Gagne de la cryptomonnaie GRATUITE en 5 clics et aide institut numérique à propager la connaissance universitaire >> CLIQUEZ ICI <<

1.1.1. The place of pronunciation in EFL classes

Non classé

As Abercrombie (1967) puts it, spoken language and written language can be defined as two
different yet complementary mediums of one and the same language. The learning of a
language should include both of them equally, even if they may be taught separately in
school context. In our view, the teaching of English pronunciation in France is very limited if
compared with that of vocabulary or grammar.

In France, secondary schools necessarily offer the possibility to learn foreign languages,
among which English is the only one that is always present and compulsory at some point or
another, i.e. usually in the first year (sixième) or in the third year (quatrième)(1). This situation is
undeniably due to the status of the English language in the world, as it is considered to be an
international language that one can use almost anywhere one goes. In this respect, let alone
English-speaking countries such as England, Ireland, Australia, etc., using English to
communicate anywhere in the world implies using spoken language. It cannot be expected
from a non English-speaking country to use written English for signs, notices, books, labels,
or leaflets, and it is even less conceivable that a tourist would write in English on a notepad
to communicate. This communicative feature of English is what has been highlighted by the
Official Instructions for teachers of English as a Foreign Language in France. Nevertheless, it
has not always been the case, and there is a risk of discrepancy between what should be
taught and what is actually taught, hence an apparent priority given to vocabulary and
grammar in EFL classes (Herry, 2001: 9).

Over the last few decades, several authors have described the teaching of pronunciation as
the “Cinderella” area of foreign language teaching (e.g. Greenwood, 2002; Kelly, 1969). The
place of pronunciation always depended, and still depends, on the Official Instructions by
the French Ministry of Education. In the first part of the 20th century, pronunciation held a
rather important place especially in the first years of secondary education, with such
approaches as the Active Method or the Direct Method, in which the teaching of phonetics
played a large part (Celce-Murcia, Brinton & Goodwin, 1996; Kelly, 1969; Silveira, 2002). But
it also went through a decline and the absence of phonetics in curricula, for example during
the development of the Cognitive Approach to language teaching. Up until today, the
principal exercise in French lycées has always remained text comprehension, peppered with
grammar points and sometimes translation. As evidence of the lack of pronunciation
treatment, it should be noted that there is currently no compulsory oral exam –
comprehension or expression – in English for the Baccalauréat Général, while written
comprehension of especially literary texts is all pervasive. The teaching area is very limited.

The most recent approach to language teaching is the Communicative Approach, placing
the emphasis on the teaching of written and oral production and comprehension alike, but
this time aiming at intelligible rather than accurate pronunciation (Silveira, 2002).
Furthermore, several authors agree that attaining native-like pronunciation “is not a realistic
or even desirable goal” (Nakashima, 2006: 30). The place of pronunciation in EFL teaching
thus seems to be variable and not safe, as it has been prone to many changes. Nonetheless, an
“ear-before-eye” method of teaching (Kelly, 1969), according to which the learning of spoken
language should be put before that of written language, was sometimes recommended, albeit
not necessarily followed.

1 This statement does not take into consideration primary school, where the teaching of a foreign
language is now also compulsory.

Page suivante : 1.1.2. Segments vs. suprasegments in EFL pronunciation teaching