Category Archives: Accents

Pronunciation Insights – Aunt, adult, pajamas: Why can’t we agree how to pronounce common words?

QUOTE  Aunt, adult, pajamas: Why can’t we agree how to pronounce common words?

Call it the problem of toilet-paper-roll words

By James Harbeck | February 10, 2014
How do you pronounce each of the following words? And is there another correct way to pronounce them?

adult, address, almond, amen, arctic, aunt, banal, Caribbean, diabetes, either, envelope, harassment, herb, homage, mayonnaise, neither, niche, nuclear, pajama, potato, produce (as in produce department), schedule, tomato, Uranus

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Three Generations of Distance Learning Pedagogy

Three Generations of Distance Learning Pedagogy

1. Cognitive Behaviourism

2. Constructivism

3. Connectivism

Bilingualism: Facts & Stats

Source: The Bilingual Family: A Handbook For Parents by Edith Harding & Philip Riley, 1999, CUP.

Over half of the world’s population is bilingual. This fact is usually surprising to many Europeans, who are under the impression that living with two or more languages is exceptional. (p. 27)

What matters and what doesn’t in second language acquisition?

Singleton’s survey (1983, Age as a Factor in Second Language Acquisition. CSLC, Trinity College, Dublin) of all the reserach and evidence shows clearly that age, in itself, is not particularly relevant to success in language learning, whereas motivation and opportunity are. (p. 63)

What is the same and what is different about young and adult foreign language learners?

Children put vast amounts of TIME and EFFORT into mastering a language: where adults do likewise, they seem to learn just as well, pronunciation excepted. In fact, adults do BETTER in terms of RATE of acquisition, and not so well in terms of eventual outcome: younger people do seem to acquire native-like accents, whereas older people seldom* lose their foreign accents. (p. 63)

*Seldom* does not mean *never*! I have read about about studies of adult SL learners with native-like accents in “The Study of Second Language Acquisition” (2008, 2nd edition, OUP) by Rod Ellis.

Update 24-12-12 an interesting discussion initiated by speakers of English about ways of acquiring a native-like Chinese accent 


A Super-Duper Book on Accents & L1 Dependent Mistakes

I came across this book quite by chance. The title of the book – Learner English by M- Swan & B. Smith – has little to do with the contents at first sight (I did not expect to find detailed analyses of different languages in it as well as pragmatic lists of difficulties that learners tend to have depending on their first language), and yet it is the book to read if you are into teaching pronunciation in a multilingual classroom, and want to know why your students tend to make whatever grammar or vocabulary mistakes that they make. It is an unputdownable read, for it gives you numerous insights into what constitues foreigners’ accents as well as causes them to make grammar, vocabulary, word order and other mistakes. You learn about two dozen different languages so much that it feels you could learn them all:) There is an accompanying CD – you can listen to the different non-native accents described in the book and see for yourself whether what the authors say rings true.

What a mix!

I am teaching elementaries this year – this is very unlike me for I find this level somewhat tedious to teach.  To make matters worse, instead of two nationalities, I’ve got four – it is a real challenge, for I do understand what sort of problems Russians and Estonians might encounter in terms vocabulary, grammar or pronunciation, but I am at a loss when it comes to teaching Italians or the Polish:( They seem to be struggling with English sounds a lot more and I have to incorporate loads of pronunciation practice activities into my lessons as a result to cater for their needs.  Obviously, it does not hurt when we work on individual sounds and intonation more,  but that is a completely new  aspect of teaching – I have never devoted so much time to it before.  Another thing is that I have to use flashcards and other paraphernalia every now and then, which is something I am not very keen on either as that means becoming a backpacker again . The good thing is that the dynamics of the group are almost perfect, they are all very nice, smiley people, do their homework most of the time, hardly ever miss classes, are willing to collaborate and have all the oomph I could wish for, and that’s very rewarding.