LINGUIST List 28.3083

Mon Jul 17 2017

Review: English; Germanic; Applied Linguistics; General Linguistics; Language Acquisition: Schmitt (2016)

Editor for this issue: Clare Harshey <clarelinguistlist.org>


Date: 11-Feb-2017
From: Asmaa Shehata <asm.shehatagmail.com>
Subject: Teaching English Pronunciation
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/27/27-2624.html

AUTHOR: Holger Schmitt
TITLE: Teaching English Pronunciation
SUBTITLE: A textbook for the German-speaking countries
SERIES TITLE: Sprachwissenschaftliche Studienbücher. 1. Abteilung
PUBLISHER: ISD, Distributor of Scholarly Books
YEAR: 2016

REVIEWER: Asmaa Shehata, University of Calgary

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry

SUMMARY

“Teaching English Pronunciation: a Textbook for the German-Speaking Countries” the most recent book by Holger Schmitt, provides an overview of pronunciation teaching for German-speaking learners of the English language. The book is divided into a preface and an introductory chapter that are followed by three parts: Background, Specific problems, and Empirical work. While the preface provides a general overview of the book, the introductory chapter provides a detailed description of the significance of pronunciation as a tool of oral communication and as an art. Part I (Chapters 2-4) presents the theoretical background for pronunciation teaching including its main models, chief methods and techniques and the influential factors that majorly influence it. Part II (Chapters 5-8) focuses on discussing specific English pronunciation problems related to both the segmental and suprasegmental features. Part III (Chapter 9) describes thoroughly the procedures to successfully get empirical pronunciation data.

In Chapter 1, Schmitt argues the need for a work such as his about English pronunciation for L1 German speakers as he presents a detailed theoretical background for the concept of pronunciation, underlining its nature, which differs from the other language aspects like vocabulary and grammar, its importance as a medium of communication, and the principal challenges that educators encounter in teaching it,, such as the lack of adequate training in pronunciation pedagogy, and teaching materials. He concludes the chapter by emphasizing that “the benefits of a good pronunciation may be well worth the effort.’ (26).

Chapter 2 presents a brief history of two pronunciation models, Received Pronunciation and General American, displaying the common features they share and the differences between them as well. The author also presents one of the functional varieties of English, i.e., the Lingua Franca Core that has been introduced by Jenkins (2000) where its primary features and the arguments against it are briefly summarized. Thenceforth the chapter proceeds to describe other pronunciation models, such as Estuary English and Scottish Standard English, and a list of factors that should be taken into consideration when instructors make informed choices in pronunciation teaching. Then the chapter concludes with an emphasis on the possibility of mastering a foreign phonology by adults.

On the other hand, Chapter 3 exhaustively describes the factors that influence second language (L2) learners’ attainment of phonological features; these include the learners’ mother language and motivation, the amount of exposure time and the interlocutor. The chapter also discusses how biological factors including age, sex and aptitude influence pronunciation learning.

Chapter 4, my favorite chapter in the book, demonstrates how pronunciation teaching looks in practice by describing different pronunciation methods. Here, the author shares numerous practical common and less common techniques that teachers can use to facilitate pronunciation teaching. Teachers will also find that a number of out-of-class activities and types of pronunciation feedback are introduced too. The distinctive suggested techniques make pronunciation learning memorable for learners and simple for teachers to implement.

The next four chapters focus on specific pronunciation problems that L1 German learners of English encounter. In Chapter 5, Schmitt centers on the problematic individual English phonemes. The chapter not only highlights these sounds’ realization and distribution but it also introduces effective practical ways for teaching them that can help learners discriminate them. In the same vein, Chapter 6 spotlights the phonological problems for German learners of English that result from the differences in phonological rules between English and German. By addressing these different phonological rules, teachers not only raise learners’ awareness of these problems but facilitate their learning process as well. Similarly, the author presents tips for how to effectively introduce these phonological rules.

Chapter 7, however, is assigned to the suprasegmental differences between English and German that are mainly related to stress, rhythm, intonation, and phonotactics. The chapter also draws the readers’ attention to the differences in the articulatory settings of the two languages as well. Unlike the three previous chapters, Chapter 8 centers on the non-phonological differences between German and English that affect L1 German learners’ pronunciation, such as spelling, the morpholonlogical differences and the English language lexicon peculiarities. Schmitt also suggests a number of strategies that can help learners to successfully handle each of these problems.

Finally, Chapter 9 explores empirical data in pronunciation research, highlighting the three main processes: data collection, coding, and interpretation. The author advises readers not to use the book CD recordings as a pronunciation data source due to the missing information about speakers’ length of study, methods of learning and their frequency of contact with native speakers on one hand and the influence of language enjoyment on the speakers’ production. The book ends with suggestions for further reading.

EVLUATION

The book provides an excellent overview for English pronunciation teaching in general and it also presents core pronunciation problems for German speakers. Schmitt also shares a detailed description of pronunciation techniques and sources that would definitely benefit English teachers. According to the Preface, the purpose of the book is to “fill the gap between mere descriptions of English phonology and general how-to-teach-pronunciation guides” (p.11). This goal is thoroughly accomplished with careful explanation of the most common problems that L1 German speakers encounter when they speak English. Since the book’s writing style is clear and effective, and it can easily be followed by all interested audiences, it is also perfect for undergraduate and graduate students.

Although the book could benefit from a tighter proofreading and a glossary, it is an indispensable reference for teaching pronunciation to German-speaking learners of English,, in which instructors of English will potentially find new techniques for teaching pronunciation. This book can also be useful to language researchers who are interested in a quick overview of English pronunciation instruction in general and L1 German learners of English in particular.

To conclude, this book is well compiled and addresses a timely topic that makes it a remarkable reference for teachers and learners alike.

REFERENCES

Derwing, T.M. & Munro, M.J. (2015). Pronunciation fundamentals: Evidence-based perspectives for L2 teaching and research. Amsterdam: John Benjamins

Derwing, T.M., Munro, M.J., Carbonaro, M. (2000). Does popular speech recognition software work with ESL speech? TESOL Quarterly, 34(3), 592–603.

Levis, J. M. (2005). Changing contexts and shifting paradigms in pronunciation teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 39(3), 369–377.

Politzer, R.L. (1978). Errors of English speakers of German as perceived and evaluated by German natives. The Modern Language Journal, 62(5–6), 253–261.

Szpyra-Kozłowska, J. (2015). Pronunciation in EFL instruction. A research-based approach. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Asmaa Shehata, is a faculty at the University of Calgary, School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures. Her research interests include second language phonology with particular focus on cross-language speech perception and production.

Page Updated: 17-Jul-2017