One of the challenges faced by teachers of English language in Nigeria and Africa in general is how to make the pronunciation part of the lesson interesting such that students will look forward to it. Many teachers of English language love to teach every aspect of the English language but pronunciation. Understanding some of the factors responsible for students’ apathy towards learning English pronunciation will help to proffer lasting and effective solutions to this challenge.
Mastering English pronunciation requires a lot of practice. Whatever students acquire in class is always aided or militated against by the prevailing attitude in the society. Only a fraction of the students’ time is spent in the English pronunciation class. Students are supposed to practice the new words and pronunciation they have learnt with the people they interact with. In a situation where students are too shy to practice what they have learnt because of what people might say, true learning has not taking place. Therefore, the success of a pronunciation lesson depends so much on the positive societal attitudes toward English pronunciation.
Certainly, there is no gainsaying that a very large percentage of Nigerians do not prioritise or place any importance on English pronunciation. However, u
ntil everyone comes to understand that pronunciation is an inseparable part of the English language and it must be given its rightful position in school and out of school, parents will continue to expend so much and result will still be below average.
Many Nigerian teachers of English language are not competent in teaching English pronunciation. “No one gives what she/he does not have” (nemo dat quod non habet). Incompetence is like an aroma; students can smell it. Confidence oozes out of a teachers that has a comprehensive knowledge of what she/he teaches. When a teacher does not possess the wherewithal to teach English pronunciation, the learners can easily spot it. They lose interest and the lesson becomes boring.
It is important that teachers of English language give all it takes to be ‘masters of the game’. To make sure they are not deficient in any aspect of the language. The quality of teachers determines the quality of learners. If schools only engage teachers who know their onions, the problem is half solved.
Most students already have their minds erroneously configured to think that phonetics is an abstract incomprehensible aspect of English language. This can still be twined around the incompetency of the tutor. Until students understand that phonetics is in fact a practical aspect of English, they will always find the class boring. If learners do not come to the consciousness that the speech mechanism they see represented in pictures is actually present in them, they will continually see phonetics in as incomprehensible. A practical approach to teaching pronunciation will be
useful in this regard. Making students participate in the learning process as well as practically walking them through the process of sound articulation will help to change their minds about English pronunciation.
The unavailability of phonetics instructional materials in schools can also make English pronunciation lessons boring for students. Video clips, speech recordings and flash cards are some of the teaching aids that will make the lesson interesting. In a case where these materials are unavailable, it will be difficult to successfully teach a pronunciation lesson. A well-equipped phonetics laboratory will also facilitate the learning of English pronunciation and make learners find the lesson interesting.
As simple as it seems, many aspects of an individual’s life depend on how she/he speaks. As a matter of fact, one is adjudged smart or otherwise by the quality of one’s pronunciation. An impeccable grammar can be murdered on a platter of erroneous pronunciations. It is therefore important that all stakeholders walk together to ensure that Nigerian students are enthusiastic about learning English pronunciation.