M is halfway

M is halfway through the alphabet so it’s a good time to take a break. End of term, let’s say, and time for the northern hemisphere’s summer recess. I’ll be back in September, however, with more mind-numbing reflections on pronunciation, beginning with N and the nativeness principle, and moving on to other irresistible delights such as the (m)other tongue, the phoneme, qualifications, and variation.

However, we can’t end the term without two things: a) a bit of feedback, and b) an assessment of learning.

Feedback is easy. Go to the comment box at the end of this post and say which has been your favourite post so far, and why. In addition, if you want, look forward to September and N–Z, choose a letter and say what you think I should write about for that letter. (If you prefer, you can also provide feedback by email at robin@englishglobalcom.com).

The assessment of learning (i.e the test) is not so easy (not for you, at least! ha! ha!). But I wouldn’t be a teacher if I didn’t try to test assess how much you’ve learned through reading this rubbish during lockdown. So here you are – fifteen statements based on my posts so far, one per post, and in chronological order (I’m trying to make the test easy for you).

Are these statements true or false?

  1. Type the words ‘accent reduction‘ into Google and you come with over 18 million results.
  2. The best accent for use as a model for teaching purposes is a neutral one such as the Canadian accent, which is not too American, not too Australian, and not too British.
  3. With bilabials and words like cap and cab, or rope and robe teacher’s need to focus their learners’ attention on the voicing of /b/ as opposed to the voiceless /p/.
  4. Derwing and Munro’s term comprehensibility is a measure of how much effort the listener has to make in order to understand the speaker. Unfortunately, you can’t measure comprehensibility objectively.
  5. An analysis of over 2000 languages revealed that the dental fricatives /θ/ and /ð/ are found in less than 5% of the languages analysed.
  6. English as a lingua franca (ELF) and English as an international language (EIL) are two names for the same phenomenon.
  7. Functional load is a measure of how often a sound occurs in the lexicon of a given language. In English the sound /ʒ/ has a low functional load, and so doesn’t warrant that much attention in class.
  8. Studies of learners’ pronunciation goals regularly demonstrate that around two-thirds of today’s students have a native-speaker accent as their goal.
  9. ‘Listen and repeat’ as a teaching strategy in the classroom is history. It stems from the behaviourist notion of habit formation and so it is of little actual use in classroom teaching of pronunciation.
  10. Today, the term intelligibility refers to how much the listener recognises in terms of the words/phrases that a speaker utters, even if the listener doesn’t grasp the meaning of the utterance.
  11. The first five points of Bryan Jenner’s Common Core more or less coincide with Jennifer Jenkins’ Lingua Franca Core.
  12. Joanne Kenworthy suggests that teachers can only have any significant influence on one of the six factors that affect pronunciation learning.
  13. The Lingua Franca Core (LFC) does not include any treatment of weak forms and reduced vowels because of the negative impact they have on international intelligibility.
  14. Until coursebooks are written around ELF and the LFC, teachers are just going to have to teach pronunciation as they have done up to now even if their students’ goal is international intelligiblity.
  15. The communicative burden is the notion of the amount of work interlocutors take on in order to guarantee successful communication. When a native speaker is talking to a non-native speaker, the native speaker should take on more of the burden.

PS. Answers some time next week, but if you can’t wait, go back to the corresponding posts and look for them yourself.

PPS. If you’ve got this far, you’re either made of stronger stuff than I am, or you need the help of a professional psychotherapist. But then like all addicts, you might not want to miss your next fix, so sign up below and you’ll be contacted automatically each time I add a new post.

5 thoughts on “M is halfway

  1. Thank you, so much for these posts. They have been truly insightful And quite helpful. I am currently developing an AR project on pronunciation in a ELF setting and your book’s been my bible.


    • Thanks for this feedback, lechugad7gmailcom. I’m really glad the posts and TPELF have been helpful. It’s nice to know that I haven’t totally wasted my time these last twenty years. Good luck with the AR project, and look forward to your comments when we start up again in September.


  2. An ELF* . I’m really looking forward to read your next post!
    Thanks agrian and Enjoy your summer!


  3. I second Lechugad’s comment that this has been a great learning ride so far. Fave post? ‘From Moscow to MES’. Future posts? X is for xenophobia – it would be very instructive to look at the racism in things like attitudes to non-native speakers, employment discrimination due to accent, and so on. There’s a lot on Twitter regarding these issues at the moment, as you can imagine.


    • Interesting favourite, Daniel. I think it’s one of mine, too. I had the feeling that I knew who my audience was (critical for any attempt at communication, as you know only too well), and that freed me to write to that imagined audience.

      Thanks for the idea for ‘X’. I’ll do that as I had nothing esle there that is as important.


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