Ten non-native English speaker models

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“The continuing expansion of Internet accessibility enhances possibilities for working with intelligible and comprehensible non-native English speech samples that were unimaginable a mere decade ago.” (Murphy, 2014: 267)

That’s John Murphy of Georgia State University in his research “Intelligible, comprehensible non-native models in ESL / EFL pronunciation teaching” (System 42 (2014) 258-269). He investigated what contributes to a speaker’s intelligibility and comprehensibility (two sticky terms) to explore whether Spanish actor Javier Bardem could be used by students as a speech role model. Murphy’s article includes a useful list of recordings of non-native speakers of English who could serve as models – someone for students to listen to and imitate. We’re grateful to Robin Walker for drawing our attention to this article, which is explained in more detail on his blog. The idea of speech role models is also explored on Angus Grieve-Smith’s blog.

Here are links to interviews with ten of Murphy’s suggested models:

Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General L1: Akan / Kru

Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General
L1: Akan / Kru

 

Felipe Calderon, former President of Mexico L1: Mexican Spanish

Felipe Calderon, former President of Mexico
L1: Mexican Spanish

Thierry Henry, professional footballer L1: French

Thierry Henry, professional footballer
L1: French

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, director, World Bank L1: Indonesian

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, director, World Bank
L1: Indonesian

 

Jehan Sadat, former Egyptian 1st Lady L1: Egyptian Arabic

Jehan Sadat, former Egyptian 1st Lady
L1: Egyptian Arabic

Bernard-Henri Levy, philosopher and activist L1: French

Bernard-Henri Levy, philosopher and activist
L1: French

 

Tu Wei-Ming, philosopher and activist L1: Chinese

Tu Wei-Ming, philosopher and activist
L1: Chinese

 

Jorge Ramos, broadcaster and author L1: Mexican Spanish

Jorge Ramos, broadcaster and author
L1: Mexican Spanish

Ken Watanabe, actor L1: Japanese

Ken Watanabe, actor
L1: Japanese

Shen Wei, choreographer L1: Chinese

Shen Wei, choreographer
L1: Chinese

 

Murphy’s article is available here but only if you have institutional or personal access to the journal System. However, if you email jmmurphy@gsu.edu Murphy is happy to send you a pdf, and we are grateful to him for doing so.

 

katybannernew

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12 thoughts on “Ten non-native English speaker models

  1. Thanks for the post. I’m really curious about the article so I’ve emailed Murphy 🙂
    I’m interested in the subject as I recently launched a blog to campaign against the discrimination of non-Native English Speaker Teachers (NNESTs) in TEFL/TESL industry: http://www.teflequityadvocates.com One of the most common arguments from recruiters – when their policy of only employing NESTs (Native English Speaker Teachers) is questioned – is that the students will learn ‘bad’ pronunciation from NNESTs, i.e. only NESTs can provide a ‘correct’ model. With the emergence of ELF it is obvious that such justification does not hold water.
    I was wondering if you would like to write an article for the TEFL Equity Advocates blog about the role of ELF in teaching, and its impact on the NEST/NNEST debate. You can get in touch with me through the blog or via email: marek_kiczkowiak@hotmail.com
    I’ve posted a link to this blog in Resources – Other blogs page so that the readers on my blog can access it as well 🙂
    Best,

    Marek

  2. Pingback: Ten non-native English speaker models | Pronunc...

  3. I think the use of non-native speakers as role-models is absolutely valid, here are a number of reasons:
    – English has become the Lingua Franca, and there are more non-native speakers, than native-speakers. Thus, it´s important to have role-models whose first language is not English, but who are fluent in English.
    – Becoming accustomed to a variety of non-native accents, provides listeners/learners with a greater array of listening experiences, which will stand them in god stead for the future. In all probability, these same learners will probably interact more often with other non-native speakers.
    – This brings into play the fact that role-models can be found in ones own culture, within ones own country, interests, etc. Thus providing (perhaps) greater motivation.

  4. Pingback: Ten non-native English speaker models | ELF Pronunciation

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  6. An interesting post and an interesting article. I certainly see the value in non-native English speaker role models, but I feel that the biggest hurdle may be convincing students to adopt such a role model. I published a paper in 2010 investigating Japanese university students’ perceptions of Ken Watanabe as a pronunciation role model compared to two other native speaker models (interestingly, using the very same Youtube video of Watanabe that Murphy lists in his article). My finding was that, although the students generally appeared to recognise that Watanabe’s pronuciation was comprehensible and more achievable for them than the native speaker pronuciations they heard, they also found it considerably less attractive.

    You can access the article for free here:

    http://r-cube.ritsumei.ac.jp/bitstream/10367/3449/1/Journal%20of%20Asia%20TEFL_Eoin_Jordan.pdf

    • Thanks for sharing your findings, Eoin. That’s a really interesting paper. And it’s so important for students’ own voices to be included in the debate. I’ve often wondered if ‘attractiveness’ is too vague a term – it would be interesting to follow up the survey you administered with interviews to delve deeper into the students’ understanding of this. For example, did they feel attracted to the speaker in some way, or perceive his accent as an attractive option for their own pronunciation? What is it that they consider attractive about any accent, English or Japanese? And so on. Personally, I like Watanabe’s accent. 🙂

      Seriously, though, since the orthodoxy of ELT (for teachers and learners alike) has been so NS-focused for so long, it’s perhaps true that it will be a while before more students are happy to accept as role models those who aren’t L1 speakers of English – and as the issues involved are so complex, that probably shouldn’t be surprising! What’s more, I think teachers themselves, as well as published materials, perpetuate the prestige associated with NS pronunciation to the point where learners are a bit brainwashed, for want of a better term. If everything around you constantly tells you that your efforts at English pronunciation will never be as good as the effortless NS varieties, it starts to feel true and it’s hard to dissent.

      Thanks again for sharing your work!
      Laura

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