Prioritizing Pronunciation

Jennifer Jenkins is an expert in the field of “Global English” – English taught outside of the US. She has an interesting and useful well-researched theory about how to prioritize pronunciation needs for interactions between non-native English speakers. This theory has been developed into a pronunciation core known as the Lingua Franca Core. The name indicates that the core is designed for the needs of interactions between non-native English speakers, but it is still an interesting theory that can loosely be applied to interactions between native and non-native speakers of English.

For more information about the Jenkins methodology, visit her website.

According to this core, the following pronunciation needs should be prioritized in teaching:

  • Consonant sounds are all important – with the exception of “unvoiced” th sounds (such as in thin and this)
  • The sound of two or more consonants at the beginning and in the middle of words (for example, break cannot be shortened to reak and remain understandable)
  • The contrast between long and short vowels (for great videos on minimal and near minimal pairs, visit the Resources to Unite Communities audio page)
  • Sentence stress: stressing the most important word (or syllable) in a group of words (I asked for THREE salads vs I asked for three SALADS.)

The Lingua Franca core conversely states that many things commonly taught in English pronunciation may not be essential for intelligibility:

  •  The th sounds
  • Weak forms such as the words to, of‘ and from whose vowels are often pronounced as schwa
  • Sounds in connected speech where the final sound of a word alters to make it more like the first sound of the next word (for example, red paint becomes reb paint)