Pronunciation in Language Teaching

Teaching pronunciation is one of the most complicated yet significant aspects of EFL / ESL teaching. What should be drawn to our attention is that, in the process of communication, pronunciation (of both segmental and suprasegmental (prosodic) elements) is of paramount importance, since successful communication cannot take place without correct pronunciation (Celce-Murcia, Brinton & Goodwin, 1996). Poorly pronounced segments and suprasegments may have the result of disorienting the listener and inhibiting comprehension.

Pronunciation has an important social value (Gelvanovsky, 2002), which means that it should be related to prestige. There have been numerous studies involving speakers of various English accents in order to find out what values are generally associated with Received Pronunciation. According to the findings, those values were the same as the values usually perceived as indispensable for socio-economic success: intelligence, professional competence, persuasiveness, diligence, social privilege, and so on (Hudson, 1980).

In order to make pronunciation teaching effective, we have to take into account some factors: biological factor, socio-cultural factor, mother tongue influence, and pedagogical factor. Teaching pronunciation involves teaching the prosody. As a communicative means, prosody performs the some functions: pragmatic (to focus attention on important information, differentiate old information from new information, signal turns in discourse, link sentences to create texts); syntactic (to mark syntactic structures); lexical (to differentiate words); attitudinal (to identify patterns common to various groups (Couper-Kuhlen, 1986)); intelligibility function (modifications in prosody influence speech comprehension, if prosodic information becomes more important; even segmentally correct speech with minor prosodic errors may not be intelligible (Allen & Hawkins, 1980; Lieberman, 1967); prosodic errors reduce attention to the meaning of utterances).

Teaching pronunciation is of paramount importance in foreign language learning. To ensure effective pronunciation teaching, there are certain factors that should be considered: biological, personal, socio-cultural, pedagogic, and mother tongue influence. Nevertheless, pronunciation teaching should not only focus on segmental features, but also on suprasegmental or prosodic features which greatly contribute to communication.

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