English Pronunciation Mastery: The Tower of Babbling Accents
(Exercising Your Mind) I was born in New York City, and then moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida in the U.S.A., spending 12 years in each state.
Because of the miscellaneous cultures present in these locations, I was exposed to numerous unfamiliar accents every day. Even at home, my mother spoke with a British accent, and my father spoke with a strong Trinidadian accent.
In New York, I spoke with people from Africa, Dominican Republic, China, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Canada, many countries in South America, England, and many other regions who *Spoke English as an Additional Language.
Amongst other specialties, I am often consulted as an expert in English speech, pronunciation, and accent modification, as well as a guest-speaker, presenter, host, and lecturer.
I have come to understand that my manner of speech is as univerally intelligible and clear as such, in large part because I have been exposed to many distinct sounds of speech (accents / dialects), and was able to take the best parts for clearly communicating in English, and discard the parts that do not work well for intelligible speech.
Because of the dissimilar ways in which various words were pronounced, I formed a highly developed word-recognition ability when communicating with many different people who speak with divergent accents.
I had to understand communication coming from at least two very mismatched accents at home. In addition to that, I continued to be exposed to exotic accents by relatives, care-givers, and later in New York public schools.
However, this was not so easy for me at first. I spent more time with my mother, and recall having difficulty understanding my father as clearly as her early on.
The advantage came later on when after easily comprehending my father, I noticed that I was able to understand people with so-called “heavy accents” of all kinds, more readily than my peers who grew up in less diverse speech / accent environments.
This included uncommon accents, that were not only inconsistent with that of my parents, but also forms and sounds of speech that were completely novel to my experiences.
Haiku Science Academy Research
This phenomenon is not well understood by many English language teachers, and because of this, multi-accent language exposure is not sufficiently considered in the classroom by teachers, or the organizations that hire them.
As a result, Students of English as an Additional Language are exposed to unique accents, at discrete stages of their neurological development, and at different periods of their English learning education, without guidance informed by this understanding.
Agitating Problems and Offering Solutions
Throughout my research observations, I have witnessed that there is a high turn-over of English language teachers, in several institutions.
Whatever the reasons are, this attrition rate is much higher than the desired, expected, and alloted time of 1-year, which is the standard contract length in many English learning centers in China, Taiwan, and the United States.
Additionally, because of the fact that many English teachers are hired for dubious reasons e.g., having a caucasion / European look, rather than standardized qualifications; an unacceptable quantity of unqualified Teachers of English as an Additional Language are corrupting the adequate development of their unfortunate students.
The aforementioned standardized qualifications are universally agreed to being as follows:
- Having a bachelor’s degree from a nationally recognized college / university.
- TEFL, TESOL, ESL, etc.140-hour or more certificate.
- And the even more questionable requirement of being a native English speaker.
It is contraversial because I duly acknowledge that there must be standards in place so that qualified Teachers of English as an Additional Language may be identified and selected for hire.
The contention I have with these standards is the fact that degrees of higher-learning, being a native speaker, and most certifications are in no way reliable signifiers of possessing the ability to successfully educate Speakers of English as an Additional Language.
Direct observation has provided suffficient evidence that unequivocally contradicts the generally accepted idea that persons who have these qualifications are, practically speaking, “qualified”.
Sometimes this is because the hired teachers are non-native speakers who themselves have been poorly educated in English speech, but just as often, there are native speakers of English whose command of speech borders on the pathetic.
There is also the issue of motivation, or WHY the teacher is in their position, that is incredibly crucial, but discussion of which will be saved for a future installment.
- In direct, and maybe non-intuitive contrast, there are outstanding Teachers of English as an Additional Language, who do not have the minimum of a bachelor’s degree, and if they do, it may be from an unconventional institution.
- These remarkable teachers may also not have any of the TEFL, TESOL, ESL, etc., certifications.
- Finally, they may themselves be Speakers of English as an Additional Language (non-native speakers) who HAVE received appropriate English speech training.
What I know to be one of the most relevant qualifications, independent from the conventional standards is having
[2-years or more of] experience teaching English in the classroom successfully.
By successfully, I mean that not only is the teacher recognized, commended, and even provided references by their employer and co-workers;
But more importantly, that the teacher can provide documentation in the form of lesson plans, audio, and/or video recordings (AV), recorded demonstrations of student’s English speaking competence (results), testemonials from students; and where applicable, from their parents, employers, and primary educators.
And while there does at 1st seem to exist the catch-22 of not being offered the opportunity to earn 2 years of experience without the standardized qualifications, this is simply remedied by the provision and acceptance of a platform of real-world demonstration.
This platform will be provided of course, only after an agreed upon minimum of academic material has been received and reviewed by the potential teacher candidate.
Further details, development, and description is forthcoming in publications to follow. At this point it is sufficient to understand that I believe that there are significant flaws in the currently accepted sytems of Teaching English as an Additional Language.
Furthermore, I have developed, and have scheduled the release of programs to inform the solutions to these flawed systems which are intended to serve as alternatives and compliments where appropriate.
- SEAL – Speakers / Students of English as an Additional Language, and DEAL – Developing English as an Additional Language are proprietary terms developed by HypnoAthletics for Haiku Science Academy (HSA)