1.1. Reasons for teaching pronunciation
Pronunciation is the materialisation of language, it is its physical side. Underhill (2010) makes the following list of reasons why teaching pronunciation cannot be left in the background:
- Pronunciation is involved in and has impact on all four language skills. Pronunciation is not just an aspect of speaking aloud. Pronunciation is active whenever the inner voice is active; when reading silently or rehearsing a phrase internally, when writing, when listening to an interlocutor and even when thinking. It is present in such simple tasks as remembering a phone number.
- Pronunciation improves listening. The mouth teaches the ear. Learning pronunciation “in the mouth” improves discrimination “in the ear”. According to a behaviourist view of language learning, the ear teaches the mouth so that listening comes before speaking, but the reverse is also true. Students of languages become aware of this when they have learned to pronounce something correctly and suddenly start to hear it clearly. For instance, when a student of Spanish has learnt how to say a rapid colloquial expression such as p’alante and finds she can suddenly hear and understand it. What the mouth can say becomes accessible to the ear to hear.
- Pronunciation is the physical aspect of language. It is partly the result of muscular coordination. It’s not so different from learning to dance or drive a car. While grammar, vocabulary and meaning are often taught cognitively, pronunciation is very much a physical activity. Use the natural muscular memory of the body to provide memory hooks for words and phrases. It will provide the experience of living the language and bringing it to life.
- Pronunciation affects self-esteem. The impact of feeling a more competent speaker and a more competent listener gives a sense of capability, a taste of potential mastery. All language learners are capable of modifying their pronunciation in order to be better understood, to better understand, and perhaps to enjoy the new language to a greater extent. Learners often have a good sense of areas of L2 pronunciation that they avoid, so it is very important that the teacher can give them systematic help.
For all the reasons above, we can claim that teaching Spanish pronunciation to teenage and adult learners from the beginning should be taken as seriously as teaching grammar and vocabulary. Learning the basics of pronunciation through phonics, students will not only learn to speak more comfortably and confidently, but this will enhance their communicative skills in general: production, perception and interaction.