CPD Course 1: Pronunciation with Adrian Underhill

I’m in the first week of a 2-week course with Adrian Underhill! Although I’ve read his book and various articles, and watched his workshops online, it is a different experience working with the man himself. As if I’d had a sketch and he’s added shading and colour. He is a generous, humanistic teacher who answers all our questions thoughtfully.

It’s a treat to be working with a multi-national group of experienced teachers too. We have teachers from the Bahamas, Ukraine, Brazil, Russia, Italy, the Czech Republic, China and Japan. I’m one of only two native speaking teachers on the course. I wonder if this reflects the value native speaker teachers place on pron and the, more central, value non-native speaking teachers know it has.

I wonder whether non-native English speaking teachers have an advantage when it comes to pron. Not only are they more familiar with the chart and symbols, with reflection they can locate a sound in the L1 similar to the target sound and identify the movements necessary to move from one to the other.

Would it make sense for native speaking teachers to practice sounds from languages other than English to feel the combination of muscles involved in unfamiliar pronunciation? I feel that attempting to produce unfamiliar sounds might promote a greater awareness of muscle movement. Adrian gave us an example of the French vowel sound in ‘tu’, similar to the English /u:/ but with the tongue in a forward position. Understanding this clarifies the influence of tongue position for me much more than producing English vowel sounds.

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