Going to IATEFL 2017?


iatefl-glasgow-penantIt’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.


Live Q&A event with Laura Patsko and Martin Dewey


Today I had the pleasure of hosting a live teacher development event with my colleague at King’s College London, Dr. Martin Dewey. The topic was “Teaching English as a Lingua Franca”. Martin specialises in teacher knowledge and beliefs (particularly about language use), and I – of course – specialise in accents and pronunciation. Together, we answered questions as they came in from teachers around the world who were attending this Cambridge English Teacher event.

You can watch a video recording of this event here or by clicking on the image below: https://www.facebook.com/CamEngTeacher/videos/1820055328208283/

Please note that the event begins about 6 minutes after the video begins (when the time remaining shows -33:11).

ELF - Cambridge English Teacher event

Some of the questions we attempted to answer were:

  • If not a native-speaker model, what should we refer to?
  • Isn’t “adjustment in an ELF setting” just what we’ve always known as “accommodation”?
  • How do we combat the fear of decline as English spreads and perhaps simplifies?
  • What’s the difference/Where’s the boundary between ‘misuse’ of English in an ELF context and the formation of a new English dialect?
  • What would you suggest if, during a lesson in an EFL context, a student comes up with some ‘ELF expressions’, would you accept it or disregard it or consider it a mistake?
  • Will examination boards eventually accept such variation?
  • Will globalisation definitely lead to simplification? (Will the third-person ‘s’ disappear? Will ‘th’ sounds vanish?)

If you’re a member or guest user of Cambridge English Teacher, you can also go here to read the summary and watch the trailer that were posted before the event: http://www.cambridgeenglishteacher.org/resource-details/2455/english-lingua-franca

Thanks to all who attended!


Thank you, Fortaleza!


Thanks to everybody who attended Laura’s plenary at the 11th ABCI conference in Fortaleza on 21 July 2016.

Here’s the full description of her talk from the conference website:

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 17.07.55

You can watch a video of the presentation here, or by copying and pasting the following link [https://youtu.be/xeqfDkQbt6w] into your browser:

You can download her slides by clicking the link below:

ABCI conference plenary slides – Laura Patsko 21 July 2016

And here are direct links to the things she mentioned in the presentation which are described in more detail on this website:

If you’ve got questions or comments, feel free to leave them below, or to contact Laura through the “meet and contact us” link in the navigation menu on this page.


Coming soon to Fortaleza…


ELFpron’s Laura Patsko is presenting in Brazil next month! If you’re going to be at the 11th ABCI Conference in Fortaleza, don’t miss Laura’s plenary, entitled “Bad rabbits and mouse traps: Making sense of pronunciation for Brazilian students”.

[Update, Sept 2016: video of this presentation now available here.)

Here’s the full abstract from the ABCI website:

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 17.07.55

Hope to see you there!


Coming soon to Barcelona…


If you’re planning to be in Barcelona this weekend and can make it to the Innovate ELT conference, don’t miss Laura’s opening plenary on Saturday morning (7th May 2016, 9:30am)!

Here’s the full abstract:

In addition to conversation, jokes, poetry, songs and other enjoyable everyday things, language is used to make money, exert power and assert ownership. But can a language really belong to anyone? English is used by millions of people around the world – but exactly whose language are we teaching?

Hope to see you there!


Going to IATEFL 2016?


Birmingham_Logo_webHere’s our annual round-up of the talks which – according to the information in the official conference programme – appear to be related to pronunciation/listening for ELF, or ELF in general.

Oh, and by the way – Laura will be attending this year’s conference, so look out for her! We’re always happy to chat about issues surrounding pron teaching and English as a lingua franca.

Wednesday 13 April

10:40-11:25 – Hugh Dellar (Hall 1) – English futures: retooling teaching for tomorrow’s learners

It’s not super-clear in the programme how ELF-oriented this talk will be, but the abstract reads: “As a global lingua franca, English is seen as a vital ’21st Century skill’. However, the real future needs for English will be at the high proficiency end and the low, with little need in the middle. This raises questions about our inherited 20th Century approach to teaching grammar rules and word lists. I aim to unpick these thorny issues.”

12:35-13:05 – Hassan Qutub (Hall 10a) – Arab EFL teachers: foreign accent strength and pronunciation corrective feedback

The abstract for this session reads: “This talk aims to present some parts of a doctoral research work in progress. I, the researcher, have looked at the relationship between EFL teachers’ degree of foreign accent and their perceptions of accented speech. I have also investigated the relationship between Arab EFL teachers’ degree of foreign accent and their views of providing pronunciation corrective feedback in the classroom.”

We’re curious to see how the researcher defined and assessed the “degree of foreign accent” of the teachers in this research.

16:00-16:45 – Rudi Camerer & Judith Mader (Andante) – Cultural concepts and language: progressing from EFL to ELF?

At last year’s conference, the room for Rudi Camerer’s talk was completely packed, and it seems they’ve given him a marginally bigger room this year (70 people capacity). The abstract for this session in the conference programme reads: “Is English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) really a language without cultural roots? And will using English globally always be successful, as long as both parties speak it “well”? There is empirical evidence to the contrary. What does this mean for the teaching (and testing) of English? Practical examples and teaching suggestions for written and oral communication will be given.”

