at IATEFL was Pronunciation for Listeners – Making sense of connected speech, by Mark Hancock. I already knew Mark from his blog and his published materials, so I made it a point to attend his talk. It was certainly worth it!

The best part was to know that I wouldn’t have to copy anything or take pictures of the slides. I already knew that Mark is all about sharing his materials and his talks and was certain that, later on, I would find everything online.

Sure enough, in his ELT page with Annie McDonald, Mark has posted the handout and the recording of his talk.  Thus, rather than reading my summary of his presentation, you can experience it first hand.

Mark’s talk was useful in demonstrating to the audience that pronunciation is also a listening skill and that it isn’t always easy for students to know where one word ends and the next begins when they listen. Thus, we need to train our students to listen, and to do so, we need to develop in them an awareness of the supra-segmental features that come to play in natural speech, such as elision, assimilation, and the like. To this end, Mark suggests a series of what he calls micro-listening activities that are really fun.

Among my favorite ones presented at IATEFL was the –ed = t maze. Students have to work their way through the maze by going from one –ed = t combination to the next. The interesting thing about it is that he presents the verb and an object that starts with a vowel so that they can practice the elision that is so common in verb + object combinations such as “booked a room”.

Check out the recording of his talk and his handout. He also has an article and an interview on this topic. Make sure you also explore his website full of rich resources for effective pronunciation teaching.