WHY LEARN ABOUT THE LATEST TRENDS IN BRITISH ENGLISH PRONUNCIATION?
Written by Chris Kunz
This article fits within the context of the importance of English pronunciation in the 21st Century and the urgency to pronunciation training as evidence shows there is a threshold level of pronunciation for non-native speakers of English.
Estuary English, or should we say the “Standard British Pronunciation Model” these days, is certainly pushing its way into our discourse hard and fast enough to start referring to Received Pronunciation as a model from “the good old days”.
The malleability and ductility of Estuary English is so remarkable that it has managed to penetrate other varieties of British English as well as those Englishes spoken in many other parts of the world. This is clearly because of its fantastic ability to easily lend itself to suiting the needs of such a heterogeneous language group.
Therefore, analysing the pronunciation of the latest British model will not only help everyone achieve higher levels of communication, but will also help teachers bridge the gap between unrealistic pronunciation teaching and realistic pronunciation teaching in action. When it comes to our students, it should be the teacher’s job to actually help them not only to pronounce English more intelligibly, but also to understand the speech of others as much and as often as possible, including less carefully articulated speech which may sometimes even be regarded as “sloppy”
More and more speakers of English these days seem to prioritise the message they wish to put across to their intended listeners as opposed to the sounds which make up their actual utterances. Consequently, proactively assisting our students in the process of optimising their English pronunciation plays a crucial role since this will undoubtedly help them to become successful communicators of their messages and ideas. Amongst the latest trends in British English pronunciation, we could mention some features that predominantly affect consonants as well as others that affect vowels, mostly.
Consonants have primarily, but not only, been affected by the increasing presence of either glottal stops or glottal reinforcement as is the case in phrases like A lot of partners have cut their shares by an awful lot, for example. Another salient feature that has had an impact on consonants is the much more widespread use of intrusive r in phrases like There was a spa /r/ in the middle of nowhere or Anglia /r/ Exams are becoming more and more popular these days.
In the case of vowels, two phenomena have undoubtedly gained ground on its competitors. The first feature includes the vowel sound on the end of words like easy and happy, which these days tends to be a lot tenser /i/than the laxer and more traditional /ɪ/. In addition, we should make a mention of the L-vocalisation process through which the letter l in words like building and email realises as a (semi)-vowel (/w/ or /ou/) rather than a consonant sound.
There are, of course, many other features that have been affecting the pronunciation of British English all these years, and I’ll happy to share more with you in future articles.
Compiled by Chris Kunz – IATEFL International Conference - Brighton, UK 2018
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