On Saturday I had the privilege of attending an IATEFL PronSIG conference in Glasgow.
The name of the conference was “The Road to Pron-tegration” and its focus was on teaching and practicing pronunciation; which, to be honest is something that as a teacher I have always shied away from. I suppose the reason for that is two-fold. First, It was never something I learned in school; ever! When I learned Ancient Greek and Hebrew at University it was never mentioned. When I had learned Spanish, Ukrainian, Mandarin and Polish I never used it. So how was I supposed to teach with something I have never used myself and had always learned other languages without? The second reason I’ve been reluctant to use the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) in my lessons is because as the product of both British and American culture and not being distinctly either one, I always feel like I’m not the best authority on modeling which sound is which. And while I am a native speaker, the sounds I use in my pronunciations are often a mix of British or American depending on what I’m talking about or how much thought I put into how I’m saying it.
So my goal for this conference was to challenge myself to change that and to force myself to stop running away from something simply because it was something with which I was unfamiliar.
The sessions were really a mixed bag. Some were styled as presentations, some were workshops and some felt more like lectures. Each had their own merit and I was able to take something from each. However I felt the real learning took place outside the sessions in the discussions and interactions with some the other educators in attendance.
One of the presenters with whom I spoke the most was Marianne Jordan. She and I share a similarly “blurry” background when it comes to being able to answer the question: “Where are you from?”. The work she is doing with the IPA and the app she is developing was really inspiring and I couldn’t leave the conference without picking up a copy of her book “Phonetics for Learners of English Pronunciation“.
The Opening Plenary speaker in the morning, Robin Walker, gave an excellent presentation on the basics of teaching pronunciation and given his years of experience he was able to break down the key elements very well and gave us so many ideas and suggestions for ways of implementing pronunciation activities in the classroom.
The frustrating thing for me was the repeated feeling that there was so much that could have been said and discussed if only there was more time! I feel like this could have easily been a two-day conference and still not have delved as deep into all the facets of English language pronunciation and methods of implementing instruction in pronunciation techniques in the classroom.
While I can’t say that I know everything I need to know about pronunciation, (far from it!) I can say that I no longer have an excuse for not using it in the classroom. So watch this space as I experiment with ways of improving my instruction on pronunciation in my lessons.
Do you have any tips or methods you use in your EFL/ESL classroom? Do you find yourself in the same place I was before the conference? Leave a comment and let me know!