16:00-16:45 – Maria Parker, Carson Maynard & Brenda Imber (Hall 10a) – Assessing intelligibility: teacher-friendly materials and activities

The conference abstract for this session acknowledges how problematic the notion intelligibility is, given that it is so dependent on who is speaking to whom. And of course, a major focus of this very blog is the fact that native-speaker listeners are increasingly unlikely to be the judges of L2 speakers’ intelligibility in today’s world. So we’re a bit disappointed to see that the speakers in this session nevertheless focus on “NS audio models” to assess L2 speakers’ intelligibility.

Here’s the full abstract: “Intelligibility is “a moving target, depending on the interlocutors … and other elements of context” (Levis 2010). Yet teachers must provide actionable recommendations and measure student progress. Using a free web resource featuring NS audio models of high-frequency lexical bundles, participants will assess selected pronunciation features of NNS recordings, compare responses, and discuss how to curate provided materials to their own settings.”

Thursday 14 April

12:30-13:00 – Lewis Lansford (Hall 5) – The world’s language: using authentic non-native input in the classroom

This speaker looks likely to cover a topic we’ve also blogged about – using authentic recordings of proficient L2 speakers in class to help learners accommodate to a wider variety of English accents than the native speaker varieties which typically feature in coursebooks. (Here’s a post Katy wrote featuring numerous TED talk videos, and here’s another post Laura wrote featuring a lesson plan to follow to develop learners’ ability to understand different accents.) The abstract for this session reads: “Globally, the majority of English-language conversations don’t involve a native speaker. Using TED talks by non-native English speakers, this session will explore these questions: What are the teaching implications of English as a Lingua Franca? How should we approach non-standard or ungrammatical input? What materials prepare learners for real-world communication?”

17:25-17:55 – Robin Walker (Executive Room 2) – They don’t do Scottish accents

Robin’s work has greatly influenced ours, and we’re happy to see that he has a session focusing on accents and variation in pronunciation in this year’s conference. (We’re less happy to see that the room only has a capacity of 50 people! Do IATEFL really predict that this session will be so unpopular?) Here’s the full abstract: “When you are learning a new language, the last thing you want to have to deal with are different accents. Or is it? Accent variation is the reality of living languages, and this is especially true of today’s globalized English. This talk explores how we can deal with accents in the ELT classroom. Or should we just stick to RP?”

17:25-18:30 – Marek Kiczkowiak, Christopher Graham, Burcu Akyol & Josh Round (Hall 11a) – Forum on “Tackling native-speakerism: NNS, recruitment, teacher training and research perspectives”

Though not strictly about ELF or pronunciation, this forum is likely to cover topics of relevance to this blog. Here’s the full abstract: “Native speakerism is the belief in the inherent linguistic and instructional superiority of native speakers (NS). It leads to discrimination of non-native English speakers (NNS) in ELT through unfair hiring policies. This presentation addresses this problem from NNS, recruitment, teacher training and research perspectives advocating an ELT industry which values qualifications, experience and professionalism over a teacher’s native language.”

Friday 15 April

11:00-11:30 – Dita Phillips (Executive Room 7) – I’m a non-native English-speaking teacher — hear me roar!

Like the forum above, this talk doesn’t seem to focus explicitly on ELF or pronunciation, but it does cover relevant and related areas of thought. The abstract reads: “How do non-native English-speaking teachers see themselves? Is ‘nativeness’ an issue teachers worry about? Could this impact on their development? What can teacher educators do to combat the native/non-native speaking teacher dichotomy and empower non-native English-speaking teachers? This talk will offer some answers based on the presenter’s experience with pre- and in-service teacher training courses.”

16:50-17:20 – Sheila Thorn (Hall 8b) – NESs write and speak English perfectly: exposing the myth

Another session that’s not strictly about ELF or pronunciation, but addresses the unrealistic, unhelpful and unnecessary nature of comparing native and non-native uses of English: “There is a perception amongst non-native teachers of ESOL that NESs have a perfect grasp of the English language. I shall demonstrate that this is definitely
not the case using authentic recordings and written texts. In light of this evidence we shall discuss whether teachers put themselves and their students under too much pressure to speak and write English perfectly.”

Saturday 16 April

9:00-10:10 – Scott Thornbury (plenary session, Hall 1)

Scott will be offering a critical history of ELT over the past 50 years, including questioning the notion of Standard English and suggesting the possibility of “re-configuring EFL/ELT/ESL/TESOL as simple LE: language education.”

10:25-10:55 – Tatiana Tkacukova (Executive Room 9) – Assessing language proficiency in English as a lingua franca

The abstract for this session reads: “The talk discusses the implications of the research into English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) for language proficiency assessment and the provision of English language teaching. The materials analysed draw upon video-conferencing sessions of international students from two European universities. The analysis shows strategies used by students with various degrees of proficiency for effective communication in ELF.”

11:10-11:40 – Yumi Hato, Katsunori Kanzawa, Nic Underhill, Yasushi Tsubota, Haruhiko Mitsunaga (Executive Room 7) – Developing a CBT speaking test of ELF

The abstract for this session reads: “This presentation reports on the development of a computer-based speaking test at Kyoto Institute of Technology, designed to assess university students learning English as a lingua franca. The evolution of the test specification, format and rating scales will be discussed, focusing on its secondary aim of creating positive washback for the teaching and learning of English in the ‘expanding circle’.”

One thing that strikes us when compiling this list is the low expectations IATEFL seem to have regarding interest in ELF. For example, the rooms for Saturday’s talks can only accommodate under 50 people (only 20 people in Executive Room 9!). The exception is Lewis Lansford’s talk on Thursday. It will be interesting to see how many people attend this session!