Student or Learner
There is a difference between producing norms and describing the real world. Science does the latter.
A student ought to be informed of the facts: people pronounce it this way, but there are some people who consider it lazy (even though they do pronounce it in the same way usually).
Last edited by birdeen's call; 28-Dec-2010 at 00:54.
I agree. If my teachers had been on me to fix every little detail I got wrong I would never have opened my mouth to speak another language. Sometimes you have to realize that you have limits and find a way to be happy about what you can do. I choose to be satisfied that I no longer pronounce "th" as a "d" - but that doesn't mean that I won't keep practicing adding that "s" - I am just not going to stay silent until I get it right.
One very important point is being missed. A non-native speaker will rarely achieve a native accent (sad, maybe, but true). So, there is already the potential problem of being understood. A person with a strong foreign accent will be understood better if they say "clothes", rather than "close", because it is less likely to be misinterpreted.
Most native speakers don't articulate well (leading to pronunciations such as 'close' becoming 'normal', but they do it in a native style, with all the right intonation etc. that makes them generally comprehensible to their peers.
This is why I always advise students not to agonise about reproducing a /r/ flap because they want to say "latter" in the American way. It's not that I think the AmE pronunication is inferior; it is just less likely to lead to a foreign speaker being understood than if they say "latter". The same applies for learning BrE glottal stops when none are necessary. I also would not advise ESL learners to try to emulate a broad Australian accent, thinking that in Australia it will make them more comprehensible. It won't; until such an accent becomes normal through familarity with all the other cues that allow natives to speak lazily.
I've never heard of a person who is constantly misunderstood because s/he articulates well.
Differences in pronunciation make speech difficult to understand. It doesn't matter whether persons involved are native or non-native. When you talk to a non-native speaker, do you change your /æɪ/ to /eɪ/ to make your speech easier to understand? Of course, when a person needs do make themselves clear, they will pronounce "clothes" with all the sounds written. If they can. But I don't understand how you can expect that non-native speakers utter difficult clusters in normal speech.