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Numer: 1120
Dział: Języki obce

Teaching the English pronunciation


The place and role of pronunciation in language learning.
Pronunciation is an integral part of language learning. However, it is perceived as the "Cinderella" of language teaching due to its complexity, the lack of teachers with formal training in pronunciation among non-native teachers and the split in opinion about the teaching of pronunciation . What should be drawn to one’s attention is that, in the process of communication, pronunciation plays a crucial role, since successful communication cannot take place without correct pronunciation. Poorly pronounced segments and suprasegments may have the result of disorienting the listener and inhibiting comprehension . Undoubtedly, the notion of correctness with regard to pronunciation is not tantamount to adherence to “native speaker” norms or Received Pronunciation rules.
According to Gelvanovsky, pronunciation has an important social value, which means that it should be related to prestige . The author enumerates values which are generally associated with Received Pronunciation. He mentions intelligence, professional competence, persuasiveness, diligence, social privilege.
However, Gimson says that the teaching of pronunciation presents particular difficulties. He notices that grammatical structures can be ordered and taught in sequence, a vocabulary compiled on a basis of frequency of occurrence can be utilized for the presentation of early grammatical structures, with the addition of special sets of lexical items as situations or special purposes require. Pronunciation does not permit such treatment, since all phonetic features are potentially present from the very first lesson. According to the writer, the teacher must deal systematically with the teaching of pronunciation, even though he may be forced to postpone the correction of some mistakes which occur in the early stages .
The role of pronunciation in schools has varied widely from having virtually no role in the grammar-translation method to being the main focus in the audio-lingual method where emphasis is on the traditional notions of pronunciation, minimal pairs, drills and short conversations . Situational language teaching developed in Britain, it also mirrored the audio-lingual view of the pronunciation class. Morley states “The pronunciation class… was one that gave primary attention to phonemes and their meaningful contrast, environmental allophonic variations, and combinatory phonotactic rules, along with ….attention to stress, intonation and rhythm .”
During the late 1960’s and the 1970’s questions were asked about the role of pronunciation in the ESL/EFL curriculum, whether the focus of the programmes and the instructional methods were effective or not. In many language programmes the teaching of pronunciation was pushed aside, as many studies concluded “that little relationship exists between teaching pronunciation in the classroom and attained proficiency in pronunciation” .
While Suter and Purcell concluded that pronunciation practice in class had little affect on the learners’ pronunciation skill, Harmer contradicted their theory by claiming that teachers should not be blind to the benefits of a focus on pronunciation in their lessons . Harmer is of the opinion that being made aware of pronunciation issues is of immense benefit not only for students’ own production, but also to their own understanding of spoken English.
The author leaves the decision when to include pronunciation teaching into lesson sequence to teachers. However, he gives a number of alternatives to choose from ,
for example:
•Whole lessons which encourage teachers to devote the whole lesson sequence to pronunciation. However, making pronunciation the main focus of the lesson does not mean that every minute of it has to be spent on pronunciation practice. Students may work on different language aspects such as listening or vocabulary before going on to work on pronunciation practice.
•Discrete slots which mean that teachers insert short, separate bits of pronunciation work into lesson sequences. The methods assumes working on all individual phonemes either separately or in contrasting pairs, over a period of weeks. Then, teachers spend a few minutes on a particular aspect of intonation or on the contrast between two or more sounds, at other times.
•Integrated phases assume that teachers get students to focus on pronunciation issues as an integral part of a lesson. Pronunciation teaching forms a part of many sequences where students study language form, for example they listen to the tape, when new words are modelled .
•Opportunistic teaching assumes that teachers may stray from their original plan when lesson realities make this inevitable, and teach some pronunciation issue that has arisen in the course of an activity.
•Tackle pronunciation in a mixture of the ways suggested above.
Jeremy Harmer suggests some approaches to introduce students with individual sounds they have difficulty with as well as word, phrase and sentence stress and intonation . He enumerates them as;
•Working with sounds:
-students identify words including the same sound, for ex.(long schwa ) , then they are asked to identify one consonant, for ex. ( r) which is always present in the spelling of words with the sound they have previously recognised.
-Students contrast two sounds which are very similar and confused,
-Practise each sound separately ,
-Refer to a diagram of the mouth
-Introduce students with the phonemic chart,
-Play sound bingo,
-Get students to say tongue twisters.
•Working with stress:
-when students meet new words in class teacher marks the stress of those words,
-teacher shows where the weak vowel sounds occur in words, draw attention to the schwa,
-teacher chooses some short phrases which students are familiar with and write them on the board, then she/he reads them aloud and draws a large circle under each stressed syllable and small circles under the unstressed syllables. Using the stress patterns students have to join pairs of phrases with the same stress patterns.
-Teacher asks students to put words in correct columns depending upon their stress patterns,
-Using Cuisenaire rods, graphic illustrations of how words and phrases are stressed.

•Working with intonation:
-to draw students’ attention to the way the pitch is used in conveying the meaning ,
-students can be asked to identify what is meant each time by using words for emotions or matching intonation to pictures of faces with different expressions ,

•Sounds and spelling
-students listen to a tape and see how many different pronunciations they can find for the ou spelling in words given.
-Students are given two lists of (c-starting) words and have to work out which rule decides about producing (s) or (k),

•Connected speech and fluency: three stage procedure for teaching elision and assimilation,
-stage one comparing: students pronounce words included in sentences and phrases separately, then listen to the tape of someone saying the sentences in normal connected speech and are asked to say what difference the have notice,
-stage two identifying: students listen to recordings of connected speech and have to write out a full grammatical equivalent of what they heard,
-stage three production: in teaching of phrases and sentences students are given the connected version, including contractions where necessary, and then they say the phrases and sentences in this way.
-Fluency is also helped by having students say phrases and sentences
( such as above in stages 1-3) as quickly as possibly, starting slowly and then speeding up. To achieve greater fluency students can perform dialogues and play extracts.

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