There are other factors, of course. We must acknowledge the teacher’s own speech. This ultimately decides what pronunciation a given set of learners will be exposed to during the time period they are under that teacher’s instruction. What model is the teacher able to provide? There are native and non-native speakers. In which accent was the non-native speaker trained? Among the native speakers, regional and cultural variations may be used. I would argue that above all consistency is needed. Students need a consistent model to follow in order to create a solid pronunciation base. Ideally, within the context of a course or a program, one form of English pronunciation should be taught.
Notice how I specified one form of English pronunciation. I did not say simply one form of English. I want to argue the need for consistency when it comes to production, but in the matter of comprehension, exposure to different varieties of English is necessary. A good course or program will not limit students’ exposure to different accents. A learner will avoid confusion and achieve greater clarity if one set of speech sounds and patterns is used in production, but the learner must be trained to comprehend variations of speech sounds and patterns. How this is achieved is decided by the curriculum. For example, a school might have separate courses for pronunciation and listening skills. However, if listening and speaking are combined, it is necessary for the teacher to provide a consistent set of models (his/her own speech and recorded materials) for students to follow when production is the focus. Then when listening skills become the focus, variations in accent should be welcomed.
I will continue discussing this topic in my next posting. Until then, let me pose two questions:
What is an EFL teacher to do when his or her native language is a form of English other than the one given preference in that country?
Should ESL teachers who speak a regional or cultural dialect attempt to conform to the standard form of English in the pronunciation classroom?