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Introducing Voice-Setting Phonology by Sarn Rich
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Explanation for my professional interest
I am drawn to the teaching of voice-setting phonology by my experiences both as a teacher, and as a learner.

The first time I taught a class of beginners (ILC Prague, 1992) the coursebook was 'Flying Colours' (Greenall 1990). This introduced the phonemic script and spellings of all vocabulary from the outset, and included work on stress and intonation. However, the progress the learners made in other areas always seemed far ahead of their pronunciation. In fact their pronunciation seemed little better than that of other beginners I taught who were following the 'Cambridge English Course'.(2) Since then, other teaching experiences with a segmental, bottom up approach to phonology have confirmed this initial impression that the time expended can be disproportional to the results.
On the other hand, with learners not yet familiarised with phonemic script I have found an even greater inclination to translate the sounds of L2 into sounds of Li. For example, a Pole might enter 'melancholy' as 'melankoli' in a vocabulary notebook as a reminder of how to pronounce the word, but the Polish spelling conventions will encourage a 'Polish-ish' pronunciation. Arguing for a top-down approach to phonology teaching, O'Connor suggests 'better results are achieved when the learner gets the basis of articulation right rather than trying for the foreign sound sequences from the basis of his own language (1973:289 in Thornbury 1993: 128-9).

As a learner I have made most progress in pronunciation when I have thrown myself into the role of an L2 speaker. I learnt this approach in Latin lessons (oddly enough), as a teenager: the teacher encouraged us to pronounce Latin in an exaggerated Italian accent, insisting that we conclude words such as 'amo' with an Italian 'o' rather than an English /~ti/. Having found this helpful in my own learning, I have suggested to learners (e.g. Japanese learners on short courses in Britain) that they 'think themselves into English', for example by using simple but typical-sounding words and phrases ('Good', 'Sorry', 'Thank you') in situations where they would normally use Li. Seeing the approach as one of getting into role (or at least easing oneself out of an Li role) I have also looked for ideas in books dealing with drama techniques in the classroom, though most practical suggestions seem to be scattered in a variety of other sources.

I have not yet tried any of the activities outlined in the Appendix, but feel they probably suit my teaching style, as many involve the learner in discovering rules for him/herself and thinking about the learning process. Several also draw on roleplay, which I enjoy using in the classroom, finding it an effective way to ease learners out of Li- into L2-speaking behaviour.


Experiment objectives
I intend to try a selection of the activities, adapting some of them, to
- improve the learners' general English pronunciation.
- help focus the learners' thoughts on English pronunciation, to improve their noticing and awareness.
- clarify L1/L2 differences in a way that helps the learners to adopt an appropriate voice-setting when speaking English.
- (if there is time) improve the learners' ability to identify and to convey thoughts and emotion expressed through English voice-setting.

To find out to what extent these objectives have been met, I shall
- listen to recordings of the learners speaking at the beginning and at the end of the lesson.
- at the end of the lesson, discuss with the learners, having let them know at the beginning that the activities are experiments, for the learners to evaluate.
- get a general impression of how the learners respond to each activity, and how their voice-setting skills develop.


Evaluation of approaches followed in the experiment, and considerations for future inclusion in my teaching
Listening to five languages drew some useful and wide-ranging observations, expressed in terms decided by the learners themselves ('strong' 'soft' 'melodic' 'all the same'). This was useful, though it might be difficult for lower level learners to discuss, unless they do so in
L1. It would be interesting to try the activity in a multilingual class, to see whether the learners have the same impressions of other languages.

The questionnaire was a good introduction to the lesson. In future I might change question 1, since these learners' responses ('When foreigners mispronounce Spanish I think it's funny.') might suggest that they could become objects of amusement when they mispronounce English (like Manuel in 'Fawlty Towers'), and so make them nervous of speaking. The last question elicited some common phrases ('Anyway' 'It doesn't matter...), and is probably suitable at all levels (perhaps for homework), since most learners are exposed to English in films and the media. In future (especially in Britain) I will follow this up by encouraging learners to 'think themselves into English', by using the expressions in everyday situations out of class.

Speaking Spanish in an English accent generated the most laughter. My impression was that the learners did it well and exercised their mouths very usefully. The learners themselves agreed that it was the most enjoyable activity of the lesson, but thought it not the most useful. In future I shall include it in my teaching with learners of all levels, and ensure that it keeps to a few minutes.

I was surprised at how poorly the learners tackled the bilingual minimal pairs. I speak no Spanish myself (I drew up the pairs with the help of a phrasebook.) and had forgotten that English contains far more distinctions between vowel sounds than Spanish, making the sounds involved in this exercise far easier for me than for them to discriminate and to produce. However the learners did not appear to be at all demotivated by the task, but were intrigued when I read out the English words that there were such distinctions. We agreed that this was a useful exercise.
For the future I will have to consider that finding the pairs may be difficult in some languages, and make clear the purpose of the exercise, being to draw out general distinctions between Li and L2 rather than a more segmental approach of examining each word in detail.

Watching the video, the learners quickly identified the language from the speakers' mouthshape and were pleased to see their assumptions confirmed - that English-speakers hardly open our mouths. This, and Jenner's suggestion about putting a penlid between the lips, is a quick and motivating activity I shall make use of again.
We also discussed Honikman's suggestion for arranging the articulatory organs, but the learners were less convinced of its usefulness, perhaps because it leads away from what learners can discover for themselves to ideas expressed by an external authority.

The learners also did very well at identifying relationships from body language and voice- setting.(3) Discussing their deductions from a video clip was a very useful way to focus on particular linguistic and paralinguistic (and cultural) clues.

The learners were most impressed by shadow reading, and wanted to keep practising and practising. By the end their jaws ached, which we agreed probably indicated that they had been well and usefully exercised.


Conclusion
Our overall impression was that all the activities explored were useful and that the experiment objectives had been met. This was incidentally confirmed by comparing recordings of the English spoken by the learners at the beginning and the end of the lesson.

As in other areas, I feel that top-down and bottom-up approaches to phonology teaching are naturally complementary, and look forward to experimenting with the combination over the period of an entire course.

Notes
(1)My own feeling is that pronunciation teaching (and English teaching in general) should not be seen as inevitably a threat to whatever language(s) the learner has already, but as offering something extra. The idea that it is bound to undermine native languages and identities appears to rest on the mistaken assumption that monolingualism is the norm. In fact, despite what the world minority of native English-speakers might take for granted, multi-lingualism is quite common, and the learning of additional languages and pronunciations is not necessarily threatening or morally problematic.

(2)This is not necessarily to suggest any deficiency in Flying Colours' as a coursebook, only that in my hands its emphasis on pronunciation did not prove as successful as I had hoped.

(3)They quickly deduced from a very brief extract that the characters were a brother and sister who had not seen each other for a long time because of animosity between the brother's wife and his sister.

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