English Teacher Article Unstressed Forms

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There is a lot of hostility towards unstressed forms in some circles, where they are regarded as non-standard or 'sloppy' English. However, the learner in an English-speaking country will hear native speakers using all sorts of contractions in their speech. Does this conservative view of English pronunciation help or hinder students?

In spoken English, we condense words into almost unrecognisable units and the student who thinks of the question 'Would you...' as being clearly said as two distinct words might be surprised to hear people say 'wuja'. Ignoring the realities of English speech is likely to impede comprehension, rather than help students.

On the other hand, much of the English used is between non-natives, where this kind of behaviour is less likely to occur. This combined with the fact that many native speakers will adjust their speech patterns when talking to non-native speakers suggests, IMO, that reduced forms and other features of English speech are worth teaching, it does not follow that there should be such a heavy emphasis on these features as many would like to see.

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8 Comments

Richard,

The topic you are raising in your latest posting is yet again an interesting because it shows that learning and teaching English has many different facets. I think it is vital to teach 'standard and recognized English' in a classroom and then when you expose your students to the many varieties of spoken English you can stress that English is probably the fastest developing language in the world and therefore new forms and variations (especially spoken ones) occur all the time. I think in a classroom environment it is not possible to 'teach' all these forms. What you can aim at as a language trainer is to raise your students' awareness for facts you mention in your posting (a lot of people use English as a second, not foreign language). In other words, I think it's more effective to teach students how to learn than trying to teach them the language.
What do you think?

I've just put a link to your comment on our Delphi forum, in a discussion regarding "Sloppy usage?"!

See: http://forums.delphiforums.com/UsingEnglish/messages?msg=5734.1

:-)

Very, very nice! Thank you so much! We'll have to reciprocate. :-)

I teach English in England, where it is essential to learn about the intricacies of spoken discourse, so I do teach these forms. However, most classes finish with an exam and this over-rides everything because it is the passport to work, education, etc. ;-)

A Japanese student today told me that she couldn't hear the modal verbs is British speech and was finding it difficult to understand what people meant at times. I think it's quite important to let students know about unstressed forms, especially things like 'can', which is reduced to a barely audible noise, or two if negative.

I'm a student. I'm now conducting a research on word stress in english. can you tell me something about it?

EFL indicates the use of English in a non-English-speaking region. Study can occur either in the student's home country, as part of the normal school curriculum or otherwise.

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