‘Cloning’ – using nonnative speakers as models

Back in 1998 I went to a seminar in London organised by the IATEFL PronSIG. Among the different memorable sessions was one by Joanne Kenworthy and Jennifer Jenkins. The speakers went on to write up their session for Speak Out!, the newsletter of the PronSIG. (‘Cloning: a means of finding your L2 voice’ Speak Out!22: 34–39).

In London, Kenworthy and Jenkins described how they had used cloning as a means of improving learners’ pronunciation. Cloning required learners to think about a character from a soap-opera they were familiar with, or with a British person that they knew and admired, and to try to imitate the way this person spoke English.

It was a holistic approach to learning (not teaching) an L2 pronunciation, one which appeared in a special issue of Speak Out! entitled ‘Alternatives’, and one which the presenters thought had great potential. Peter Roach had discussed a similar, ‘speaker-centred’ approach in 1995 (‘Working on the model pronunciation’, Language and Communication Review, 1995/ 1:3–8,, STETS, Singapore.), and in workshops I have given on teaching ELF pronunciation I’ve frequently suggested that Kenworthy and Jenkins’ initial idea of cloning can easily be extended to ELF contexts by inviting learners to clone the pronunciation of a celebrity with the same L1 background as themselves, and whose pronunciation has been shown to be internationally intelligible through their daily social and professional lives. For Spanish-L1 teenagers, for example, world-class sports personalities like F1 motor-racing world champion, Fernando Alonso, spring to mind. From the world of cinema, I often refer to Penelope Cruz as a model for cloning.

Now John Murphy of Georgia State University has published an excellent paper on his own experience in this area:

Murphy, J. M.  (2014).  Intelligible, comprehensible, nonnative models in ESL/EFL pronunciation teaching.  System: An International Journal of Educational Technology and Applied Linguistics.  42, pp. 258-269.

The abstract reads:

Pronunciation models in the teaching of English as a second language (ESL) and English as foreign language (EFL) are changing.  This paper reviews purposes for pronunciation teaching, questions the hegemony of native English speaker (NES) models, and explores the possibility of incorporating at least some attention to nonnative English speaker (NNES) models when teaching ESL or EFL pronunciation.  A premise is that samples of nonnative English (NNE) speech are useful as pronunciation models as long as they are intelligible and comprehensible.  Two advantages of working with illustrations of intelligible, comprehensible NNE language samples are their transparency as aspirational models and relevance to learners’ pronunciation needs.  In support of this position, the paper reports questionnaire research through which thirty-four specialists in pronunciation teaching characterized the qualities of a recorded speech sample of an NNES, the award winning film actor Javier Bardem.  One purpose was to determine if Bardem is a comprehensible NNES. A second purpose was to characterize qualities of Bardem’s speech as a way of informing pronunciation pedagogy.  The changes in instructional perspectives and teaching practices the paper proposes reject a deficit model of NNE pronunciation and foreground positive dimensions of what intelligible, comprehensible NNESs are able to do well.

If you have institutional or personal access to the journal System you can access John’s article online at:  <http://authors.elsevier.com/sd/article/S0346251X13001838>

Otherwise, if you mail John at jmmurphy@gsu.edu he is happy to send you a pdf. Do that! This is really worth reading. Congratulations, John.

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