Intonation difficulties in non-native languages.

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1 Intonation difficulties in non-native languages. Irma Rusadze Akaki Tsereteli State University, Assistant Professor, Kutaisi, Georgia Sopio Kipiani Akaki Tsereteli State University, Assistant Professor, Kutaisi, Georgia Abstract The article deals with the intonation difficulties in non-native languages. Poor pronunciation can make a foreign language learner very difficult to understand. Language teachers have lately become more aware of this and have shifted the focus of their pronunciation teaching. It is therefore crucial for language teachers to be aware of current research findings in the area of foreign (second) language learning. The focus of this paper will be on intonation in L2 learning, but some issues of stress and rhythm will be also discussed. Many teachers find intonation difficult to teach. As a result they may avoid it. But intonation can be fun to work with and it can make other language areas easier to teach. Teaching intonation within the communicative framework means guiding learners to experience speech as transfer of a message from one person to another. Doing this helps learners to think about their communication, rather than as a classroom exercise, and to focus on their listener s perception rather than on their own production. Main teaching principles are: Setting realistic goals, Integrating pronunciation to listening and speaking skills practice, being student-centred, helping learners becomes self-reliant. Introduction and Aim The aim of this paper is to provide a summary of some of the most commonly occurring problems in non-native intonation, to reanalyze some past and current research findings in terms of a framework of intonation analysis. Some examples will be given throughout the paper to illustrate intonation errors observed in L2 speech. Research methodology Methods and approaches use in the article are as follows: audio, visual and verbal methods; open book; pair &group/ collaborative; PBL. Results and implication The aim of this paper is to provide a summary of some of the most commonly occurring problems in non-native intonation, to reanalyze some past and current research findings in terms of a framework of intonation analysis. Some examples will be given throughout the paper to illustrate intonation errors observed in L2 speech. Conclusion In linguistics, intonation is the variation of pitch when speaking. Intonation is the main element of linguistic prosody. Poor intonation can cause misunderstanding and even produce an unfavorable impression of a person. Keywords: Linguistics, intonation, pitches, intelligibility, non-native language, L2.

2 1. Intonation within the communicative framework. Every language has its own intonation system; certain correlations exist between intonation patterns with special meanings. Research tells us that the difficulties in the learning of L2 intonation patterns are often due to the non-equivalence of the intonation structure of the learners L1 and the L2 structure (e.g. Cruz-Ferreira, 1983). Poor pronunciation can make a foreign language learner very difficult to understand. Language teachers have lately become more aware of this and have shifted the focus of their pronunciation teaching. It is therefore crucial for language teachers to be aware of current research findings in the area of foreign (second) language learning. 1.1 Intelligibility the most appropriate goal for learners Most people agree that intelligibility is the most appropriate goal for learners, although different learners may have different specific goals. Thus the aim of some learners is simply to be understood in ordinary conversation, while others may aim for greater proximity to native speaker models. Fraser (2000: 10) suggests that learners of ESL need to be able to speak English with an accent, or accents, of their choice which is easily intelligible to an ordinary Australian English speaker of average goodwill. However, as Jenkins (2000) notes, in some contexts learners rarely speak to native speakers. In addition to general proficiency in English and general speaking skills, the following elements are important for intelligibility (for definitions of these, see AMEP Fact sheet Pronunciation 1): overall prosody (including stress, rhythm and intonation) phrasing and sense groups intonation word stress rhythm (use of stressed and unstressed syllables) syllable structure segments (sounds) voice quality. 1.2 All aspects of pronunciation. Traditionally, in language teaching there has been a strong focus on the individual sounds of English. However, all aspects of pronunciation, including prosody, individual sounds and syllable structure are important for how intelligible a speaker is. Different aspects of pronunciation may be particularly important at certain levels of proficiency or for certain aspects of interaction.

