English as a Lingua Franca: Learners’ Views on Pronunciation

Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching
2015, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 260–275
© Centre for Language Studies
National University of Singapore
English as a Lingua Franca: Learners’ Views on Pronunciation
Naratip Jindapitak
Prince of Songkla University, Thailand


Conclusion and implications
In view of the findings in this paper, it should be maintained that a shift in ELT from the NSbased paradigm to a more realistic paradigm of ELF, which is based on the current role of English as an international lingua franca, is needed. Kirkpatrick (2007a) illustrates that if English in NNS settings is used primarily for meaningful communication between NNSs, then how English is really used by these people becomes more important than how it is used by NSs. Based on this study, several sociolinguistic aspects which relate to pronunciation learning and teaching need to be revisited. Implications that follow are believed to be imperative for both pronunciation teachers and learners.
First, this study maintains that the exposure to world Englishes in the pronunciation classroom is necessary. Based on the results of this study, the participants, to a certain extent, showed some prejudiced reactions to NNS Englishes although they were generally positive when asked if understanding
varieties of English is important. Teachers could then begin to include NNS stimuli as listening materials to improve learners’ understanding and awareness of world Englishes. Derwing, Rossiter and Munro (2002) argue that a general lack of familiarity with NNS Englishes “creates a sense of trepidation that causes some NSs… to freeze. Still other factors that may play a role are bias attributable to ethnicity or a genuine lack of ability to understand accented speech” (p. 248).
Although their claim is based on the need for NSs to understand varieties of English, it is thought to be imperative for NNSs too. That is, as far as world Englishes is concerned, the English language classroom should serve as a starting point to help learners gain an international understanding of the world and to develop a sense of tolerance of English varieties. Matsuda (2002) maintains
that if the English in a L2 classroom is limited to only how NSs use the language, learners’ worldviews may also become limited too. They may not find other parts of the world that they are not familiar with to be interesting enough to explore or worth learning. An ELF-based curriculum, according to Matsuda (2002), should be “capable of providing opportunities for the exposure to various parts of the world, and it would be unfortunate if the exposure were limited to the Inner
Circle, taking away available learning opportunity” (p. 438).
Second, this study may also be used to reconceptualise appropriate pronunciation learning and teaching. Although the approximation of native-like pronunciation is motivating for most learners, such a goal can be unnecessary given the use of ELF in NNS settings where NNSs are the norm (Jenkins, 2000). In this study, it is interesting to find that some participants were aware of the changing sociolinguistic profiles of English as reflected in their consciousness of the increasing role of English driven by the commencement of the AEC in 2015. Following such findings, the ELF pronunciation classroom should serve as a springboard to help English language learners foresee what the future uses and users of English will be like (Matsuda, 2003, 2009; Song & Drummond, 2009). On practical grounds, teachers can inform learners that there is no need for them to direct all of their energy to mastering native-like competence in pronunciation because the term native-like is rather ambiguous linguistically. Teachers can also encourage learners to use English confidently without worrying that their productions will fall short of the NS pronunciation criteria. This kind of anxiety was held by many participants in this study: they felt insecure when asked if they were proud of their own English accent. The learners should be educated that NNS linguistic variation is not necessarily indicative of linguistic incorrectness, but that it is a matter of linguistic diversity. Moreover, teachers need to be conscious about the role of ELF in the world. Since language changes with time, it seems unrealistic if pedagogical implementation is still geared toward the standard of the ambiguous “West” (Shin, 2004) as the sole pedagogical priority   in NNS contexts where people use ELF to suit different communicative purposes. However, it should be noted that the use of ELF-based pronunciation orientation does not necessarily mean that NS-based pronunciation models should completely be marginalised in the NNS pronunciation classroom. English language learners still need them as point of reference whenever possible (Jenkins, 1998). These models are useful for learners or people who have the goal to identify themselves with NSs or function in NS communities. Hence, teachers need to be careful to select appropriate pronunciation models that suit different learner needs. Regarding limitations and recommendations, it is important to note first that the findings of this study should not be generalised to all English majors in Thailand. This study is solely based on the perceptions of English majors in only one university. Future studies may recruit larger populations in order to make data more generalisable. More interestingly, future studies can recruit populations from different geographical areas or of different linguistic experiences and backgrounds in order to achieve broader conclusions and to allow more attitudinal differences to be observed. Second, other groups of population are also worth investigating since it might allow researchers to draw different conclusions regarding pronunciation learning and teaching. For example, future studies can compare learners’ perceptions with those of the teachers in order to find possible agreements or solutions for pedagogical development. As this study suggests, there were some aspects of pronunciation teaching as perceived by the learners that did not match the teachers’ pedagogical assumptions in some studies in the literature. Thus, without listening to both learners and teachers, pedagogical development might become directionless.

NS – native speaker

NNS – non-native speaker