Articles

Here are the titles and summaries of some of the more important of the articles that I’ve written over the past 10 years or so. If you want to read the full article click on the cover or on the link.

 

(My thanks to Pavilion Publishing and Modern English Teacher for the pdfs of the following articles as they appeared in the magazine.)

Did you hear what I said? (Modern English Teacher, 29/1) Listening is a key skill when learning English, not just because of what it means to learners using their English outside the classroom, but also because of the benefits of understanding what is being said inside. But listening is a difficult skill to master for many learners, and unfortunately getting better is not just a question of doing more. Sending learners home to listen to the TV or radio is no guarantee of improvement, and weaker learners could become demoralized after  failed attempts to do listen on their own. Competence in listening is vital, then, but most learners benefit from guidance as to how best to do this.

From being intelligible to being themselves: pronunciation for today (Modern English Teacher, 28/3) When I came into EFL in 1981, the dominant methodology was audiolingualism. New structures were presented to learners and then drilled extensively in a behaviourist approach to learning. Native-speaker accuracy was sought, and sought relentlessly. Error was failure. This was true for pronunciation even more than it was for grammar, and one of only two accents, RP or GA, served as the norm, the model and the goal. Read more.

IDEAS for teaching pronunciation (Modern English Teacher, 27.1) Interest in pronunciation is making a slow comeback after being pushed to the margins of ELT by communicative approaches in the 1980s. This growing interest is reflected in new publications both on how to teach pronunciation, and of classroom activities and resources. Technology is joining the act, with apps and computers now aiding the learning process, but this makes it more important than ever for us to organise the types of activities we use in class into some sort of coherent structure. Read more.

The globalization of English: accent, accommodation and intelligibility in ELF (Modern English Teacher, 26/4) When English operates as a lingua franca the range of accents users encounter as they communicate globally varies enormously. Because of this, users and learners need to know how to deal with this variation, and in this article we will look at the two main ways of making these adjustments, and at one way of keeping communication channels open when these fail. The way of making adjustments is through phonological accommodation, receptive and productive. If these fail, speakers have to embark upon a process of negotiation of meaning. Read more.

The globalization of English: accent, attitude and identity (Modern English Teacher, 26/1)  Implicit in English language teaching in many parts of the world is the idea that learners need to acquire, or nearly acquire, a native-speaker accent, until recently either RP (Received Pronunciation) or GA (General American). In fact, such has been the power of RP and GA in the UK and the US, respectively, that the teaching of English to speakers of other languages is now deeply permeated with the idea of desirable and undesirable accents, with non-native speaker accents being among the least desirable. But in a world where non-native speakers are the vast majority of users of English, how tenable is the hegemony of these two accents? Read more.

The globalization of English: vocabulary (Modern English Teacher, 25/3) The work of Jennifer Jenkins that I described in my article on teaching pronunciation for English as a lingua franca (MET 24: 4) not only served to shake things up for the teaching of pronunciation, it was also a catalyst for action in other areas of research into English as a lingua franca, notably grammar and vocabulary. If a phonological core could be identified for pronunciation, it was argued, it might be possible to determine a similar core for the lexicogrammar of ELF. And, if corpus linguistics had revealed often unsuspected truths about how native speakers really used English words, phrases and idioms, presumably a corpus of non-native speaker spoken communication could do the same for ELF. Read more.

The globalization of English: teaching the pronunciation of ELF (Modern English Teacher, 24/4)  The goal for pronunciation teaching for students using or hoping to use their English for international communication should be intelligibility rather than any specific accent. How can this be achieved? What do we know about being intelligible in situations where English is acting as a lingua franca? How is it, in fact, that non-native speakers are regularly seen to be intelligible in professional, academic or leisure situations, when their accents are anything but standard, and that native speakers in the same situation are sometimes not intelligible? Read more.

The globalisation of English:implications for the language classroom (Modern English Teacher, 24/2) Only twenty years ago, learning English was automatically understood to mean emulating a British or American standard model of the language in a process known as teaching English as a foreign language (EFL). The last two decades, however, have brought about a significant change in the role of English. It is now the primary language of global communication, and is used massively around the world in business, travel, sport, academic study andhealthcare by people for whom it is not their first language. This situation has far-reaching implications for the ELT classroom. Read more.

 

Technology for Pronunciation (English Teaching professional, Issue 95)
There is so much technology out there for language learning and a small part of it focuses on pronunciation. But how good is this technology and how can we find the app that best suits our needs and, more importantly, the needs of our learners? Also, since learning pronunciation is more about skills acquisition than cognitive understanding, is technology the answer to our problems? Read more.

