Can Consciousness-Raising and Imitation Improve Pronunciation?

By Matilda Wong.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study reports on and evaluates an eight-week intensive pronunciation course offered to twenty-one undergraduates in Macau, where the majority of the population speak Cantonese as their first language and learn English as a foreign language. The course focused on common English pronunciation errors made by Cantonese-speakers and strategies to improve these common errors. Before taking the course, the participants of the study took a pre-test that required them to read aloud a poem and a prose passage. To improve their pronunciation, four practices were adopted in the course: first, raising consciousness of the errors they made by comparing the English and Cantonese phonologies; second, raising consciousness of the rules governing the pronunciation of the problematic sounds; third, raising consciousness of sense groups by analyzing the linguistic features of text types, explaining the meaning of the texts, and physically marking the sense groups on paper before reading; and fourth, having learners imitate how native-speakers read. In the post-test, the participants read aloud the same texts as those given in the pre-test. At the end of the course, there were changes in pronunciation which might be due to the consciousness-raising and imitation practices. Production of the alveolar lateral approximant in final position (i.e., “dark l” /l/), past-tense and plural morphemes, and reading aloud with meaning were improved but realization of the front open vowel in extreme position (i.e., /ae/) and the closing diphthong beginning with /a/ and ending in /u/ (i.e., /au/) remained inaccurate. These findings might imply that the production of English phonemes with similar Cantonese counterparts tends to be more resistant to change. In view of this, the development of learner strategies such as those using phonetic transcription, syllabification, and letter-sound relationships may be beneficial.

Keywords: Foreign Language Learning, Pronunciation, Learner Strategies

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp.43-48. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 591.084KB).

Dr. Matilda Wong

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Macau, Taipa, Macao Special Administrative Region of China

Dr. Matilda Wong holds a doctoral degree in teacher development from OISE, University of Toronto and is currently Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education, University of Macau. She specializes in teaching English as a second language and English teacher education, and has taught in Hong Kong, Canada and Macau. Her research interests include second language teacher education, teaching writing, and teaching speaking.

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