3 Intonation. Work by Munro and Derwing (1999) suggests that intonation is more important forhow easy relatively advanced speakers are to understand, than for how far they are actually understood. Stress patterns, at both the word level and the sentence level, are important for intelligibility, and offer a useful starting point for teaching pronunciation, particularly with a class of students from different L1 backgrounds (Benrabah 1997; Chela-Flores 2001). Speech rate. How fast a person speaks only seems to be a problem for learners when the speaker is excessively fast or speaks fast and has a strong accent. Neither is faster better, except for very slow speakers, and ideal speaking rates for nonnative speakers appear to be a little slower than the normal native speaker rate. When learners try to speak at a lower or higher rate, they may become less intelligible (Anderson-Hsieh and Koehler 1988). Voice quality seems to be important for intelligibility, particularly where the settings for a learner s L1 are very different from English. This suggests that work on improving articulatory settings will be useful for many learners in Australia (Kerr 1999, 2000). Individual sounds. Errors in individual sounds may affect how strong a learner s accent is perceived to be, rather than how far they are accurately understood (Munro and Derwing 1999). They may be particularly important when nonnative speakers of English are speaking together (Jenkins 2000). Although there has been little work on different types of errors in individual sounds, the deletion of consonants seems to particularly interfere with intelligibility, at least for speakers of English from some L1 backgounds (Suenobu, Kanzaki and Yamane 1992). Many teachers find intonation difficult to teach. As a result they may avoid it. But intonation can be fun to work with and it can make other language areas easier to teach. Teaching intonation within the communicative framework means guiding learners to experience speech as transfer of a message from one person to another. Doing this helps learners to think about their communication, rather than as a classroom exercise, and to focus on their listener s perception rather than on their own production. Main teaching principles are: Setting realistic goals, Integrating pronunciation to listening and speaking skills practice, Being student-centred, Helping learners become self-reliant. 2. Major intonation features of English language. It is proposed that a framework of English intonation should include four major intonational features: intonation units, stress, tones, and pitch range. Consequently, the phenomena of intonation in English should have a piece of utterance, intonation unit, as its basis to study all kinds of voice movements and features. 2.1 Intonatio units An 'intonation unit' is a piece of utterance, a continuous stream of sounds, bounded by a fairly perceptible pause. Pausing in some sense is a way of packaging the information such that the lexical

4 items put together in an intonation unit form certain psychological and lexic-grammatical realities. Typical examples would be the inclusion of subordinate clauses and prepositional phrases in intonation units. Any feature of intonation should be analyzed and discussed against a background of this phenomenon: tonic stress placement, choke of tones and keys are applicable to almost all intonation units. Consider the example below, in which slashes correspond to pauses: Those who guessed quickly/raised a hand (A hand was raised by those who guessed quickly) Those who guessed/quickly raised a hand) (A hand was raised quickly by those who guessed) 2. 2 Stress This section addresses the notion of stress in words as perceived in connected speech. In addition, the existence and discovery of tonic stress is discussed, and the major types of stress are explicated. Four major types of stress are identified: unmarked tonic stress, emphatic stress, contrastive stress, new information stress. An important prosodic feature, 'stress' applies to individual syllables, and involves, most commonly, loudness, length, and higher pitch (Roach, 1983:73). Each of these features may contribute in differing degrees at different times. Stress is an essential feature of word identity in English (Kenworthy, 1987:18). It is evident that not all syllables of a polysyllabic English word receive the same level of stress; in connected speech, usually two levels of stress appear to be perceptible, to non-native speakers in particular regardless of the number of syllables: stressed and unstressed (Kenworthy, 1987). What is known as the primary stress is regarded as the stressed syllable while the rest, secondary, tertiary, and weak, are rendered as unstressed syllables. An intonation unit almost always has one peak of stress, which is called 'tonic stress', or 'nucleus'. Because stress applies to syllables, the syllable that receives the tonic stress is called 'tonic syllable'. The term tonic stress is usually preferred to refer to this kind of stress in referring, proclaiming, and reporting utterances. Tonic stress is almost always found in a content word in utterance final position. One reason to move the tonic stress from its utterance final position is to assign an emphasis to a content word, which is usually a modal auxiliary, an intensifier, an adverb etc. Compare the following examples.. i. It was very INteresting (unmarked) ii. It was VEry interesting. (emphatic )

