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Choosing a Model for Pronunciation - Accent Not Accident by Robin Walker
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Now, of course, we get to the 64,000 dollar question - if we abandon RP, GA, or indeed any other regional or national native speaker accent, what on earth do we put in its place? The answer to this constituted part of my paper in Seville, and, if we're lucky enough, will make up the bulk of Dr. Jennifer Jenkins' presentation when she comes to TESOL-Spain in March. I am referring, of course, to the lingua franca core, a list of nine priority areas which all students of English must be competent in, both receptively and productively, if they are to be understood anywhere in the world by any listener. There is not enough room to include details of these elements here, and to do so would be to preclude Jennifer Jenkin's talk, but the key issues behind the list are the fact that it is based upon real data gathered when observing nonnative speaker to non-native speaker
interaction in English, and that the teaching of these priority areas of English pronunciation in no way obliges the student to take on the intimidating task of aiming for a native speaker accent, although were this to be a student's deliberate choice, the LFC is the perfect starting point.

Given the status of English as the world's dominant international language, we must now begin to seriously examine the place of RP, GA, or any other native speaker accent in the teaching of its pronunciation. If intelligibility at international levels is our students' aim, and the retention of national identity their natural desire, then a far more attainable, perfectly legitimate target for pronunciation practice must surely be a good non-native speaker accent, provided of course, that this possesses all of the core elements of the LFC. And if the target for all, some, or any of our students is a non-native speaker accent, we must also recognise that non-native speaker teachers are just as well equipped to work on pronunciation as their native speaker counterparts.

The role of English has stepped firmly into the international arena of the 21st century, and we as teachers of the language need to take on the implications of this new situation, especially with respect to the teaching of pronunciation, one of the key factors in intelligibility in spoken English. The choice of an accent for pronunciation work can no longer remain a case of geographical proximity, or any other accidental factor, but must become the result of deliberate, informed choice, both by the teacher, and by the student.


Robin Walker has been teaching English in Spain since 1983 and currently works at the Escuela Universitaria de Turismo de Asturias and the Centro Britanico Español, both in Oviedo. He has been involved in teacher education since 1983, collaborating with the state CPRs, Oviedo University and OUP España. His specialist interests are pronunciation, ESP and teacher education.

Robin Walker
Escuela Universitaria de Turismo
de Asturias,
Avda, de los Monumentos, 11
33012, Oviedo
Tel. 985 966035
Fax. 985 242388

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