Pronunciation is an area in teaching that could be quite demanding. This area in English language teaching has evolved as a very significant component over the years. English pronunciation could prove to be quite confusing not only for language learners but also the teachers. If we have a closer look at what this topic entails then one would find that it is vast.
In the past amount of time given to pronunciation in language teaching was almost negligible. In the recent years with English becoming a global language this area has gained more prominence than expected. Now days though we talk about the importance of pronunciation but still the approach towards teaching it is more theoretical than practical as we can see in many countries. There could be several reasons accrued to this particular approach. One of the major reasons is that sometimes it is difficult to assess where to begin and where to end- hence it is daunting to know what exactly should incorporated in a particular lesson. This problem is further aggravated for the simple reason that English is not only spoken by native speakers but by the speakers of other languages all over the world.
Often it is found that learners think that pronunciation can help them to speak like a British or American. As a language teacher it is important to make learners aware of the importance of pronunciation in terms of tangibility. One cannot over look or ignore the fact that there is a considerable difference between a learner’s mother tongue and English, moreover there are various areas for example: assimilation and elision which comes naturally to a native speaker but is quite difficult for a non-native speaker to acquire.
Students should be given choice while they are learning English so that they can use it in international contexts with other non-native speakers from different first languages- they should be given the choice of acquiring a pronunciation that is more relevant to EIL intelligibility rather than what traditional pronunciation syllabuses offer. Up to now, the goal of pronunciation teaching has been to enable students to acquire an accent that is as close as possible to that of a native speaker. But for EIL communication, this is not the most intelligible accent and some of the non-core items may even make them less intelligible to another non-native speaker.
The non-core items are not only unimportant for intelligibility but also socially more appropriate. After all, native speakers have different accents depending on the region where they were born and live. So, why should non-native speakers of an international language not be allowed to do the same?
Finally, students should be given plenty of exposure in their pronunciation classrooms to other non-native accents of English so that they can understand them easily even if a speaker has not yet managed to acquire the core features. For EIL, this is much more important than having classroom exposure to native speaker accents.
Ref: Jennifer Jenkins, lecturer in Sociolinguistics and Phonology at King's College, London
First published in 2002