College: Essay Example
In both lessons (Word Stress 1 and 2), Zawadzki (1994a) essentially seeks to teach or train on how to pronounce English words with particular emphasis on which parts of a word to put ‘stress’ and which ones not to. This is ultimately manifest in the tempo of speech. Indeed, pronunciation is a vital component of speech meaning. In other words, what part of a word one stresses influences how the audience understands and interprets the speech.
Pronunciation is one of the hardest elements of language to teach, especially because it is doubtful if all people can pronounce words the same. It is, therefore, interesting to see what activity can be undertaken to teach pronunciation. It is the reason for choosing this activity for evaluation.
Activity 1: Word Stress 1
In this section, Zawadzki (1994a) focuses on the pronunciation of “strong and weak syllables together in short words” (p.37), and uses words with 2 syllables. In evaluating Zawadzki’s (1994a) lesson, this paper focuses on two key sections: language and learning process (material and accompanying process).
To begin with, the use of short words (mostly 2-syllable words) is appropriately intentional. Besides, there are no distinctions in the prosodic elements in 1-syllable words and words with many syllables complicate the distinction in word stress for learners. There is always a clear distinction between strong and weak syllables in 2-syllable words. The use of words with more than 2 syllables is, perhaps, to broaden the lesson to help the learner practice more on the identification of syllables (stress pattern), as well as pronouncing them.
Second, this being a lesson on pronunciation, it is only natural and makes sense that Zawadski (1994a) usesa number of elements of prosody, particularly stress, intonation and pitch. This is also relevant. As noted above, pronunciation helps make meaning of words. These prosodic elements bring out other aspects of speech meaning, such as sarcasm, statement, question and command, among others. The salience of these elements of prosody is what brings out meaning.
For listening practice, there is a monologue on the ‘Customs of address’. First, the use of a monologue is important in the sense that, normally, two people do not pronounce the same words exactly the same way. A dialogue would, perhaps, confuse the listener (learner). Second, the monologue is utilizes various elements of prosody to bring out various elements of meaning (statement and questions, for instance).
For the salience, the speaker various techniques: accents, pauses and pitch (which bring out the differences between statements and questions, among others). As teaching material, Zawadzki (1994a) uses tapes on which are recorded a speaker pronouncing the examples of words here. The speaker pronounces the words slowly enough, trying to bring out the stress patterns as clearly as possible. The main advantage of using a tape is that the leaner can rewind as much as they want and practice until they learn how to pronounce the words as the speaker does. The one disadvantage here is that the learner cannot get immediate feedback from the speaker on whether they are pronouncing right or not.
Activity 2: Word Stress 2
Activity 2 goes beyond the simplicity of 2-syllable words. It trains on how pronounce not just strong and weak stresses, but also medium stress. All these three levels of syllable stresses are common in compound words and word groups (such as a sentence).
Again, various elements of prosody are used, including stress, intonation, pitch and rhythm. The extensive use of these elements here is consistent with the complexity of dialogue. The trainer, in this case, cannot control what the speakers say, so their speech is more complex. The speech context used here is that of a dialogue, an interviewer to be exact. The dialogues context is important in a number of ways. For one, the speech is real and believable and the learner does not feel like so much is expected of him/her. In other words, it builds confidence in the learner. Second, the two speakers do not pronounce English words the same way. There are differences, with Mr. Chan’s pronunciation clearly influenced by that of his native language. However, the context makes it possible for us to understand him better. This shows the importance of context in deriving meaning from speech.
Recorded tapes have been used as teaching material. The same as above, recorded tapes make it possible for the learner to rewind and listen again and again. That means that the learner can repeat after the speaker over and over until they feel they have got it right. Again, the problem here is that the learner cannot get immediate feedback about whether they are pronouncing the words right unless the tape is played in classroom setup where a lecturer oversees the training process.
Ultimately, the one problem with this training is the assumption that everyone could pronounce English words the same. But that is not always- if ever- the case. In fact, not even two native speakers speak the very same way. It is understandable where this assumption stems from; the belief in the Standard English. Yet, over the year, many linguists have disputed the argument of Standard English (and any other language for that matter) (Lippi-Green 2012). This is the one problem that accompanies Zawadzki’s (1994a) lesson.
Still, Zawadski (1994a) makes good effort that provides insight into future attempts to teach pronunciation. Indeed, this activity can be helpful. But conversation contexts can be better because then the conversation is natural.
Lippi-Green, R. 2012, English with an accent: language, ideology, and discrimination in
the United States, 2nd Ed., New York: Routledge
Zawadzki, H1994a, Tempo: an English pronunciation course, National Centre for
English Language Teaching and Research, Sydney
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