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Pronunciation: The "Cinderella" of
Language Teaching
by Dimitrios Thanasoulas

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c) Sociocultural factors

People from some cultural backgrounds (for example, speakers of Japanese or Chinese) often think that it is impossible for them to pronounce English well. In some cases, improving pronunciation may be frowned upon within some communities, and the EFL learners might be discouraged from making any progress. If English, let's say, is associated with invasion and oppression, then it may be very difficult for learners to master the language.

d) Mother tongue influence

Among other things, the sound system of learners' mother tongue might be trasnferred into the foreign language in the following ways:

1) When there is a sound in the foreign language, which is absent from the native sound inventory, or vice versa, learners might be incapable of producing or even perceiving the sound.

2) Sound combination rules, which are different from those obtaining in the native language, might also present a difficulty for learners.

3) Suprasegmental (prosodic) patterns might also be transferred from the native language (Avery & Ehrlich, 1992).

e) Setting realistic goals

Attempting to completely eradicate a foreign accent in an EFL class is an unrealistic goal. It would be more reasonable to bring learners up to a point where they do not make pronunciation mistakes that would affect their being understood. As long as pronunciation does not impede successful communication, it should be considered acceptable. Once again, "native speaker" norms should not be the yardstick against which to assess learners' pronunciation performance.

f) Pedagogic factors

In general, EFL teachers must make sure that:

• learners produce large quantities of sentences by themselves;

• learners hear many different native models (in other words, they should be exposed to a wide variety of vernacular dialects and different pronunciations);

• learners receive feedback;

• suprasegmentals (amplitude, duration and pitch) are emphasised;

• learners should feel relaxed in the language learning setting (Kenworthy, 1987; Eskenazi, 1999).

Principles of effective pronunciation teaching

Bearing the above factors in mind, teachers should follow some pronciples of effective pronunciation teaching. In particular:

1. They should learn to describe pronunciation and show how foreign language sounds are physically articulated (Phonetic or phonemic symbols can come in handy).

2. They should record their learners' speech and have them listen to recordings of themselves.

3. They should be aware of their own pronunciation. (A teacher's accent may be different from the Received Pronunciation, which students may think to be correct).

4. They should create a non-threatening, confidence-raising atmosphere.

5. They should teach pronunciation a little at a time (presenting segmentals first, then suprasegmentals).

6. They should set realistic goals.

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