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Five reasons for teaching pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca use

You have probably heard quite a lot recently about teaching pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca use. I’ve written quite a lot about it too.

So perhaps you’ve been wondering why: Why would I change how I teach pronunciation? Why would I start teaching pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca use?

In this video I give you 5 reasons.

What is pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca use?

Also known as Lingua Franca Core, LFC, it’s a list of pronunciation features identified by researchers that are really important to be easy to understand in international contexts.

This list includes features like vowel length, or consonants (except th), but not connected speech or vowel quality, for example.

If you’re new to the topic and not sure what pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca use means, I’d recommend watching this video

I’d also highly recommend checking out ELFpron blog and Robin Walker’s excellent book “Teaching pronunciation of English as a Lingua Franca”.

So why teach pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca use?

First, it’s based on research.

You’re not using your gut feeling to decide which pronunciation features are important and which aren’t. The evidence comes from studies conducted in various contexts over the last two decades.

What does this research involve?

  1. Researchers record conversations in international settings, where English is the lingua franca of choice.
  2. They identify instances of misunderstanding.
  3. Then identify those to do with pronunciation.
  4. Finally, they identify which pronunciation feature caused the misunderstanding.

This allows them to find those features that if mispronounced, can often lead to misunderstandings.

Reason number 2: teaching pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca can lead to better results.

Studies show that students’ pronunciation improves more when the focus is on Lingua Franca Core.

How do we know?

Researchers divide students into two groups:

  1. one gets taught using a standard RP or GA pronunciation syllabus.
  2. The other gets taught using the Lingua Franca Core syllabus.

Same number of hours, same teaching techniques.

Turns out that those taught using a Lingua Franca Core syllabus get better results.

So if you want to help your students be more intelligible, perhaps choose teaching pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca use.

For more information, take a look at this research paper.

Reason 3: Lingua Franca Core gives students an achievable and appropriate model to imitate.

Let’s face it, 99% of adult learners will not be able to attain a ‘native-like’. Especially not in the typical few-hours–a-week setting in a language school.

Currently, however, the way we teach pronunciation does assume that our learners should aim to get as close as possible to a (standard) ‘native-like’ accent.

Therefore, teaching them pronunciation like that sets an unachievable objective. It sets most students up for failure.

It also sets an inappropriate goal. There’s no reason why students need to sound like ‘native speakers’. As David Crystal put it in this interview, only spies need to completely lose their L1 accent!

They can sound like wherever they’re from. Your accent is part of your linguistic identity.

So the goal should shift to developing clear pronunciation.

Reason 4: Lingua Franca Core focuses on the sounds students need in order to have clear pronunciation.

When teaching vocab, you’d probably want to focus on the words that are most relevant to your students, right? Words that are most frequent. Words that helps your students use English more effectively in the situations they’ll be using English in.

Of course, you could try to teach them all the words, but that’s impossible. And irrelevant. And counterproductive

It’s the same with pronunciation.

We want to teach students the sounds that are the most important for clear pronunciation.

Sounds that will helps students speak more clearly.

Sounds that will help students be easy to understand to the widest group of listeners possible.

And pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca use provides just that.

Reason 5: teaching pronunciation for English as a Lingua Franca use helps address native speakerism.

Native speakerism is an ideology that positions certain individuals as linguistically and pedagogically superior based on their perceived belonging to the ‘native speaker’ group.

And I’m stressing perceived here, because defining who a ‘native speaker’ is can be quite problematic. Unfortunately, in ELT the image of a ‘native speaker’ is associated with someone white and Western-looking.

One of the fundamental beliefs supporting native speakerism is the idea that native speakers are better models of pronunciation.

And by extension better teachers.

So by asking our students to imitate and aspire to a standard ‘native speaker’ pronunciation, we’re further perpetuating this idea.

We’re in effect telling our students that they need to sound like this ‘native speaker’ on the recording to have good pronunciation.

Anything short of that is bad.

This clearly further perpetuates native speakerism.

So in this video I gave you 5 reasons why you want to teach pron for English as a Lingua Franca use. If you want to learn more about this, learn how to teach English for global communication and tackle native speakerism, check out my courses on TEFL Equity Academy.

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