THE WORLD ENGLISHES AND THE TEACHING OF PRONUNCIATION

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Among the approximately 3000 languages spoken in the world English is the only language spoken by around 700 million people all over the world. There are approximately 400 million native speakers of English. There are around 300 million second language speakers, who have approximately native-like competence in English. It is also estimated that at the present time there are approximately 100 to 1000 million people who are the learners of English as a  foreign language.

 

The ‘spoken form’ of English ranges from Pidgin, Creole to Standard English. The Pidgin and Creole forms of English are found in West Indies, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea and Surinam. The functional domain of English, in the form of a foreign language, is found in many European countries, especially Western European countries. The size of the population of English speakers in this world, and the existence of the variety of Englishes give the indication of the diversity in English language. We do have variations in English tongues, such as, in USA, England and South Africa etc. we also find dialectal variations of English in England and the USA.. We have a variety of Englishes (e.g. Babu English, Cheechee English, Nigerian English etc.), which are found among the second language speakers of Common

Wealth countries. The differences in the variety of English are due to the non-native innovations in pronunciation, vocabulary, usage, discourse and style. So, the variations in the variety of Englishes are at the accentual, lexical, syntactic, grammatical and discoursal levels.

The difficulty for the teachers of English, especially “Spoken English”, is that what variety of English to be chosen as a  model for the teaching of English, keeping in view that English has become a Lingua Franca and there are varieties of Standard Englishes throughout the world. Secondly, what pedagogies to be applied for teaching English pronunciation? Here, it is important to note the observation of Braj B. Kachru that the variation within “non native” varieties is “pedagogues’ nightmare” and the homogeneity of localized varieties (e.g. South African, Indian, Singaporean etc.) is a myth. Moreover, he poses one question before us i.e., “how are the norms of intelligibility for

English to be defined now that English has acquired various culture specific and region specific norms?” He also suggests that “the cross cultural and international uses of English demand new concepts, new types of research and research methodology, and new teaching strategies.”

Bryan Jenner attempted to determine the common features of all the native speakers of varieties of English and arrived at the “Common Core”, a list of features of English Pronunciation he considered essential for intelligibility anywhere in the world. But his analysis took into account only the native speakers. Jennifer Jenkins in her book “The phonology of English as an International Language” suggests new phonological set for International English speech. She has revised the concept of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) to ELF (English as a Lingua Franca). Jenkins has suggested a reduced Phonological set. Jenkins’s LFC (Lingua Franca Core) identities seven areas of error in the

Learners Pronunciation. They are as follows:

  1. Vowel Length
  2. Consonant Conflations
  3. Phonetic realizations
  4. Consonant Cluster Simplification
  5. Tone Group
  6. Nuclear/Contractive stress (but not tone)

Here, I endeavour to answer the problem of the teachers of English, and of Braj Kachru as well. Till recently, R.P. was the model for teaching pronunciation to the non-native speakers of English. But today, many have questioned the credibility of R.P. as a representative language of the native speakers of England.

Ronald McCauley was one of the first to question and point out the truth that only three percent of the U.K. population uses this prestigious accent, and this percentage is also falling. David Crystal is in favour of “Standard Scots” as a better model compared to R.P. for the learners of English. Robin Walker argues that till recently nobody really challenged the idea that a native speaker determined the measure of success of intelligibility for the speakers of English. But now the role of English has changed in the world context, and so we have to re-examine the concepts like ‘native speakers’ or ‘second language speakers’ etc.

In this regard, Kachru proposed the choice between an idealized Exo-normative model (which refers to a native model e.g., American or British, for emulation and teaching) and an Endo-normative model. Endo-normative model refers to a local educated variety as a model for teaching, as in the case of India or Nigeria etc., where English is a second language.

After considering the “model” issue, one confronts the issue of the choice of methodology and the content for teaching pronunciation. The issue of content will raise the question of the role of culture in language learning because the material for teaching will have some ingredients of culture. In this regard McKay opines that the role of culture in the context of teaching EIL (English as an International Language) is to establish interculturality. Smith argues that the learners of EIL would be able to explain their cultures to others. He also argues that in the case of EIL the English language doesn’t belong to any one culture but promotes crosscultural understanding in a global village context.

I agree with McKay that the cultural aspect in language teaching is reasonable in the domain where English is a second language but with respect to ELF I agree with Smith’s view that English would help in cross-cultural understanding in a global village context.

On perusal of various propositions and suggestions, I conclude that the non-native English speaker should teach English pronunciation in the ESL context. The model of pronunciation would be the standard variety in a localized domain where English has acquired the status of second language such as in India, Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Malaysia, and Singapore etc. The material for teaching in localized domain would be drawn from their own native literature which reflects their culture.

In the case of teaching English as an International Language the pronunciation model will be ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) / LFC (Lingua Franca Core) as proposed by Jenkins. Regarding the course content, I submit that it would draw material from diverse cultures of the world, for in EIL domain the language belongs to its user, and interculturalism rather than biculturalism should be the goal (Mc Kay: TESOL: 7). Smith defines the term “International Language” ‘as one, which is used by people of different nations to communicate with one another’.

The native English speaking countries already have their respective models i.e., their Standard English variety. So, a similar analogy may be applied for NE (Native English) as in the case of ESL (i.e., localized domain) because I consider ESL or Native tongue as one type of domain. The reason is that the target language is used in all walks of life in ESL domain. We find this type of situation in India, South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Nigeria. Here, the learner is exposed to the target language most of the time. Moreover, learners start learning English at the primary stage of schooling and are exposed to both the native tongue and English language at the same time. According to psycholinguistic research, young children have no difficulty in learning two languages equally well at the same time in a bilingual situation.

Here, I would like to point out that phonetic symbols (IPA) should be taught to the learners at the earlier stage of learning English so that they may be able to use the dictionary for correct pronunciation. The methodology for teaching English pronunciation would be communicative as suggested in my research paper entitled “A Communicative Approach to the Teaching of Spoken English in India”-(AsiaTEFL Conference, Beijing, 2005). (For references, please contact the author at pradipsharan@yahoo. com)

Pradip Sharan (Ph.D.) Senior Lecturer in English, Motilal Nehru College (Eve), Delhi University

* Article first published in FORTELL newsletter, issue no. 15

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