NEED VS DEMAND: INTERNATIONAL PHD STUDENTS AND THEIR DESIRE FOR EXPLICIT PRONUNCIATION INSTRUCTION

D. Clingwall

Hiroshima University (JAPAN)
Graduate students from twenty countries are participating in two Leading Graduate Programs at Hiroshima University. Following consultation between students and administrative staff, the demand for explicit pronunciation instruction was unexpectedly high – student-driven, language support options. This presentation will consider the course that was developed to meet this need and its outcomes – both intended and unintended.

A pronunciation course framework was developed using targeted and explicit pronunciation feature instruction (Firth, 1992; Hewings, 2004; McNerney & Mendelsohn, 1992). Course instruction included a balance of both segmental and suprasegmental features, as well as English pronunciation challenges facing specific language groups (Avery & Ehrlich, 1992; Hewings, 2004). The course used an intensive format, five days at five hours/day, for a total of twenty-five hours of instruction. Seventeen graduate students, representing eight different language backgrounds, took part.

The goals of the course were two-fold. Most importantly was to use consciousness-raising language tasks as the foundation for instruction: Explicit participant awareness of the features that make up one’s own pronunciation as well as the differences in pronunciation among specific language groups. Secondly, the participants were surveyed regarding their thoughts and opinions about English pronunciation in order to identify personal goals, needs, and potential biases.

The course was carried out as planned and student feedback showed an overall satisfaction score of 4.7 out of 5. Students indicated that understanding pronunciation features was the most valuable part of the course, suggesting that the main goal of raising awareness was a success. Interestingly, students’ opinions about the need for almost native-like pronunciation was unexpected. Although all students felt comprehension was important, 15 of 17 suggested that near native-like pronunciation was their personal goal. Course feedback suggested that although content met learner needs, the identified student biases indicate that further enquiry is necessary.

References:
[1] Avery, P. and S. Ehrlich. (eds.) 1992. Teaching American English Pronunciation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[2] Firth, S. 1992. ‘Pronunciation syllabus design: A question of focus’ in P. Avery and S. Ehrlich. (eds.): Teaching American English Pronunciation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[3] Hewings, M. 2004. Pronunciation Practice Activities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[4] McNerney, M. and D. Mendelsohn. 1992. ‘Suprasegmentals in the pronunciation class: Setting priorities’ in P. Avery and S. Ehrlich. (eds.): Teaching American English Pronunciation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.