Do native teachers teach a more effective pronunciation class than nonnative teachers?

Contributor: Pinzhen Chen | Reviewer: Hitoshi Nishizawa | Date: 2022-03-17

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Overview

Both native and nonnative language teachers find teaching pronunciation difficult. Particularly, nonnative language teachers may wonder if they should teach pronunciation or not. This study investigated 1) if the teachers’ nativeness could have any effects on students’ improvement in accentedness (strength of foreign accent) and comprehensibility (ease of understanding), and 2) any differences in students’ evaluation of teachers’ effectiveness as a pronunciation teacher.

Methods

The researchers conducted two concurrent pronunciation courses, one with a native English-speaking teacher and one with a nonnative-English-speaking teacher. This course met two times a week for 75 minutes and lasted for seven weeks. The course content and materials were the same across the classes to compare the effect of the nativeness of the teacher. Moreover, activities and exercises were also the same and included a mixture of practice and explanation. The pedagogic targets were sentence stress (4 lessons), lexical stress (1 lesson), rhythm (3 lessons), intonation (2 lessons), and thought groups/expressive speaking practice (3 lessons). Segmental features were not taught. To measure gains, all the students performed a sentence read-aloud task and a spontaneous speaking task before and after the course. The spontaneous speaking task included an interview and a narrative task (describing their favorite holiday). The speech samples were rated by 67 native-English speakers for accentedness and comprehensibility. Students were interviewed to examine their evaluation of the teachers.

Results

Overall, students in both classes did not show improvements in their comprehensibility and accentedness in both read-aloud task and spontaneous speaking tasks after the course. In addition, the teachers’ language background had no significant impact on students’ overall improvement of comprehensibility. However, there was a significant improvement in accentedness for the NEST class compared to the NNEST class in both read-aloud task and spontaneous speaking tasks. The students in the NEST class reduced accentedness more than the students in the NNEST class. However, in the post-test, there were no significant differences between the groups. Third, while the students did not prefer native teachers in grammar and reading instructions, they still indicated a strong preference for native teachers in pronunciation instruction after the completion of the course.

Practical Implications/Significance

This study suggests that teachers’ nativeness is not a core factor that leads to effective English pronunciation instruction. Rather, second language learning experiences that non-native teachers have are advantageous because they understand the pitfalls that students might fall into.

Original Article:  Levis, J., Sonsaat, S., Link, S., & Barriuso, T. A. (2016). Native and Nonnative Teachers of L2 Pronunciation: Effects on Learner Performance. TESOL Quarterly, 50(4), 894-931. https://doi.org/10.1002/tesq.272

Cite this summary: 
Chen , P. (2022). Do native teachers teach a more effective pronunciation class than nonnative teachers?. Multiʻōlelo Summary of Levis et al.(2016) in TESOL Quarterly. Retrieved from https://multiolelo.com/?p=1777

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