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TEFL Masterclass – Teaching Pronunciation With a Regional Accent

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Suzanne Brown – Teacher Trainer & Managing Director @BLISS.

Suzanne Brown is an experienced International Director with a demonstrated history of working in the international education industry. Skilled in Negotiation, Training Needs Analysis, Training Delivery, Management, and Interviewing. Strong professional with a BA (Hons) focused in Marketing and communication from Glasgow Caledonian University.

What you will learn

Pronunciation is such an important part of language and communication as it gives context and meaning to what we are saying. Accents bring flavour to that and regional accents all the more.

The way we pronounce words reflects on the outcome, and so while it is important to get that right, we also have to establish that there are many correct ways to pronounce words. As long as the meaning is not changed, our regional accents will only enhance the communication, wherever we are from. 

We will discuss metacognition, how it can be woven into your lesson design, and focus on regulation strategies that are helpful in creating more successful study routines as well as self-study.

Our Masterclass will start off with the Scottish accent and we will have a look at various accents and the effect of pronunciation. We will look at why some accents are considered more desirable than others and ultimately we will look at ways in which we can positively own our own accents, after all, it makes us who we are!

Workshop Summary

Embracing Regional Accents in Language Teaching

In the masterclass led by Suzanne Brown the focus was on the effective teaching of pronunciation while embracing regional accents. Brown started by highlighting the uniqueness her own Scottish accent brings to her identity and teaching methods. She shared an anecdote about whether a student would acquire a Scottish accent at her summer school, blending humour with reality in her response. The session emphasised the diversity of accents within the British Isles and encouraged participants to reflect on their own accents and how these impact communication.

The Role of Accents in Communication

The workshop delved into the role of accents in pronunciation, stressing the importance of clarity over uniformity. Brown used examples like ‘enough,’ ‘mischievous,’ and ‘squirrel’ to demonstrate how accents can alter pronunciation. She then recited a poem to showcase the complexity of English pronunciation, drawing from her experiences with different reactions to her Scottish accent. The goal of the session was to empower educators to use their accents as a resource, thereby enriching the learning experience for their students.

Adapting Pronunciation for Accessibility

Brown further discussed the intricacies of teaching with a regional accent, using her Scottish accent as a case study. She explained how adapting the pronunciation of the ‘R’ sound in words like ‘girl’ and ‘carol’ could make them more accessible to learners without losing the regional touch. However, she also emphasised the importance of maintaining the authenticity of certain words like ‘Loch Ness’ for their cultural value. This approach, she argued, helps students understand and prepare for real-world interactions with diverse accents.

Methods for Teaching Pronunciation

Brown explored a variety of techniques for teaching pronunciation effectively. These methods included drilling, using minimal pairs, recording and playback for self-awareness, observing mouth movements in mirrors, and utilising phonetics and the IPA. She also suggested sing-alongs and targeted practice on specific sounds, varying according to the teacher’s accent. Tongue twisters were introduced as a challenging yet enjoyable exercise, highlighting that difficulty is an integral part of the learning process.

Valuing Regional Accents in English Language Teaching

In her conclusion, Brown reiterated the importance of regional accents in teaching English. She asserted that each accent brings a unique contribution to language teaching and should not be considered inferior or superior to others. This perspective promotes equality and encourages teachers to use their accents as a positive teaching tool. Brown also advised teachers to use resources available for continuous professional development, reflecting on her pride in her Scottish accent and its role in providing a rich learning experience.

Encouraging Awareness and Diversity in Language Education

Brown concluded the masterclass by emphasising the advantages of embracing regional accents in language education. She acknowledged the challenges her Scottish accent had previously presented in her career but highlighted its benefits in offering a diverse learning experience. By raising awareness and embracing regional differences, teachers can equip their students with essential communication skills, preparing them for a globally connected world. Brown’s approach to language teaching advocates for a celebration of linguistic diversity, contributing to a more inclusive and effective learning environment.

Reflective Questions

Have a quick think about the reflective questions below in order to get the most out of the workshop:

  1. Why does pronunciation matter?
  2. Is it important we all have the same pronunciation?
  3. Are regional accents a plus or a minus?
  4. How do students react to your accent?

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