Teaching Connected Speech
by Abdullah Coskun
It is common knowledge that connected speech is a real part of the daily English that we are exposed to everyday; therefore, our students should be aware of connected speech to understand better the language they hear. This paper that ends with a lesson plan for teaching some connected speech forms has the main aim to discuss the importance of teaching connected speech.
Connected speech forms are the spontaneous pronunciation changes in adjacent words or sounds spoken at a natural speed. Some common examples include /gonna/, /wanna/, /hafta/ and /gotta/. Rosa (2002) suggests that these forms are a common element of spoken English, found in all registers and all rates of speech. Brown (2006) lists below some of these forms by giving examples:
• Assimilation of Sounds (e.g. "could have = coulda")
• Linking of Sounds (e.g. "He's a good old man ='He's a good ol' man")
• Elision of Sounds (e.g. North American English speakers are much more likely to drop the middle vowel in chocolate in a two syllable version pronounced something like chak lut)
• Contractions (e.g. "they will=they'll)
• Intrusion (e.g. in some dialects, the phrase China and Japan is pronounced something like Chiner n Japan)
• Weak Forms of Words (e.g. the citation from of not in do not go can be contracted as in don't go or even further reduced as don go)
• Reduction (e.g. in North American English, the vowels found in unstressed syllables are most often reduced to schwa /?/ or incorporated into a syllabic consonant like /?/)
Listening is a process affected by the character of the listener, the speaker, the content of the message, and any visual support that accompanies the message (Brown & Yule, 1983). Among many suggestions as to the causes of the difficulty in understanding spoken English, the researchers seem to agree on the idea that connected speech forms are the main cause. Goh (2000) and Chen (2002) claimed that students do not recognize words they know while listening and Sun (2002) made a similar suggestion that students cannot segment speech, and that makes listening difficult. Ur (1984) claims that when a student learns a new word or an expression, he usually learns its written and spoken form in its formal and slow form ignoring how this word sounds when it is said quickly or in an stressed manner in a sentence. Underwood (1989) holds the idea that when encountered with speech they have not heard before, students find that the sounds are lost as the speakers focus on the message rather than the dictation. Students have difficulty in connecting the sounds they hear with words they have seen and recognized in print form.
Considering the challanges students face while listening to English, students should somehow be exposed to connected speech that is a part of the natural language use. As Brown (2006) argues, students need to be able to adapt their styles and registers in using language, and the ability to understand and use connected speech is necessary for these adaptations. Some researchers who are aware of the importance of teaching these forms have nade a number of suggestions on how to teach connected speech. Some of their ideas can be listed as follows:
-Using background knowledge and relating prior knowledge to the new information contained in the spoken text. It is also important to pre-teach these forms (Hasan, 2000).
-Singing rhyme and verse as a means of teaching problematic sounds, including reduced forms (Marks,1999).
-Promoting practice through cloze tests and dictation is proposed.
-Analyzing spoken discourse and activities which are meaningful, purposeful, communicative and task-based.
-Introducing from one to five new reduced forms and explaining how they are reduced at the beginning of each class.
-Giving dictation of sentences, repeating each sentence twice with relaxed or fast pronunciation
-Incorporating the reduced forms into exchanges with the students
-Keeping listening journals as a homework assignment -Using games and competitions and various types of cloze exercises, such as songs, dialogues, news broadcasts and interviews (Norris, 1995).
The following lesson plan includes some of the activities suggested above to familiarize students with different connected speech forms by starting the lesson with parts of a song containing some of these forms. Students' opinions about the difficulty they had while listening to the song and the reasons behind this difficulty will be elicited to have an introduction to connected speech forms. Then, students try to identify some of these forms in given sentences. Finally, students listen to a dialogue, write down the formal forms of the reduced forms and practice the exact dialogue after a second listening.
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