{November 13, 2008}   Do you really need a native like pronunciation?

Many students want to be native-like speakers. I think that is the goal most English learners have.

A focus on pronunciation and intonation is clearly needed with that purpose, but we should bear in mind that one is not a native speaker, and differences will appear sooner or later. (I’ve once heard a student with a really nice British accent using American English vocabulary and slang…)

First of all, every native speaker has an accent of his own, which shows not only where is he from, but also his background information, his educational level and other personal characteristics.

Living in a multilingual world, one may argue that second language speakers should retain their native accent, unless it interferes with correct pronunciation patterns, because one’s identity is highly represented by accent. Being able to convey meaning through clear and correct pronunciation and intonation is what we should really care about.

What I guess can be done, is to improve one’s pronunciation and intonation to what would be the standards of the target language, but without focusing on any particular accent (except, let’s say, that you are going to live in a certain community where you will be using language 24/7)

The best way to improve one’s accent and pronunciation, is, by far, being exposed to the language one wants to acquire. So, depending on the context you are living in, perhaps you can meet some native speakers of the language, you can watch films, or you just can listen to some songs in the target language. Don’t miss any opportunity to use the language. Classes with a focus on pronunciation are not really frequent, but they are really interesting and useful.

Be curious: The internet is full of material on pronunciation of different languages. (Some days ago I added a really long list of English Pronunciation teaching and learning websites).

Up to now, I’ve posed my opinion and thoughts.. but what about some theory?

According to Krashen,

The Monitor hypothesis explains the relationship between acquisition and learning and defines the influence of the latter on the former. The monitoring function is the practical result of the learned grammar. According to Krashen, the acquisition system is the utterance initiator, while the learning system performs the role of the ‘monitor’ or the ‘editor’. The ‘monitor’ acts in a planning, editing and correcting function when three specific conditions are met: that is, the second language learner has sufficient time at his/her disposal, he/she focuses on form or thinks about correctness, and he/she knows the rule.
It appears that the role of conscious learning is somewhat limited in second language performance. According to Krashen, the role of the monitor is – or should be – minor, being used only to correct deviations from ‘normal’ speech and to give speech a more ‘polished’ appearance.
Krashen also suggests that there is individual variation among language learners with regard to ‘monitor’ use. He distinguishes those learners that use the ‘monitor’ all the time (over-users); those learners who have not learned or who prefer not to use their conscious knowledge (under-users); and those learners that use the ‘monitor’ appropriately (optimal users). An evaluation of the person’s psychological profile can help to determine to what group they belong. Usually extroverts are under-users, while introverts and perfectionists are over-users. Lack of self-confidence is frequently related to the over-use of the ‘monitor’.

What does this mean? If we are obsessed with our pronunciation and we insist on getting a native-like pronunciation, frustration is really likely to appear, what may lead to not being able to communicate in the target language neither fluently or correctly.

So, go on practicing and get a nice and clear pronunciation. Check the meanings of the different intonation patterns. But don’t get obsessed with this. I am sure that if you are self-confident and proud of your identity, native speakers will understand you and congratulate you for your accent.

More information on Krashen’s Five Hypothesis

A Critique on krashen’s Monitor Hypothesis

* Taken from here

Krashen, Stephen D. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition.  Prentice-Hall International, 1987.
Krashen, Stephen D. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning.  Prentice-Hall International, 1988.

Reference says:

Your blog is terrific!

Here is a blog post about a Thanksgiving concert in Ohio long ago:

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