Pronunciation assessment in Asia’s world city : implications of a lingua franca approach in Hong Kong
Second Language Pronunciation Assessment: Interdisciplinary Perspectives
Sitting in a tapas bar in Hong Kong, I overheard a conversation about English accents in contemporary social life: ‘Look like one thing, sound like another, and live somewhere else’, said a woman to a British-sounding but Asian-looking young man. Her observation captures rather neatly the diversity and unpredictability of language use in the age of globalization, which is also the age of ‘super-diversity’ (Vertovec, 2007). The audible and visible phenomena of superdiversity arise from global flows of various kinds: people, goods, capital and information (Held et al., 1999). The forms and uses of English, the de facto language of globalization, are also affected by these flows. The transformations and recombinations involved are highly complex, however. It is not merely a matter of there being ‘local’ Englishes, as is sometimes suggested by a World Englishes or a conventional diversity perspective; the local and the global are now intimately connected. A superdiversity viewpoint also acknowledges the important role of new media and new technologies of communication (Blommaert & Rampton, 2011: 3).
The pronunciation of English is also subject to the effects of superdiversity. It is of course affected by people’s other languages, but we can also hear the effects of the globalization of accent features and identity orientations. As one example, it no longer comes as a surprise to encounter students who have acquired English accent features from the media (e.g. see Zhang, 2003, in the case of American accents in China). Under these conditions, the challenge for pronunciation teaching and assessment lies in navigating the local/global polarity and making pedagogical sense of the complexity. One solution is provided by a lingua franca approach, and this chapter outlines one interpretation of such an approach. It first surveys the findings of research into intelligibility in lingua franca contexts. It then links the findings with the theoretical construct of functional load, which is elaborated and framed within functionalist approaches to language and communication. Some pedagogical implications are then identified, using Hong Kong as a case study. The lingua franca approach is shown to have specific indications for the prioritization of features in the pronunciation descriptors for a local test of English. It also has more general implications for the teaching and assessment of pronunciation in a globalized world.
Copyright © 2016 Multilingual Matters.
ISBN of the source publication: 9781783096831
Sewell, A. (2016). Pronunciation assessment in Asia’s world city : implications of a lingua franca approach in Hong Kong. In T. Isaacs & P. Trofimovich (Eds.), Second Language Pronunciation Assessment: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (pp.237-255). UK : Multilingual Matters.