Studiu de specialitate – The Pronunciation Component in Teaching English Perfection versus Intelligibility

Autor: prof. Danciu Ioana-Elena
Școala Gimnazială Plopeni, Suceava

Pronunciation is an integral part of language learning. Any learner with a goal for learning English for communicative purposes needs to learn the rhythm and intonation of English. Learning about pronunciation develops learners’ abilities to comprehend the spoken language. It also helps learners with the spelling system of English.
Pronunciation can convey grammatical information (rhythm and intonation can perform grammatical functions) and a lack of knowledge in pronunciation can easily affect reading. The first lessons on pronunciation are of great importance; it is the stage where correct pronunciation should be acquired.
A question we need to answer is how good our students’ pronunciation ought to be. There are three levels of English pronunciation:
Level 1: People often don’t understand what you want to say. You use the wrong sounds in English words.
Level 2: People can understand what you want to say, but they have to concentrate to understand you.
Level 3: People can understand you easily. Your pronunciation is clear and pleasant.
A clear focus on these levels of pronunciation makes us realize that we should be happy if our students can at least make themselves understood. According to Martin Hewings, it is now generally accepted that the target of a ‘native-speaker pronunciation’ is unachievable for the vast majority of learners of a second or foreign language even if a native-speaker variety is the target model chosen.
However, for the vast majority of learners, a native-speaker pronunciation is neither necessary nor even desirable. The aim of most is to achieve an easily understandable pronunciation in most situations with most people with both native and non-native English speakers.
The degree to which students acquire ‘perfect pronunciation’ (Harmer 2004, 184) seems to depend on their attitude to how they speak and how well they hear. Frequently foreign language speakers want to retain their own accent when they speak the foreign language because that is part of their identity. So, for example, an Italian would prefer to be identified as an Italian who speaks English very well rather than simply a non-native speaker of English.
Under the pressure of such cultural considerations it has become customary for language teachers to consider intelligibility as the main goal of pronunciation teaching. This means that the learners should be able to use pronunciation which is good enough for them to be always understood. If their pronunciation is not up to this standard, then there is a serious danger that they will fail to communicate effectively. (fragment)