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Wendy Schottman, Advanced English Pronunciation, 20 recorded lessons for university students and English teachers

Editions Ophrys, 2012.
Sophie HERMENT
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Wendy Schottman, Advanced English Pronunciation, 20 recorded lessons for university students and English teachers. Editions Ophrys, 2012

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1Wendy Schottman’s Advanced English Pronunciation, published by Ophrys, relies on two main principles: the learner’s implication, which is essential, for the book is indeed an exercise-book; and a certain theoretical prerequisite since the manual addresses advanced learners, whether they be students or English teachers wishing to improve their pronunciation. The manual includes a CD-ROM: 20 recorded lessons are offered, which are conceived as classroom lessons lasting approximately 50 minutes. The lessons can therefore either be used by a teacher with their students in a language laboratory, or by a learner on their own for self-study. A particular effort was made for the conception of the CD-ROM. All the exercises are preceded by brief musical interludes, a few measures of various 17th Century English country dances. The seven British speakers recorded for the lessons come from different parts of England but have a standard accent, for the book mainly concentrates on standard British English, as “the type used by educated people of England” (p. v.). In the book, useful icons are present throughout the lessons, like the exclamation mark when the students have to pay particular attention or the counter number corresponding to the beginning of the second or third part of an exercise.

2The lessons are grouped into four parts: rhythm and reduction in unstressed syllables (3 lessons), word stress (9 lessons), spelling-pronunciation rules (6 lessons) and intonation and linking (2 lessons). Wendy Schottman departs from traditional pronunciation books in that she chooses to begin her course with lessons dealing with the notions of rhythm and reduction, which is a very interesting approach, also favoured by Fraser (2001), Duchet (1994) or Huart (2010).

3The first part contains three lessons in which reduced grammatical words and the reduced syllables of lexical words are dealt with. The chart in appendix 1 is a very useful summary of grammatical words possessing weak forms. The author makes a great pedagogical effort so as “not to serve rules on a platter” but rather have them deduced by the learner, thus making the learning as active as possible. However, she sometimes forgets to give a few important notions such as the rules for accentuating auxiliaries and prepositions: why is “must” accented and “have” reduced in lesson 2 exercise 5 sentence a? Why is “for” accented in lesson 2 exercise 5 sentence e? A few errors are present both in the text and in the recordings. For example /ʊ/ is given as a rounded vowel, which it is not, or in the recording, <h> is elided on the lexical verb had (lesson 2 exercise 5 sentence a) when it should not. A few misleading statements can also be deplored, such as /ɪ/ “has a special ‘weak vowel’ status” in grammatical words (p. 7), which can be confusing for students who tend to think that the sound /ɪ/ cannot bear a lexical stress, or choosing for the sounds /ɪə/ and /eə/ key words which display the same spelling (fear and bear) (p.11). The exercises are nevertheless very interesting and many are particularly well designed, like the “catch-that-word” exercises, which are very useful.

4In the second part, nine lessons deal with word stress. Throughout this part, the author introduces rules, like the French model or the basic rule of stress assignment (BROSA). She talks of prefixation and the concept of light and heavy syllables is given in this part. The author faces the problem of having to mention concepts which she has not explained before, and is forced to refer to following lessons where she goes into a bit more details. This can be confusing for the learner. The overall impression for this part is that it is difficult to follow because many complex issues are tackled in a book which is not devoted to theoretical questions. The author is therefore obliged to oversimplify, which can be even more confusing. The explanation for light and heavy syllables for example may seem very simple for a native speaker who has no problem syllabifying their mother tongue, or knowing how to pronounce the word. But how does the learner know if the vowel is long or short in a word they are not familiar with? How can they syllabify properly in English if they have not been taught to? Affixation is one of the basic domains in English when word stress is concerned and Wendy Schottman deals with both prefixation and suffixation. She gives interesting statistics (cf. appendix 2) which, however, do not corroborate those given in Fournier (2010). It is a pity the author does not give her sources. She mentions “ordinary” and “pronunciation” dictionaries, but makes no reference to any particular dictionary, study or article, and the book does not contain any bibliography. The last two lessons of the second part deal with the stress pattern of compounds, which again is a very complex issue, as the author admits herself in a very relevant panel p. 70, making the reader wish there had been more of the kind throughout the book.

5Graphophonemics is the topic of the third part. Stressed syllables are mainly concerned, but a few exercises in the last lesson focus on unstressed endings -ise, -ine, -age, -ate, and -ea. The first lesson deals with lax and tense values in general. Six lessons being too few to cover the links between spelling and pronunciation, Wendy Schottman devotes the next three lessons to the most problematic spellings: <o>, <a>, <oo>, <ou>, <th> and <h>. In lessons 17 and 18, transformation rules are given and the sounds /ɜː/, /ɔː/ and /uː/ are more particularly looked at. Very interesting tables are given for digraphs, with the number of words corresponding to each pronunciation (p. 99, 101, 108) and panels with advice p. 102 are very useful.

6Finally the last two lessons constitute part four, which focuses on intonation and linking. Intonation has already been dealt with throughout the book. The last exercise of each lesson contains basic work on intonation: identifying the tonic syllable, recognising the tone (falling, rising or falling-rising) and making the difference between broad and narrow focus. A good summary of intonation basics is given p. 119, although lacking a definition of the tone group which could help a learner understand chunking. A short reminder of the difference between word stress and sentence stress would also have been relevant, the word “stress” being ambiguous in this context when studying intonation. The lessons in this final part focus on tones, linking, r-linking, emphasis, contrast, the choice of tones for questions and palatalization. Once more, many issues, often complex ones, are tackled very quickly. The exercises the author proposes are quite simple and this part on intonation and linking is probably rather aimed at less advanced learners.

7It is therefore difficult to know which audience the book addresses. Advice for beginners can be found, like footnote 2 on the pronunciation of /iː/ and /uː/, or exercises on broad and narrow focus, but no explanation is given about primary and secondary stress in lesson 1 for example, or on what a tone group is (lesson 2). Because the author designed her manual for advanced learners, and because the book is conceived as an exercise book and not a theoretical manual, the basic phonetic concepts are not always given, like the International Phonetic Alphabet for example. Paradoxically, the introducing paragraphs for each of the four parts are very short and are a reminder of very basic notions. A few exercises seem too easy for advanced learners, some very complex issues are oversimplified, while some notions are not explained at all, the author probably thinking they are already known. Wendy Schottman raises and addresses many interesting issues but never goes into the depths of the matter. This is not the aim of her book. She offers a very good practise book, with exercises very relevant for a teacher with their class. However, for self-study, the book seems a bit confusing and the student will probably need the help of another, more theoretical manual.

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Bibliographie

Duchet, J-L., 1994, Code de l’anglais oral, 2nd edition, Paris : Ophrys.

Fournier, J-M., 2010, Manuel d’anglais oral, Paris : Ophrys.

Fraser, H., 2001, Teaching Pronunciation: A handbook for teachers and trainers. Three Frameworks for an Integrated Approach, Australia: Department of Education Training and Youth Affairs (DETYA).

Huart, R., 2010, Nouvelle Grammaire de l’anglais oral, Paris : Ophrys.

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Référence électronique

Sophie HERMENT, « Wendy Schottman, Advanced English Pronunciation, 20 recorded lessons for university students and English teachers », E-rea [En ligne], 11.1 | 2013, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2013, consulté le 25 avril 2017. URL : http://erea.revues.org/3594

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Auteur

Sophie HERMENT

Aix-Marseille Université, Laboratoire Parole et Langage.

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