Last month I made a pronunciation workshop and lecture tour in Thailand, Vietnam and China. It was immaculately organised by the local teams of Macmillan Education and attended by lively, interesting and informed local teachers.
And they talked about the practical pronunciation challenges they face: the issue of accents, sentence stress, final consonants and consonant clusters, reduced syllables, impact of monosyllabic L1 word patterns, and connected up speech, and so on. And these conversations were not just from academic interest, but from the absolute necessity of the goal of comfortable intelligibility, the holy grail of practical pronunciation work.
Inspired by these strongly voiced needs I’m planning a series of blog posts under the heading In Pursuit of Comfortable Intelligibility in which I will look at ways of working on the bits (sounds, clusters, wordstress, unstress, linking, reduction, vocabulary etc) while always serving the greater purpose of the whole (comfortable intelligibility in connected up speech). How do we ensure that the roadside repairs on the bits serve the whole journey and do not become ends in themselves? How do we keep connected-up speech in front of us during every other kind of language activity?
This is not a new question, but it is always a key issue, and the pronunciation chart may enable us to approach it in new ways and perhaps with some new solutions.
By the way, while I was there Paz from Macmillan Education in China took the photo above, which may amuse you. We were in Beijing hence the caption…