Accentuate the positive (English Teaching professional, Issue 94)
If the learner’s mother tongue gets in the way anywhere, it gets in the way most with pronunciation. Or does it? Could it not be that unless we are aiming to sound exactly like a native speaker (a goal that only very few need and which even fewer will ever achieve), the learner’s mother tongue is actually a hugely valuable resource? Could it not be that by learning to love the L1, we open the door to the L2? Read more.

Sounds Tricky! (English Teaching Professional, Issue 93)
Teaching teenagers can be tricky. They’re at a difficult age and are very conscious of what their peers might think about them, so getting them to make strange sounds in front of a critical audience is not easy. Teaching them pronunciation, then, needs a sensitive approach. The four Ms of motivation, model, method and marking can be areal help here. Read more.

Sounds fun! (English Teaching professional, Issue 92)
Young learners bring many advantages to the English language classroom, not the least of which is the awareness that English sounds different to their mother tongue. Moreover, they are still young enough not to be embarrassed about ‘sounding’ English, unlike many adolescents and adults. So without a doubt, this is a golden age for pronunciation work. Read more.

Horses for courses (English Teaching professional, Issue 91)
It would seem reasonable to assume that the goal of learning a language is to sound like a native speaker and, until relatively recently, this was the unspoken goal of pronunciation teaching in ELT. Teachers had to decide whether the native speaker was from the US or the UK, but the goal was either the standard British accent, RP (Received Pronunciation), or the standard American accent, GA (General American). Read more.

Pronunciation Matters! (English Teaching professional, Issue 90)
If you ask students which areas of learning English matter most, they’ll inevitably include pronunciation. If you ask teachers, you get much the same response. But if you look more carefully at what actually happens in the classroom, you’ll discover that all too often pronunciation is usually done on an ad-hoc basis, that it is not usually programmed in the way that grammar or vocabulary are … Read more.

The Sudden Specialist (English Teaching professional, Issue 59)
One of the most unnerving moments in the career of many teachers of English is the arrival of their Director of Studies or Head of Department to tell them that they are going to have to teach a group of agricultural engineers. Teachers new to EAP, ESP, or Business English, feel intimidated by the prospect of teaching with texts that can be characterised by dense technical vocabulary and often obscure field-specific concepts. Read more.

Going for a Song (English Teaching professional, Issue 43)
The use of songs in the classroom is a very powerful technique: vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, discussion – songs offer a world of language practice, as anybody who has used them will know. However, I wonder if any of us has ever stopped to analyse just how much pronunciation practice they provide us with, especially for groups that often are reluctant to take on the sounds of a new language – teenagers, in particular? Read more.

Pronunciation for International Intelligibility (English Teaching professional, Issue 21)
Until very recently few teachers or learners questioned the idea that to be understood when speaking English, they would need to get as close as possible to one of the dominant native-speaker accents, RP (Received Pronunciation) or GA (General American). The last decade, however, has seen such a significant change in the role of English in the world that it is essential to re-examine this situation. Read more.

 

Our first priority in pronunciation teaching – learner goals (Teachitworld Teacher Training Bulletin)
Setting unrealistic goals can have a pernicious effect on learners’ motivation as they can feel that they never get things right. This is nowhere truer than in teaching pronunciation. Most teaching manuals now tell us that achieving native-speaker competence is neither necessary nor realistic, but if we are not completely clear about our learners’ goals, it is remarkably easy to let a native-speaker norm become our benchmark. Read more.

ELF Pronunciation (Teachitworld Newsletter)
The last two decades have seen English go truly global. And in today’s globalized world, the vast majority of spoken communication in English takes place between non-native speakers who are using English as a lingua franca (ELF). This new role for English has implications for various aspects of classroom practice, especially  pronunciation. Read more.

 

Re-arranging the consonant sounds of English (IATEFL Voices, Issue 234)
When Adrian Underhill created and introduced his phonemic chart in the early 90s, he brought a tool into pronunciation teaching that has served teachers for over twenty years. But just as the same book or film can be read and interpreted in different ways, so can the sounds of English. I’d like to suggest an alternative way of setting out the consonants of English. Read more.

An Achievable Target for Specific Situations (IATEFL Voices, Issue 200)
For the teaching of pronunciation in ELF settings, the goal is to be intelligible to other non-native speakers. Research into spoken interaction between non-native speakers (Jenkins 2000) made a first solid approximation as to which pronunciation features are essential for this. Collectively, these are known as the lingua franca coreRead more.

 

Brave New World English (Oxford University Press ELT Blog)
Last month I took on two clients, both seeking coaching in pronunciation. Pablo works in the finance department of a US multinational that has a key European plant here in northern Spain. Most of the people he uses English with are non-native speakers. Read more.

 

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