Posted in Teacher motivation

Pronunciation – to correct or not?

Fluency and accuracy in language learning is like chicken and egg in folk tales: no-one can decide which comes first but it doesn’t stop them from arguing.

So which approach should the classes follow?

Both, of course.

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I start classes at the language school with genuine chat and unless the student has a question, or I can’t understand what they want to say, they don’t get corrected.

Gasp, no correction? No correction. Yes, they make mistakes, yes, they use simple words but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they communicate in another language, they use it for their own purposes, for topics that are important to them, not to the book.

The goal of this part of the class is purely to give them a sense of success: to make me understand what they want to say. This solidifies what they already know, improving their fluency over time.

The next part pushes the students outside of their comfort zone. My expectation here is higher: they are to practice grammar, vocabulary, they need to follow sentence structure as accurately as their level allows. It’s where learning takes place, where new expressions, rules are discovered and understood.

At the end of the class, we generally play a game that takes a lighter approach to understanding the new knowledge and again, mistakes are not pointed out in this part. We’re not aiming to be perfect here, we’re just having fun with the language.

When the class focuses on accuracy, it is not only at the expense of fluency but more importantly, of self-confidence. Speaking a new language always comes with mistakes, there’s no other way. It is our responsibility to make sure our students are fine with that and are open recipients to corrections without feeling inadequate. It’s a gentle balance that changes with every individual and the classes need to respect that.

My biggest pet peeve is native speakers feeling superior to language learners. It’s easy to forget that English did not come to them naturally. They’ve put a lot of work into communicating with you in your language instead of their own. I believe everyone needs to be respected for that, especially from their teacher.

This little rant was brought to you by Facebook of course 🙂

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Author:

My soul breathes music and exhales words. Be careful, you might end up in one of my creations one day. And you might even like it.

2 thoughts on “Pronunciation – to correct or not?

  1. Thank you for this post. French being my mother tongue, I studied English in school as a second language and even after graduating, I wasn’t fluent at all. I took conversation courses than practiced at every occasion. Eventually met that cute mysterious English guy… that’s when my English improved. I married him, we are approaching 20 years together and my English is ok now. I started to read books in English to build vocabulary so your quote above makes so much sense, many words make sense when I read them in my head but I can’t pronounce them. Reading out loud is one of the scariest thing as I can’t control which word is coming next. Some people giggle, some tell me, others don’t say anything because I am apparently cute when I mispronounce. Bottom line is, people should know the person before they correct them. Know what they can say and how that will impact the recipient.

    Liked by 1 person

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