Send the maid – Is Pronunciation Just anoder Coggy in da Will?
I bet you might be trying to make sense of the phonics above. I wonder how you think this
might impair one’s understanding.
Of the many factors which contribute to how well a person speaks English, pronunciation
seems to be really salient. Consequently, I believe that having a sound knowledge of pronunciation
is important for a number of reasons. Such knowledge makes you aware of the sounds/features
non-existent in L1 – Brazilian Portuguese (BP). Secondly, by dealing appropriately with
pronunciation, one can spot their weaknesses and self correct them. Finally, good pronunciation is
instrumental in developing listening/speaking skills.
According to Gower (1995:153) ‘working on pronunciation is important for two main reasons: to
help learners understand the spoken English they hear, and to help them make their own speech more
comprehensible and meaningful to others’. It is known that English has its own distinctive melodies
and rhythms, based on its particular intonation, rhythm, sequence of pitches and stress patterns.
However, until recently little attention had been given to the idea that to be correctly understood
when speaking English, students need to get as close as possible in their pronunciation to nativespeakers.
A provocative question is: would the success of communication be dictated by the level
of intelligibility determined by native-speakers?
Kenworthy (1987) lists a number of factors that can directly affect pronunciation Learning.
For a start, the native language will be the most influential factor affecting pronunciation. The
more L1 differs from L2, the more difficulties learners will face. The English and BP phonological
systems are different. Consequently, since a native-like accent is not the goal, knowing both
phonological systems seems to be necessary, at least, to achieve a comfortable level of
intelligibility. The amount of exposure is another important factor. Yet, the length of exposure is not
the issue, instead, the quality and intensity of exposure that will help learners achieve their goals.
Attitude to pronunciation may also contribute to pronunciation as a learner with a positive attitude
towards native speakers stands a better chance to develop their pronunciation. As for motivation
and concern for good pronunciation, some students are not concerned about their pronunciation
whilst others have the intrinsic motivation that triggers automatic development of pronunciation.
Perhaps, the most cogent argument for teaching pronunciation is the fact it is an important
key to fluency. Kenworthy mentions that we have to ‘open our learners’ ears’ and make them aware
that although a native-like pronunciation is neither necessary nor desirable, we must have
intelligibility as a goal.
It is clear pronunciation work is a process during which learners’ individual agenda should
be respected as they have their own pace and timing to start noticing and then, start producing.
Therefore, awareness raising/recognition activities should come before production takes place. As
educators, we should allay our fears when confronted with pronunciation work in class, work on it
at regular basis and provide learners with appropriate exposure to curb pronunciation issues BP
English Speakers might face.
Finally, a relevant reason for helping learners improve pronunciation is their own desire to
do it. And, the answer for a rhetorical question of ‘’Why help learners with pronunciation?’’ is simply
the fact that they need, want and enjoy it. It is up to us to ‘send them aid’ to get it ‘right’ as
opposed to ‘write’.
Gilbert, J. B. Clear Speech – Pronunciation and Listening Comprehension in North American
English. Cambridge University Press, 1993
Gower, R.; Phillips, D. and Walters, S. Teaching Practice Handbook. Heinemann, 1995
Kelly, G. How to Teach Pronunciation. Longman, 2000
Kenworthy, J. Teaching English Pronunciation. Longman, 1995
Sheperd, D. Ed. Learner English – A teacher’s guide to interference and other problems.
Cambridge University Press, 1987
Underhill, A. Sound Foundations. Macmillan Heinemann, 1994