In the last few months I've done quite a bit of work in the area of accents and English varieties, particularly in a pronunciation teaching context. I've also compiled a literature review on phonological approaches to literacy instruction in public schools. In the process I've come across research that investigated whether teacher dialects have an effect on pupils' literacy development (e.g. Terry et al, 2012), which I find extremely fascinating. If this were indeed the case, imagine all the implications! How about English pronunciation instruction? Studies have revealed that (even heavily) accented English speakers can be comprehensible and intelligible (e.g. Munro & Derwing, 1995; Murphy, 2014), but I doubt the corporate world agrees with this when it comes to hiring practices (see Munro, 2003, for an interesting discussion). Another intriguing aspect of dialects, accents and non-native varieties of English is that they are not only indicators of someone’s speech community but, more importantly, they are an intricate part of a speaker's identity. Reflecting on these random thoughts, I wonder whether second language teachers are doing enough justice to their L2 learners' accents or if many of them continue to aim for unrealistic goals for their students such as attaining native-speaker pronunciation.....with this thought I call it a week!!
Munro, M. J. (2003). A primer on accent discrimination in the Canadian context. TESL Canada Journal, 20(2), 38-51.
Munro, M. J., & Derwing, T. M. (1995). Foreign accent, comprehensibility and intelligibility in the speech of second language learners. Language Learning, 45(1), 73-97.
Murphy, J. (2014). Intelligible, comprehensible, non-native models in ESL/EFL pronunciation teaching. System, 42(0), 258-269.
Terry, N. P., Connor, C. M., Petscher, Y., & Conlin, C. R. (2012). Dialect variation and reading: Is change in nonmainstream American English use related to reading achievement in first and second grades? Journal of Speech, Language & Hearing Research, 55(1), 55-69.
I am a Lecturer in TESOL at the University of Wollongong in Australia. I blog about L2 learning, L2 teaching, L2 teacher education, and research.