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Putting accent in its place: Rethinking obstacles to communication

  • Tracey M. Derwing (a1) and Murray J. Munro (a2)

One of the most salient aspects of speech is accent – either dialectal differences attributable to region or class, or phonological variations resulting from L1 influence on the L2. Our primary concern is with the latter, because of the strong social, psychological, and communicative consequences of speaking with an L2 accent. The decline of audiolingualism led to a concomitant marginalization of pronunciation research and teaching. It was believed that pronunciation instruction could not be effective, in part because of the unrealistic goal of native-like speech in L2 learners, and also because of research findings that suggested that instruction had a negligible impact on oral production. The recent revival of interest in pronunciation research has brought a change of focus away from native-like models toward easy intelligibility. The effects of this change have yet to be fully realized in L2 classrooms. However, many L2 students themselves are keenly interested in pronunciation instruction, a fact not lost on individuals who have recognized a lucrative marketing niche in ‘accent reduction/elimination’ programs that may do more harm than good. Our presentation will relate the core issues of intelligibility, identity, social evaluation, and discrimination to appropriate pronunciation pedagogy for L2 learners.

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Language Teaching
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