This post is just a quick one to mention an article by Katy and Laura which was recently published in issue 51 of Speak Out!, the newsletter of the IATEFL Pronunciation Special Interest Group (PronSIG).
Back in April 2014 at the IATEFL conference in Harrogate, we were invited by Robin Walker (editor of Speak Out!) to take part in a two-part journal-style debate (similar to the well-known ‘Point and Counterpoint‘ format in ELTj) with Frans Hermans, a teacher at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.
The principle of such a pair of articles is simple: one puts forward an argument(s) reflecting one view on a particular issue (in this case, the importance of teaching students to adopt native-like pronunciation); the other article argues another side(s) of the matter.
Below, you can read the introductory paragraphs of these two articles. If you’d like to read our original article in full, feel free to contact us and we’ll gladly send you a PDF.
POINT: ‘Near-native pronunciation? Who cares?’ (Frans Hermans)
It will be hard to find a Dutchman under 50 years old who is not able to understand and speak English. Dutch pupils in secondary education spend about 4 hours a week studying grammar, reading texts, listening to conversations and giving presentations, all in English, and that for four to six years. They even study cultural and historical aspects of the English speaking world. Music, films and playing online computer games all add to a better understanding of the English language. The quality of most Dutch vowels and consonants are quite close to the quality of many English vowels and consonants. Most of the time an English utterance produced with Dutch vowel and consonant qualities will still be easily understood by native speakers of English. Phonological interference does not automatically make a Dutchman’s English unintelligible. However, why is it so easy to recognise a Dutchman as being Dutch while he is speaking English?
COUNTERPOINT: ‘Learner needs and goals: Who cares?’ (Laura Patsko & Katy Simpson)
In his article ‘Near-native pronunciation: Who cares?’ Frans Hermans rightly raises a key issue in pronunciation teaching today: which models, goals and priorities are appropriate for English language learners in this globalising world? He poses a number of questions on these topics, but he also makes a number of implicit assumptions and explicit assertions which beg further questions in their turn, not least because such attitudes may perpetuate ignorance and prejudice about variation, acceptability and intelligibility. In this response, we will expose the unstable foundations of Hermans’ arguments by exploring some answers to his questions and posing a few of our own.
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Robin and Frans for engaging with us in such an important and interesting discussion.