5 1 You must run QUICKly (unmarked) 2.You MUST run quickly. (emphatic ) Some intensifying adverbs and modifiers (or their derivatives) that are emphatic by nature are indeed, utterly, absolute, terrific, tremendous, awfully, terribly, great, grand, really, definitely, truly, literally, extremely, surely, completely, barely, entirely, very (adverb), very (adjective), quite, too, enough, pretty, far, especially, alone, only, own, -self. In contrastive contexts, the stress pattern is quite different from the emphatic and non-emphatic stresses in that any lexical item in an utterance can receive the tonic stress provided that the contrastively stressed item can be contrastable in that universe of speech. Consider the following examples: Do you take this one or THAT one? I take THIS one. New information stress it is pronounced with more breath force, since it is more prominent against a background given information in the question. The concept of new information is much clearer to students of English in responses to wh-questions than in declarative statements. Therefore, it is best to start with teaching the stressing of the new information supplied to questions with a question word a) What's your NAME b) My name's MATILDA The questions given above could also be answered in short form except for the last one, in which case the answers is: Matilda. In other words, 'given' information is omitted, not repeated. 2.3 Tone A unit of speech bounded by pauses has movement, of music and rhythm, associated with the pitch of voice (Roach, 1983:113). This certain pattern of voice movement is called 'tone'. A tone is a certain pattern, not an arbitrary one, because it is meaningful in discourse. By means of tones, speakers signal whether to refer, proclaim, agree, disagree, question or hesitate, or indicate completion and continuation of turn-taking, in speech. It appeared in teaching experience that only four types of tones can be efficiently taught to nonnative speakers of English: fall, low-rise, high-rise, fall-rise Pitch and pitch range

6 Pitch is one of the acoustic correlates of stress (Underhill 1994:57). From a physiological point of view, '...pitch is primarily dependent on the rate of vibration of vocal cords... (Cruttenden, 1986:3). When the vocal cords are stretched, the pitch of voice increases. Pitch variations in speech are realized by the alteration of the tension of vocal cords (Ladefoged, 1982:226). 3. Commonly occurring problems in non-native intonation. In linguistics, intonation is the variation of pitch when speaking. Intonation is the main element of linguistic prosody. Poor intonation can cause misunderstanding and even produce an unfavorable impression of a person. The most common mistakes of intonation are no rising pitch and the use of the wrong pitch. Students often have more trouble imitating the rising than the falling intonation and they often don t use the right pitch to convey feelings. The following make teaching intonation not to be stressful: Make the rising pitch as high as you can, and the flat intonation sound monotone. Make sure your face also shows the right feeling. Go over patterns, such as: Yes/No questions have the rising pitch towards the end. Questions that begin with wh-words have a falling intonation. Statements have a falling intonation. Question tags may have either depending on the intention of the speaker. Questions tags that are comments or observations have a falling intonation while questions tags used to check information or express uncertainty have a rising intonation. Use rising intonation to express surprise. Use falling intonation to express sarcasm or disbelief. Thus, in linguistics intonation is the variation of pitch when speaking. Intonation and stress are two main elements of linguistic prosody. Intonation is the music of a language, and is perhaps the most important element of a good accent. Intonation the rise and fall of pitch in our voice plays a crucial role in how we express meaning. Reference: 1. Anderson-Hsieh, J and K Koehler. The effect of foreign accent and speaking rate on native speaker comprehension. Language Learning, 38: , Benrabah, M. Word-stress: A source of unintelligibility in English. IRAL, 35, 3: , Brown, G. Listening to Spoken English. Harlow (Essex): Longman, 1977.

7 4. Chela-Flores, B. Pronunciation and language learning: An integrative approach. IRAL, 39: , Cruttenden, A. Intonation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Derwing, T M, M J Munro and G Wiebe, Pronunciation instruction for fossilized learners. Can it help? Applied Language Learning, 8, 2: , Fraser, H. Coordinating improvements in pronunciation teaching for adult learners of English as a second language. Canberra: Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs (Australian National Training Authority Adult Literacy National Project), Kenworthy, J. Teaching English Pronunciation. London: Longman, Kerr, J. Changing focus of resonance: Effects on intelligibility in a Cantonese speaker. Australian Communication Quarterly, 1, 2: 20 21, Ladefoged, P. A Course in Phonetics. New York: Harcourt Jovanovich, 1982 (1975). 11. Roach, P. English Phonetics and Phonology: A Practical Coursebook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Jenkins, J. (2000) The Phonology of English as an International Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 13. Munro, M. and Derwing, T. (1999) Foreign accent, comprehensibility, and intelligibility in the Speech of second language learners Language learning, 49 (Supp. 1):

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