In Pursuit of Comfortable Intelligibility

 “The Great Wall of Sound” (Beijing Oct 2015)

“The Great Wall of Sound” (Beijing Oct 2015)

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…


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6 Responses to In Pursuit of Comfortable Intelligibility

  1. Ekaterina says:

    Is there only a F2F course? Any online versions?

  2. punster30 says:

    Hi Adrian,
    I’m big admirer of your work, and heard great things about your recent workshops in Thailand.
    I just followed your link to the course on Pronunciation and Storytelling: from Phonemes to Fluency. I’m certainly intrigued, but I can’t fathom the price. Is this for real? I did my CELTA, plus accommodation, in Hungary for £1200. I did my DipTESOL, plus accommodation, is Scotland for around £1800. This price is a misprint, right?! I would be very keen to undertake the course, but do you think it will offer me value for money?

    • Hi punster30! Thanks for your comment. I agree it’s not cheap. And I’m afraid that’s the price of doing a residential course in SE England, especially in Cambridge and even more so in Cambridge University. And in the summer, and at a time when the pound is rather high.
      Is it value for money? Well it depends of course what a person wants and is willing and able to spend. But Homerton College is a fabulous place set in beautiful gardens, with great food and a very good all round academic and social programme, There is a great atmosphere with a number of courses going on side by side, and teachers from many countries meeting and learning from each other and hanging out together. As for the course itself…. well … it’s priceless!
      There is an alternative which is to get a group of teachers together and I’ll come out to your place. Not easy, but possible. Hope that helps, and that we’ll meet! Adrian

      • punster30 says:

        Hi Adrian. Thanks for the response. Fair comment, that is SE England for you, and I should know having spent two years working there in Eastbourne (incidentally, at a school managed by a former IH Hastings teacher). I’d love the British Council to fly you back out to Bangkok and do the two week course here, especially as I missed your recent talk over here due to work commitments. I’ll keep my eye out for an online version of the course in the future, then I’ll be able to judge the benefits of the course for myself. As things stand though, the cost of the course plus the flight home would require close to 3 months of my salary over here! All the best, hope it goes well!

  3. Thanks, and yes, there are times to hang on to your money!

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