1) Pronunciation IS important to spoken English.
Perfect pronunciation may not be completely achievable: ok, no need to be radical about that. Although, it should still be always the common goal
for speakers, so that the particular (maybe natural) distortions of each person or culture stray (less and less) from a common point, minimizing the differences.
Not caring at all about pronunciation is unacceptable. Enforcing a standard way of producing sounds is, after all, essential for the spoken communication itself, in any language!
... we should recognize the difference between "accent" and "pronunciation".
One word can be read with many accents but only one way to pronounce.
Well, I would disagree on this. Core pronunciation is deeply affected by accent. Let's just think about the pronunciation
of "T" (in "city") under the American (something close to "cidy"), British ("citttty") and "poverty English" (any better names please?) ( ci'ee ) accents
2) Pronunciation is important for RESPECT
Let's not be naive. Let's be ready for JUDGMENTAL people - they exist.
They could be among clients, bosses or people you'd like to befriend or date.
They could be native speakers, non-native but excellent speakers, or poor speakers who simply like to "throw the first stone".
Poor pronunciation may make them respect you less, pity you, patronize you, mock you, ignore you, and so on - it will hardly ever be good for you or your self-esteem. It could be out of pure evil, could be a craving to feel their English knowledge contemplated, it could be laziness on making the effort (yes, there is effort) to decrypt your bad pronunciation; it doesn't matter.
"Shame on them!" Well, what to do? Sometimes ignoring/avoiding judgmental people is simply not optional.
3) Pronunciation in class is NOT a WASTE OF TIME
Let's be honest to our BOND TO COMFORT. It exists - sad as it sounds.
New or difficult pronunciation, besides "too strange", could sound "funny" or even "ridiculous". We may then be obstructingly shy to reproduce them, or too arrogant, or simply too lazy. (I don't believe in "too untalented" as this alone can be overcome by proportional perseverance).
I don't believe in "self-imposed homework" in the long run. (Bursts of pro-activity don't count.) Some exercises seem great and effective! But the less "natural" they sound, the less likely their execution (by us alone) becomes.
What I think is "natural", regarding practice of pronunciation
- Singing along with songs.
Number one! Dang! People simply do that! It is human to enjoy music. Whenever there is enough privacy (home, shower) or enough anonymity (by whispering in a loud street), one can sing!
- Having conversations with native (or good) English speakers, with an open / absorbing mind.
Number two, as it may simply not be that trivial to make - and keep - such friendships. Still, it sounds natural enough.
Now, what I think are great
ideas (from this thread), but pretty unlikely
to be done by self-will:
Repeat the good English you hear
- Pausing and/or rewinding that TV show episode, or movie, to repeat the lines? Repeating key phrases, heard from radio or TV, on-the-fly?
People just don't do this. This is artificial, clearly an exercise.
Record your own voice; compare with the "right" version
- Excellent (!), but still unnatural, and requiring multiple resources; the recorder with playback is even a bit exotic, speaking from the comfort zone (and comparing to a notebook+pencil, for example).
Read out loud
- Simple - just a text / word list and a mouth. Possible - even though getting enough privacy may be tricky. Nearly natural. Awgh, shame on learners, but they just wouldn't do this exercise by themselves either. >=o/
So what, discard these excellent exercises, just because they're too far from human's lame comfort zone?? NOOO!
But how to ensure they are done, on a regular basis
, or done at all?
I believe only the teacher (school) / student structure has the power to enforce so.
Only if class time is "wasted" and they are given as activity, or given as really official, demanded, checked and assessed homework, will the learner really do them for their great benefit.
Last but not least...
And that's my opinion, folks.
Of course I've just been pretty pessimistic and generic, but when replying please bear in mind that exceptions are as obvious as rare
- I personally know them, and acknowledge them. I'm just trying to talk about tendencies and majorities.
Pardon my lengthy post, my faulty English and...