Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Podcasting Communities and Second Language Pronunciation

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Podcasting Communities and Second Language Pronunciation

Article excerpt

Abstract:

Although often neglected in language classrooms, second language phonology is a crucial element in language learning because it is often the most salient feature in the speech of a foreigner. As instructors, we must decide how to emphasize pronunciation and what techniques to use. This article discusses a collaborative podcasting project in an undergraduate Spanish phonetics class. Students worked in small groups to create and maintain their own podcast channel on which they uploaded recordings for group member feedback. Each recording focused on particular aspects of Spanish pronunciation, using tongue twisters, short readings, and personal reflection on students' own pronunciation. Both attitudes and pronunciation abilities were assessed before and after the project, and both were found to improve. The benefits of podcasting projects to improve language skills are discussed from an empirical as well as a pedagogical perspective.

Key words: attitude, phonology, podcasting, pronunciation, second language acquisition

Language: Spanish

Introduction

Most language instructors struggle to include the necessary grammar, vocabulary, culture, and four skills practice in their classes without worrying about including pronunciation instruction as well. Many assume that students will eventually learn the pronunciation on their own with more input in the second language (L2), or will acquire it at some future point, while others question if it is even worth the time and effort to teach the phonological principles of a foreign language. Yet the sound system of a language is often the most salient feature in the speech of a foreigner: Speakers with perfect grammar and broad vocabulary will still immediately be recognized as foreigners or outsiders if their pronunciation does not match the native norm. At the same time, the growing demand for global competence and international communication and collaboration in today's world makes achieving proficiency in a second or foreign language increasingly more important, and this proficiency needs to include not just vocabulary and grammar, but accurate and acceptable pronunciation as well.

As instructors, we often recognize that our students do indeed need additional input and output activities to help them continue to improve their language skills, particularly pronunciation skills. Empirical studies have found benefits to emphasizing L2 pronunciation and phonology in the classroom (e.g., Elliott 1997; GonzálezBueno, 1997; Lord, 2005, among others). So the questions we face are how to create this emphasis on pronunciation and what techniques to use to do so. One tool that is rapidly gaining popularity in education is that of podcasting (Thorne & Payne, 2005), the distribution of digital audio files using syndication feeds. This article discusses a semester-long collaborative podcasting project in an undergraduate Spanish phonetics class in which students carried out a series of oral tasks in podcast groups, analyzing their own pronunciation as well as that of their peers. Students' attitudes toward pronunciation were assessed before and after the project, and their pronunciation skills were evaluated at the beginning and end of the semester. The goal of the project was to use collaborative communities to help students develop more positive attitudes toward the importance of pronunciation in Spanish, as well as to enable them to make gains in their own pronunciation abilities.

The next section reviews previous work related to instruction in L2 phonology, as well as the limited work available on podcast use in language classrooms. Then, the research questions are presented and the methodology is described. Next, the data analysis is explained and the results are discussed. Finally, the conclusion provides a summary of the findings in terms of their implications for L2 phonology acquisition and classroom practices.

The Acquisition of L2 Phonology

Although relatively little work has been carried out investigating the acquisition of L2 phonology, a growing number of researchers have taken interest in what can be taught, what can be learned, and how. …

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