Stepping into the real world – transitioning listening(From an IATEFL presentation by Sandy Millin of IH Sevastopol)
Sandy talked about the importance of using authentic audio in the class. She pointed out that coursebook audio recordings typically do not reflect the reality of listening outside the class because:
- Authentic conversations include features such as false starts, overlapping turns, repetition, background noise, etc.
- Coursebooks often use a man and a woman to make it easier to identify which speaker is which, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality of listening to a radio programme, for example.
- Coursebooks often do not expose students to a range of voices. This is not just about accents, but also voice quality. For example, listening to a child’s voice is quite different to listening to an adult’s.
In an ELF approach, using authentic audio is very important in order to familiarise students with a wider range of accents than is usually found in coursebooks. This talk made us think that we could also bear Sandy’s points in mind when we’re choosing audio to use in class, to raise students’ awareness of these features of spontaneous speech. You can see Sandy’s slides and listen to her talk here.
Recording students to raise awareness of pronunciation strengths and weaknesses(From an IATEFL presentation by Lesley Curnick of the University of Lausanne)
Lesley described how she uses Moodle and NanoGong, a recording applet, to create an online portfolio of her students’ pronunciation work. At the University of Lausanne, students complete six tasks over a 13-week course, which are recorded using NanoGong and then uploaded to Moodle. The six tasks are as follows:
1. Read a short text allocated by the teacher.
2. Read another short text allocated by the teacher.
3. Talk freely for 30 seconds (part of the task was to write a transcript afterwards of what they had said).
4. Read a text from the student’s field.
5. Read a jazz chant or poem.
6. Re-record the original text from the beginning (step 1).
(Note: For task 3, students were limited to 30 seconds to talk freely to avoid creating an excessive amount of work for the teacher. Students were allowed to re-record a maximum of three times.)
One of the main advantages of using this system is that students can go back and listen to their earlier recordings.
Students were given a marking sheet which they could use to self-assess before the teacher graded their pronunciation. As students became more aware, they wrote more pertinent comments.
We enjoyed Lesley’s presentation and thought of some simple alterations to suit an ELF-oriented approach:
- The marking sheet could list the features of the Lingua Franca Core (LFC) that students most need to work on, in order to make their self-assessment more focused on ELF intelligibility.
- Similarly, the texts allocated by the teacher (in tasks 1-3) could be pre-determined to include features of the LFC likely to be difficult for students from a particular first-language background. (An example of text designed specifically to focus on LFC features can be found at the back of Robin Walker’s book on ELF pronunciation, namely the ‘elicitation paragraph.’)
- In a multilingual class, the students’ recordings could also be used to raise their awareness of features of each other’s pronunciation (although this would need to be handled sensitively).
The NanoGong site gives detailed instructions on how the applet can be used in conjunction with Moodle to set up this type of course.
Pronouncing meaning: rhythm and stress games
(From an IATEFL presentation by Mark Hancock of hancockmcdonald.com)
As always, Mark gave us lots of practical ideas about how to make pronunciation fun and accessible. You can download his slides and handouts here, featuring the games he demonstrated. We would really recommend taking a look at his ideas for:
- A stress maze, which raises students’ awareness of chunks with the same rhythm pattern.
- Response questions, which raises students’ awareness of the role of contrastive stress.
- Stress detectives, which raises students’ awareness of the role of stress to focus on new information.
Mark particularly advised using small chunks featuring easy language to allow students to just focus on the pronunciation.
Another important point he made was not to assume that students can actually hear the difference between different stress patterns. Even if stress and rhythm are used in a similar way to English in students’ own first languages, this does not necessarily automatically transfer over into their English pronunciation.
We would add that certain stress features do not currently feature in research-based recommendations for ELF intelligibility. Word stress, for example, is not included in the Lingua Franca Core. However, while it may be unnecessary for students to focus on producing word stress in a particular way, it may be useful to raise students’ receptive awareness of this area. It is also true that placement of word stress is closely linked to placement of nuclear stress, considered a very important feature for intelligibility in an ELF context. We therefore felt many of Mark Hancock’s activities could be helpful for pronunciation work in an ELF-oriented classroom.
Robin Walker made an interesting point during the Q&A at the end of Tatiana Skopintseva’s presentation (see our reflection on this presentation here). He worked with primary school teachers on chunking in order to read stories to children in their classes. He observed that when the teachers were focusing on meaningful units, it raised their awareness of the difficulties they had with individual consonant sounds because they realised they were pausing in places they didn’t want to pause as a result of these segmental difficulties. Food for thought!