It’s that time again… the IATEFL conference is fast approaching, and we’re looking forward to hearing what people have got to say about ELF and pronunciation.
To our surprise and disappointment, searching the conference programme for “English as a lingua franca” reveals only one session on this topic in the entire conference programme: the annual ELT Journal debate. And only one other session makes passing reference to ELF in its title or abstract: a short talk about native- and non-native speaker teachers and teacher training on Thursday afternoon. There are one or two other sessions which seem to relate to intelligibility, but nothing like last year’s conference offering.
On the bright side, there are a considerable number of sessions in this year’s conference which focus on pronunciation. If you choose to attend any of these, why not browse the ELFpron website beforehand so you can participate with a critical perspective? In our experience, attendees get more out of conference sessions if they have some critical and curious questions in mind.
For example, during pronunciation sessions you might ask yourself:
- Are these activities useful for focusing on areas within the Lingua Franca Core?
- Would my students need to focus on these areas of pronunciation, or are they more suitable for learners aiming for native-like pronunciation?
- What assumptions are made about what is “intelligible”? What are these based on?
Without further ado, here is our selection of this year’s sessions which appear to focus on ELF and/or pronunciation, including ELFpron’s own Laura Patsko, whose workshop will take place on the Wednesday afternoon (details below). Do come and say hello in person if you’re at the conference!
Monday 3 April
ALL DAY – PronSIG Pre-Conference Event: “Pronunciation then and now”
This day won’t focus specifically on ELF, but it’s bound to be mentioned as the focus of the day is a review of historical methods, techniques, trends and topics related to pronunciation teaching. We’ll also be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Daniel Jones’ English Pronouncing Dictionary.
Tuesday 4 April
10:40-11:25 – Adrian Underhill (Forth) – Getting pronunciation out of the head and into the body
Adrian will presumably be working his usual magic, entertaining and informing the audience with his techniques for raising learners’ awareness of the fact that pronunciation is fundamentally a physical skill. Worth attending if you’ve never been to one of his workshops.
12:00-13:05 – ELTj debate, featuring Péter Medgyes and Alessia Cogo (Clyde) – ELF is interesting for researchers, but not important for teachers and learners
We wouldn’t miss this session for the world. Alessia Cogo is one of the foremost published researchers on ELF and pedagogy, not to mention a great presenter and always keen to meet and talk to teachers at conferences (unlike some academics!). It’s really worth going to listen to what she has to say. Péter Medgyes is also a big name in the whole ‘native/non-native speaker teacher’ debate, and caused a stir back in 2014 when he referred to ELF as merely a “trendy concept” in his IATEFL e-bulletin. He stepped down as IATEFL Vice President/President-Elect shortly afterwards. (Click here to read about the pair of articles which prompted his comment.)
15:20-15:50 – Mark McKinnon & Nicola Meldrum (Alsh 2) – Making pronunciation an integral part of your classroom practice
We often talk about the importance of integrating pronunciation into all lessons throughout a course. This session looks likely to focus on this, and we’re excited to see what suggestions they have for classroom practice. The abstract reads: How much pronunciation work takes place in the average EFL classroom? Many teachers would admit that a lot less goes on than they would like. It makes sense that without sufficient mastery of pronunciation, being understood and understanding others is virtually impossible. In this talk, we will cover practical ideas on how to fully integrate pronunciation into your classroom work.
Wednesday 5 April
This day of the conference has a dedicated stream of sessions related to the Pronunciation Special Interest Group (“PronSIG”), so if you’re a pronunciation enthusiast, you could just stay in room “Boisdale 1” all day and you’d probably be quite content!
10:20-10:50 – Mark Hancock (Boisdale 1) – Accent: are we bovvered?
Regular readers of this blog will know that we find accents fascinating. There is such a diverse range of English accents in the world today and it’s not only possible but necessary to address this in the classroom. Laura gave a practical workshop on this topic at the 2015 IATEFL conference and it looks like Mark is going to cover some of the theory behind such an approach in his session this year.
Mark’s abstract reads: Accent can be a problem in English teaching. Which accent do we take as a model? Must it be a native-speaker accent? Must it be a prestige accent? In this session, we will look at how accents vary, both across the UK and in the wider world, and examine some of the implications for English language teaching.
12:25-12:55 – Sarah Grech (Boisdale 1) – Owning English: honing learners’ chances of intelligibility internationally
Here’s one of the few talks in this year’s programme that looks like it might address ELF, even if it doesn’t specify this in the abstract:
This talk explores how far fossilised pronunciation patterns can be challenged in a class of young adults aspiring to use spoken English internationally. It also shows how trained language experts rationalise their notions of intelligibility when listening to learners attempting to accommodate international interlocutors. Practical implications are considered with respect to multilingual contexts.
