Previously on this blog I wrote about the fact that despite the fact that standard ‘native speaker’ pronunciation still remains the default standard in teaching and course book writing, there’s no evidence that it is more intelligible in international contexts (read the post here).
Now this is hugely surprising!
After all, our gut feeling would suggest that standard ‘native-like’ pronunciation is the model our students must strive for if they want to be easily understood. And in fact, not such a long time ago I was also convinced that the more my students’ pronunciation resembled standard ‘native speaker’ pronunciation, the better.
But our gut feeling seems to be wrong…
Perhaps then, as Cook (2001, 2005) argued already over a decade ago, it is time we based language teaching on successful second language users.
Perhaps it is time then we started focusing on intelligibility in international contexts rather than imitating a ‘native speaker’ model.
From a practical perspective, using ‘non-native speakers’ as valid models of language (pronunciation included) can have many benefits. For example, it:
- Reflects the reality of the English language and its users – there are at least three times as many ‘non-native speakers’ out there, many of them highly proficient;
- Reflects who many of our students will interact with outside class;
- Can be very motivating – seeing an example of a successful second language user who on top of that speaks the same first language as you do, for example, can help students gain confidence;
- Is a more achievable model – let’s be honest, how many students will actually be able to pass off for ‘native speakers’? (Mind you, not that this should be a valid goal for our students)
- Prepare students for the variety of English(es) out there;
- Avoid native speakerism, or the belief that any ‘native speaker’ is a priori a better model and a better teacher of the language;
- Gives students a choice about how and which English they’d like to use in the future;
- Raises their awareness of the incredible diversity of different Englishes out there.
This is all well and good in theory, but you might be wondering:
- how exactly do I go about it?
- And if I don’t focus on a standard ‘native speaker’ model, which model should I choose to teach pronunciation?
- How do I help my students be more intelligible?
To answer these questions, I recorded for you this video where I explain how you can teach pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca use, promoting students’ intelligibility, rather than a particular ‘native speaker’ model.
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