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Friday,June08,2007 #1

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Mindyourpronunciation

Mindyourpronunciation

Pronunciationshouldbesmoothlyunderstoodbynativesandnonnativesalike.Itis
moreimportanttotakecareofpronunciationthanjustmimickingtheaccent

SpeechisoneofthemostuniqueanddivinegiftsthatAlmightyAllahhasblessedmanwith.It
differentiatesahumanbeingfromcreaturesinthewholecosmos.Speechistherealindextoa
humanbeing'smindandsoul.Wordsspokengentlyhaveasofteningimpactonthelistener,
compellinghimtolistentillthelastsoundisuttered.Itisforthisreasonthatalotofstresshas
alwaysbeenputonthebetterwayofpronunciation,beitanylanguage.

IntheHolyQuran,AllahadvisestheProphet:

"AndrecitetheQuranwithTarteel(inaslow,pleasanttoneandstyle)."(73:4).Obviouslyas'the
languageofkingsisthekingoflanguages',theAlmightyhasorderedthebelieverstorecitethe
HolyQuranwith'Tarteel'thatisbyadheringtotherulesofpronunciationinordertoconvey
accuratemeaningandpurposeandtocreateasofteningandlonglastingeffectontheheartsof
listeners.Modernphilosophersalsosealtheirappreciationandloudadmirationfortheeternal
veracityonspeechbytheHolyQuran.LyliePragnellinhisarticle"ThePhilosophyofSpeech"
publishedin"ThePhilosopher"(VolumeV,1928)quotesMontaigneandwrites:

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"Thereisnothinginourcompositioneitherpurelyimmaterialorpurelyspiritual,"saysMontaigne,
andperhapsofallthingsthiscanbemosttrulysaidofthedualityofthehumanvoice."Itisa
selfconsciousentitywhosepowersaresogreatastobealmostillimitablewhengovernedbythe
wiseones."

AndEnglishisnoexception:itisnomorejustapostcolonialupshot.Inspiteofthetugofwar
betweenregionalandinternationallanguages,especiallyinChina,Englishisstillemphatically
attachedtosuccessinjobs,businessesandlearningmodernsubjects,beitTheology,Astronomy
orScience.AndbetterEnglishcommunicationskillsundoubtedlycallforpayingheedto
pronunciationinteachingandlearningasthefundamentalsteptowardseffectiveandsuccessful
communication.

Strikingabalance:

SpokenasEFL(EnglishasFirstLanguage)andESL(EnglishasSecondLanguage),itispartof
multiculturalandmultilingualsocietieslikePakistan,IndiaandBangladeshwhereregional
languagesarenumerous.ThiscallsforapronunciationofEnglishthatisneithertoonativenor
toolocalisedorladenwithmothertongueinterference.Where"Good"or"Bad"communicationis
ajob'sfirstpriority,thereisanutmosturge,especiallyamongtheeducatedmasses,toimprove
pronunciation.Sadly,"Goodpronunciation"isatagattachedtoandunderstoodtobethenative
likeaccentandpronunciation:amisapprehensioncausedbytheobviouseffectoftheeliteclass.

Comfortableintelligibility

Aspirantindividualsstrivetobreaktheshacklesoftheirmothertongue'sinterferenceinEnglish
inordertoimpersonatetheNativeAmericanorBritishaccent,endingupwithamock
pronunciationandaninarticulatevarietyoftheEnglishlanguage.Giventhemedleyoflanguages
andinbornmothertongueinterferences,thepursuitofnativelikeEnglishisafarfetchedand
quiteunrealisticgoal.

Ifonewishestosetrealisticandrealisablegoalsforpronunciation,itisunquestionably
"Comfortableintelligibility"inpronunciationandinaccent,whichaimsatsomethingclose
enoughtothecorrect.Whatmattersis"Countsofsamenessidentifiedbythelistener".
Intelligibilityisthen"Beingunderstoodatagiventimeinagivensituation"andinthissense
synonymousto"Understandability".Simply,themorewordsalistenerisabletoidentify
accurately,themoreintelligiblethespeakeris.Besides,tryingtospeakinthenativelikeaccent
withoutanyconsiderationofthenonnativepeoplearoundusmayruntheriskofdesperate
breakdownsincommunication.

Stress,syllablesandtiming:

LocallanguageslikeUrdu,Sindhi,Pashto,orChineseandFrencharealtogetherdifferentfrom
English.Theformerarespokeninasyllabictimedlanguage,inwhicheverysyllabletakesup
roughlythesameamountoftimewhenpronouncedandthelatterbeingstressedtimedieonly
selectivesyllablestakeupmoretimethantheothers,thuscreatingadifferentrhythm.Syllabic
timedEnglishcandefinitelybe"Comfortablyintelligible"andeasierforlocals.Butthetruth
remains:SyllabictimedEnglishpronunciationisnotstandardandthestressedtimed
pronunciationistheambitionofmanyindividualsbecauseoftheprestigeattachedtoit.

LearningStrategies:

Pronunciationshouldbesmoothlyunderstoodbynativeandnonnativepeoplealike.Inother
words,itismoreappreciabletotakecareofpronunciationthanjustmimickingtheaccent.But
thatdoesnotmeanthatwrongpronunciationshouldbeoverlookedsimplybecauseitis
understood.Thepreferablestrategy,then,istoidentifyanddiscoverwherethedifferences
betweenthe'StandardEnglish'pronunciationandthe'LocalEnglish'pronunciationare
unavoidablyhuge.Theseareaswillvaryaccordingtothelearnersandtheirmothertongue
interferences.Itisappreciabletoaddresstheseproblemsofpronunciationwiththegoalof
comfortableintelligibilityinmind.