14:15-15:00 – Laura Patsko (Boisdale 1) – How to give feedback on learners’ pronunciation
ELFpron’s own Laura Patsko is giving this workshop. There is a lot of good advice available nowadays for how to teach pronunciation, including (we like to think) on this blog! But attention is usually focused on introducing or practising certain features, and many teachers are left wondering: how do I then respond to what my students produce? In this workshop, attendees will look at some practical tips and techniques which teachers can use to give feedback on their students’ pronunciation. Naturally, we’ll be taking an ELF perspective when considering what aspects of pronunciation to prioritise.
15:15-15:45 – Adam Scott (Boisdale 1) – Achieving phonology’s potential in the ELT classroom
Adam probably won’t be focusing on ELF, but he’s certainly an engaging speaker and author and it’s well worth attending his session in order to benefit from the reflected glow of his creative ideas for teaching pronunciation!
Here’s his abstract: Phonology is central to language, and the ultimate noticing activity for learners. It has many uses in reading and writing in addition to speaking and listening, but materials, teachers and students undervalue its systemic importance, ignoring its learning potential. This presentation outlines how sound phonological awareness informs wider language development, and offers practical adaptations to CLT that place phonology centre-stage.
16:20-17:05 – Louise Guyett (Boisdale 1) – Designing personalised pronunciation board games for your learners
A PronSIG committee member, Louise is another pron enthusiast and has a particular interest in materials creation. In her practical workshop, she’s going to focus on board games – how to adapt them for pronunciation practice and how to decide what learners need to focus on.
17:20-17:50 – Ewa Wanat & Rachel Smith (Boisdale 1) – Rhythm matters? Rhythmic training techniques for comprehending connected speech
Another session in this year’s programme which doesn’t mention ELF, but which may be relevant. The abstract focuses on comprehension – how to understand connected speech, rather than how to produce it (which many native-oriented approaches would prioritise). We’ll be interested to see what techniques and tips they suggest!
Thursday 6 April
12:00-12:30 – John Field (Argyll 1) – Listening: ways out of the fog
John is an expert in second-language listening and you may be familiar with his view that we should move away from traditional/popular notions of ‘listening for gist’, ‘listening for detail’, etc. in favour of approaches that deal more directly and usefully with the real business of listening – i.e. decoding the stream of speech that we hear. We’re looking forward to hearing his suggestions for identifying English learners’ particular difficulties with listening.
14:00-14:30 – Karin Krummenacher, Daniel Baines & Marek Kiczkowiak (Carron 2) – NESTs and NNESTs: awareness-raising and promoting equality through teacher training
Although the abstract for this session makes passing reference to ELF, it appears to focus more on the problems of native-speakerism within ELT. It’s likely that participants will come away with some ideas for addressing the issues of diversity, identity and accent variation in teacher training courses.
14:00-14:30 – Gemma Archer (Alsh 1) – The other 97%: pronunciation strategies for non-RP-speaking teachers
Gemma is from Scotland and – like most ELT practitioners – does not speak with an accent that is reflected in most ELT materials, either as a model or an example. Her abstract reads: For many years, the dominant pronunciation model in UK teaching resources has been Received Pronunciation, despite the estimation that RP speakers only account for 3% of the population (Crystal, 1983). This talk will focus on both the phonological and pedagogical problems this may pose to the remaining 97% of regional teachers, and share supportive strategies to aid their pronunciation instruction.
14:35-15:05 – Pamela Rogerson-Revell (Alsh 1) – Research into practice: revisiting some more ‘old-fashioned’ notions in pronunciation
We wonder if Pamela will touch on ELF in her talk. Her abstract reads: […] I would like to [discuss] some more old-fashioned or well-established notions in pronunciation. In this talk, I will argue that there is still a need for closer links between phonological research and pronunciation teaching.
16:45-17:15 – Richard Cauldwell (Barra/Jura) – A syllabus for listening: less top-down! More bottom-up
Richard is well-known for making the messy business of listening to authentic speech more accessible to learners. In this session, he’ll talk about how we can help learners “decode the sound substance of recordings”, truly teaching them to listen, as opposed to merely testing what they managed to understand.
Friday 7 April
09:00-10:00 – Jane Setter (Clyde) – PLENARY: Where angels fear to tread: intonation in English language teaching
There could be no better start to the last day of the conference than Professor Jane Setter giving the morning plenary. Some 15 years ago, Laura was lucky enough to be taught by Jane on her undergraduate degree in linguistics, and it’s no coincidence that her specialist subject is now the same as Jane’s. Jane’s expertise, enthusiasm and guidance has strongly influenced Laura’s career and research in English linguistics. We wouldn’t miss her plenary for the world.
(Note: A follow-up Q&A session with Jane will take place in Alsh 1 from 11:05-11:35, if you’d like to discuss intonation in ELT or any aspect of second language phonology, phonology in global Englishes, and pronunciation teaching and learning.)
10:20-10:50 – Catarina Pontes (Carron 1) – Using e-portfolios to develop pronunciation teaching via an awareness-raising framework
One of the most important aspects of developing pronunciation skills is to be self-aware. In this session, Catarina will use her experience of e-portfolios to demonstrate how teachers can develop awareness of their own pronunciation and the influence this has on the quality of their teaching.