The Great Big Accent Debate: English Accents In The Classroom
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You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to…English accents are a funny thing. When it comes to English accents in the classroom, there are a few different issues at play:
- What English accent should I use in the classroom when teaching English as a foreign language?
- What English accent should I teach my EFL students?
- How do English language learners learn English accents?
First things first:
What English accent should I use in the EFL classroom?
First of all, let’s get one thing clear: every single person who speaks a language has some kind of accent. You are probably familiar with the differences between American English and British English but it’s more complicated than that. Did you know there are between 20 and 40 different English accents in Britain alone and approximately 25 accents in the United States? And we haven’t even started counting the English accents from the rest of the world!
This means that no matter where you come from, you will naturally have some sort of accent when speaking English. What does that mean when you are a teacher of English as a foreign language? The most important thing is that you speak naturally, with whatever accent you have. There is no right or wrong accent.
In a nutshell, it doesn’t matter what accent you have, as long as you speak clearly and intelligibly.
What English accent should I teach my EFL students?
The aim of all of our learners of English as a foreign language is to be able to communicate in English. However, there is debate among teachers as well as students as to what the “best” English accent is. For the most part, if you ask that question you could expect the answer to be British English or American English – depending on if you’re asking a British or an American teacher!
All over the world there are many teachers who believe that the British Received Pronunciation accent is best. RP is historically the English of the Queen or King of England; it’s also known as BBC English.
Should we be teaching the RP accent in our EFL classroom?
To believe that RP should be the only accent our students are exposed to in the classroom is outdated, unrealistic and a disservice to our students. There is nothing that makes an English accent from one part of the world better than that from another, or indeed better than that of a non-native speaker.
What’s more, our English language learners are more likely to be speaking English to other non-native speakers than native speakers, so they need to be able to understand and be understood by other learners of English.
Bear in mind, your school will dictate which English you will be teaching. If you are teaching in Europe, you’re likely to be teaching British English, but if you are teaching in parts of Asia, they prefer to learn American English. This means the materials you use will reflect the English being taught.
We’re not saying you need to fake an accent if you don’t have the same one! But, you need to make your students aware of your accent and how it may differ from speakers with other accents. You should include listening activities which expose your students to other accents, especially the more common accents, and any accents you know your students will be exposed to. When it comes to teaching and practising pronunciation, you should focus on issues which affect intelligibility.
How do English language learners learn English accents?
Teachers are models of the language they are teaching. Our students pick up – intentionally or not – the common phrases we tend to use, and our accents. In a nutshell, they learn an accent by hearing and accent, and practising the pronunciation taught by the teacher.
If you have experience teaching EFL learners, you may have noticed that some learners will pick up a neutral accent quite quickly – in other words, it’ll be difficult to identify where they’re from – while others will keep a very strong native-language accent regardless of the amount of pronunciation work they do. This is even common in more advanced students.
Well you may be relieved to hear it’s not a failure on the part of the teacher!
Instead, there are a lot of variables which relate to the learner which will determine how strong their accent is.
Firstly, the age of learning. The younger you learn a language, the more likely you are to develop a native accent. This is known as the Critical Period Hypothesis.
Then, length of exposure. The longer you are exposed to the language, the more likely you are to exhibit native pronunciation – though this obviously differs from learner to learner.
On the other hand, accents are a part of a person’s identity and this may play a part in maintaining a so-called foreign accent. Some learners may feel that losing their accent would feel like they are losing their identity in a sense, so they will continue to speak English with an accent.
Basically taken altogether what this means is that while some students may never lose their accent when speaking English because they only started learning the language when they were an adult, some others may never lose their accent simply because they don’t want to.
To be sure, if a student wants to reduce their accent, there are a number of techniques and pronunciation activities they can do to accomplish this, though it is possible they may never reach their target. Plus there are activities for specific language pronunciation difficulties learners from different language backgrounds can do to eliminate any particular issues which may cause incomprehension or misunderstanding.
However, the focus should never be on speaking with an accent of a native-speaker. Because, really, what is that? The focus instead should be on making sure our learners speak clearly enough to be understood when they are communicating in English, and to be able to identify and understand the different types of accents in English they may hear.
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Rights concerning the processing of your personal information
- Right to restrict processing of personal information
- In some situations, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of your personal information. We may restrict your personal information by temporarily moving the information to another processing system, making the information unavailable to users, or temporarily removing published information from a website. We may also use technical methods to ensure the personal information is not subject to further processing and cannot be changed. When we have restricted processing of personal information, this will be clearly indicated on our systems.
- You can require us to restrict processing in the following circumstances:
- You are concerned that the information we hold about you is inaccurate. You can ask us to restrict the information until we can determine whether the information is accurate or inaccurate.
- We are processing your personal data unlawfully and you do not want us to delete the information but restrict it instead.
- We no longer need the information for the purposes for which we collected it, but they are needed by you for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.
- You have objected to the processing (see below), and we need to decide whether the legitimate grounds we have to process the information override your legitimate interests.
Processing you think is unlawful
- If you tell us that you think we are processing your personal information unlawfully, but you do not want the information to be erased, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of that information.
- We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the processing is unlawful, and may also ask that you provide evidence to support this view.
Processing of personal information you think is inaccurate
- You can tell us if you think the personal information we are processing about you is factually inaccurate. You can require us to restrict how we use your personal information until we can verify the accuracy of the information. We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the information is inaccurate, and may also ask that you provide some supporting evidence of the alleged inaccuracy.
- If we find that the personal information we are processing about you is inaccurate, we will take appropriate steps to correct the information.
Personal information is no longer needed by ELEARNING FUTURES LTD but needed by you in connection with a legal claim
- In most circumstances, we will securely delete or dispose of personal information when we no longer need it for our legitimate business purposes. Our approach to retention is outlined in our corporate retention schedules.
- However, if the personal information we no longer need would assist you in establishing, exercising or defending a legal claim, you can require us to keep the information for as long as necessary. We may ask you to provide an explanation and any available supporting evidence that a legal claim is ongoing or contemplated.
Right to erasure of personal data (“the right to be forgotten”)
In the following circumstances, you have the right to require that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD securely deletes or destroys your personal information:
- If the personal information we hold about you is no longer necessary for the purposes for which we originally collected it.
- The processing is based on consent – if you have previously given your consent to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD collecting and processing your personal information, and you notify us that you withdraw your consent. Please note: withdrawing your consent does not mean the processing of your personal data which occurred before the withdrawal was unlawful.
- We are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes, and you want us to stop.
- If you think ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, ELEARNING FUTURES LTD is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD,
21-22 Old Steine,
Email: [email protected]
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.