TESL Canada Conference 2017
Thank you to the SK TEAL for providing me with the opportunity to attend the TESL Canada Conference in Niagara Falls, June 2017. Among the many excellent sessions I attended, a highlight was a keynote presentation by Dr. Murray Munro – “Accents in in Canada: Diversity and Adaptation in a Kaleidoscopic Context.”
Dr. Munro pointed out that we all have accents, that Canadian English is not as uniform as we think, and that regional accents abound. Across our country we may hear the accents of Indigenous people, Quebec French accents, regional dialects of Newfoundland, for example and the accents of our many newcomers. He noted that teachers need to reflect on their beliefs about accents that are different from their own. EAL/ESL teachers need to re-evaluate their beliefs that a non-native version of English is substandard and instead, understand that a non-native accent is only problematic if it impedes intelligibility and comprehensibility. Furthermore, EAL/ESL teachers can help build capacity in the L1 community to become better listeners. Often unintelligibility has “more to do with an unwillingness to accommodate differences in one’s interlocutors than with a genuine concern about comprehension.” Lastly, he noted that EAL/ESL teachers need better training in this important aspect of language teaching. Many students’ identities are intertwined with their accents and as such, any (perceived) attempt to change their accents may be seen as an attempt to change them. Thus, teaching pronunciation is key to building capacity in our students but is also an opportunity to build community.
Larraine Ratzlaff, March 2018