In the choice of segments to be taught

In further proffering an argument for intelligibility amidst diverse English dialects, Kang et al (2018: 117) note that many speakers can have a strong accent and yet still be highly intelligible, and Kilickaya (2009:37) also notes that English should be taught in such a way that students are able to understand or tolerate many accent and varieties through exposure, and adjusting their expectations according to available (language/linguistic) settings.

After reading and observing trends in the data of 75 studies of research in English language pronunciation and learning, Thomson and Derwing (2014: 3, 9-11, 14) arrived at various conclusions: while some learning trajectories may be similar regardless of the learners’ L1, difficulties may result from an interaction between the L1 and the L2; the development of a selection criterion for English segmental instruction (for English as an L2) based on the notion of functional load- the number of minimal pairs that two phonemic contrasts distinguish- should guide the choice of segments to be taught to L2 users; while the relationship between age and foreign accent is undeniable, it is also clear that among learners of a similar age, the degree of exposure/experience with the L2 predicts strength of accent; most L2 speakers who have communication problems pronounce several segmental and suprasegmentals in ways that interfere with understanding; since pronunciation difficulties vary across students, individualized practice is crucial, requiring weeks/months for an improvement in comprehensibility or intelligibility requires weeks or even months of instruction; learners with intelligibility or comprehensibility issues would benefit from informed instruction such that in immigrant situations, native speakers of the L2 could be helped to become better communicators in general. This argument highlights the anxiety/concern of an impending unintelligibility among varying English speakers if not properly managed.

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After analyzing the major causes of intelligibility failure between Cameroon English speakers and British/ American English speakers, Atechi (2006: 1, 2, 9) arrives at the conclusion that when studies are carried out with the traditional notion of intelligibility in mind, that is, with the tendency of seeing native (British/American) English speech as prestigious, correct, and intelligible, non-native (British/American) varieties become perceived as substandard, incorrect and unintelligible; as a result, intelligibility should be rather considered from a bi-directional perspective, whereby the participants in the communication act are made to put in equal efforts to make the communication process a success. He further points out that English language varieties are also influenced by native (mother tongue) accents, political and geographical settings, and social exposure, which is exemplified in the styles of four sub-varieties of Cameroonian English: the English of Francophone Cameroonians, the English of Cameroonians influenced by the native accents, the English of uneducated Cameroonians, and the English of educated Cameroonians. This study expands the notion of intelligibility beyond a traditional expectation as British or American standard of English language communication, and to include the understanding or appreciation of the peculiarities of the socio-cultural factors that underlie the other many English language varieties. Kaan et al’s (2013: 77) point that English varieties usually have distinct characteristics, linguistic and cultural identities due to the different historical, geographical, political and social-cultural factors that give birth to them, such that it becomes faulty to use foreign standards as parameters for determining the intelligibility and acceptability or otherwise of these varieties of English thus, becomes essential.

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