Low cost English

If you cut down on time spent in class on pronunciation you’ll be able to do more of other things and so offer your learners ‘low-cost’ English. In these times of economic crisis, this might seem an attractive idea, but sadly, sooner or later your learners will pay the price for the corners that you cut.

As I drove out to the airport the other day, for example, I came across this:

Pronunciation matters – poor pronunciation even creeps into writing

Pronunciation matters – poor pronunciation even creeps into writing

The author(s) clearly had some English, but not enough, or at least not enough in terms of pronunciation and the vowels in ‘got’ /ɒ/ and ‘goat’ /oʊ/. The Spanish sound nearest to these two English vowels is neither one nor the other. As a result, Spanish-L1 listeners who haven’t been given enough pronunciation practice with the English sounds will often fail to discriminate between them successfully. If this carries over into their writing, ‘coast’ can appear as ‘cost’ or vice versa, as happened with this delightful piece of graffiti.

PS. As you can see from my posts on ‘painball‘ and ‘Eatily‘, I’m fascinated by these learner errors because of the insights they give us into how poor pronunciation can impact on a learner’s use of English. If you have other examples, I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me at robin@englishglobalcom.com.

One thought on “Low cost English

  1. I agree with you about the price of poor pronunciation, but I’m bemused. Wouldn’t adding that ‘a’ for ‘coast’ make ‘coh-ast’ for a Spanish speaker? It wouldn’t seem a natural choice of letter to add to the ‘cost’ of ‘low cost’ when you’ve got your spray paint on the go. Especially as you have the word ‘costa’ in Spanish. I’d expect them to omit the ‘w’ on ‘low’ if they didn’t know how to spell (I’m not trying to be snitty here – it just surprises me).

    You see a struggling language learner, I see a poetic graffiti artist playing with words 🙂 The graffiti might be an art project/installation run by a native English speaking artist. ‘Low coast’ exists as a perfectly feasible use of English. It might have been an Edgar Allen Poe quote: http://goo.gl/bP8U3L! The calligraphy’s pretty neat too.


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