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Thisleadstotheidentificationofareas:Notalltheareasofpronunciationareworthytobe
addressedinlocalcontext.Thesuitableapproachistoleaveoffthegratuitousareasbefore
adoptinganyteachingmethodology.Itisacommonobservationthatrhoticandnonrhotic
distinctionisproblematiceveninstudentswholearnpronunciationquiteeasilyandgiventhatit
doesnothinderintelligibilityitshouldnotcomeintheteachingofpronunciation.Similarly,the
questionoftheintrusive/r/soundbetweentwovowelsoundsatthewordboundarywhenthe"R"
isactuallynottherecanbeignored.Also,thetwodifferentshadesof/l/soundhavesimplyno
relevanceinnonnativeEnglishpronunciationscenarioinPakistan.Themorecomplicatedrulesof
connectedspeech,likeassimilationandomittingcertainsoundsarelessrelevantbecausethis
tendencyisleastinPakistaninonnativespeakers.Thepointisthatthestudentscanlearn
pronunciationevenwithoutthem,witheaseandeconomy.

Commonmistakes
Allthesame,highlyproblematichabitsinpronunciationneedtobeidentifiedandareworthyto
betaught.Forexample,thepronunciationofindividualsoundsofteninhibitsintelligibilityand
therearecertainwordswhicharebestunderstoodwhenpronouncedinanonnativeway,for
example,manypeoplepronounce"Therapy"as"Thraapi","Nomenclature"as"Nomun
clature"(Withdoublestress)"Modern"as"Modrun"and"Market"as"Markeet".Thatdoes
notmeanthatsuchpronunciationsneednottobecorrectedtowardsimprovement,mostofthe
timemispronouncedwordsdohamperthemeaningaltogether.Thefactis,suchpronunciation
mistakesarenotrandom:Theyareregularandsystematic.Forexample,EFLandevenESL
studentsinourcountryjumbleupthelongvowelsoundof"Saw"andtheshortvowelsoundof
"Spot"and"Turn"and"Ton",anditisthetaskquitelaboriousforthestudentstouttercorrectly
thedifferencebetween"Bad","Bed"and"Bade".Also,thedistinctionbetweendifferentstress
patternsisimportanttoteachinordertograspthecompletemeaning.Forexample,CONtentand
conTENTasnounandverb,respectively.

Anotherjumbleupistheinabilitytodiscriminatebetween"emPLOY"andimployEE,asthese
arepronouncedthesameway.Interestingly,"Scold"and"Iscalled"aremixedupbecauseof
insertionof/i/of"Lip"before/s/sound,amistakefoundalmostnaturallyamongpeoplehere
andispartofIndianPakistaniEnglishdialect.

StressandRhythm:

Thus,itisimportanttoeradicateand"Correct"badpronunciationhabitsatanystageofa
learner'scareer.Since,communicationandpronunciationgotogetherandcanneverbeseparated
andcomfortableintelligibilitymustbepursuedwithakeeneyeonthelearner'shabitualerrors.It
isessentialtocontinuouslyobservethemothertongueinterferenceintheEnglishofanonnative
speaker.Conversely,itisasorrystatethatthemostimportantareasofpronunciationnamely
'Stress'bothwordandsentence,and'Rhythm'arealtogetherignoredinteachingofEnglish.This
disableslearnerstocomprehendnativeEnglishandthusisthebiggesthindranceinlearning
Englishbecausewithoutproperlistening,itisnaturalnottoexpectalearnertoimprovehis
languageskillsas"Languagestartswiththeear".Itmaysoundtootechnicalbutonecannot
overlookthefactthatstressandrhythmcomplementgrammarandmeaningsimultaneously,or
oneispronetomixup"Comefortable"and"Comfortable".Secondly,vowelquantityisofhigh
importanceasinUrdu.Because,whatifonemixesupwordslike"Turn"and"Ton"!Andit
happenssooften.

Thirdly,contrastivestressisanarea,whichmustbetakencareofinPakistanisettingorthe
wholelotofinformationismissedoutveryeasily.Oncethislevelofintelligibilityisattained,the
teachermaygoontocultivateimprovedareaslikeassimilation,elisionandthelesscommon
tonesofEnglishlanguage.

Pronunciationhasbeenrightlycalledthe'Cinderella'ofEnglishlanguage.Butitistruewith
almostallthelanguagesoftheworldwhereconsiderationsofhowthebreathshouldshapeupin
mouthtoformthespeechsoundsisgiventheleastimportance.Almostalways,somuch
importanceisgiventothegrammaticalelementsandrulesthatlearnersdonotcontractthe
grammaticalwordslikeauxiliaryandconjunction.Learnersneedtobetaughtthedifference
betweenspokenandwrittenlanguage,theformerhavingnoconceptof"Word"assuch.Allwe

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speakisthestringsofsoundsthataresupple,smoothandsoftifpronouncedproperlyand
intelligibly.

Itissuggestedthatoneshouldstartwithsuprasegmentalfeaturesorprosodyofthelanguagein
question.Becauseonce"rhythm"and"stress"areprioritised,itwillfacilitatetograspnew
information,helpindiscourseandwillservesyntacticalandlexicalpurposethenitmattersjusta
littlethenifapersonsays"Iskool"or"Skool":Itwillautocorrect.

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__________________
_____________________________________________

AManWouldDoNothing,
IfHeWaitedUntilHe
CouldDoItSoWell
ThatNoOneWouldFindFault
WithWhatHeHasDone.
LasteditedbyShootingStarSaturday,May05,2012at01:34AM.

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