Scene: Dinner party conversation with random friend of friend I’m meeting for the first time.

Friend-of-friend: What do you do for a living?

Me [aloud]: I work in ESL. [briefly describes context]

Friend-of-friend: Oh, well, I used to work with new immigrants, teaching them pronunciation. I didn’t teach them grammar or anything, just pronunciation.

Me [inner dialogue]: I’m sure you are extremely well-meaning, and that these people learning English will benefit from language input hours talking with you, the chance to practice and apply their speaking skills with you, social interaction and contact with you to boost their confidence. But I’m pretty sure your training/qualification in this are are non-existent, so please don’t call yourself an English teacher, and I really hope you weren’t charging these people money! [shudders while imagining all types of shouty “NO. THAT’S WRONG. SAY. IT. LIKE. ME.” pronunciation “teaching” techniques]

Friend-of-friend: [shares inaccurate observation about sociolinguistic challenges facing newcomers to this region that’s insulting to both newcomers and locals.]

Me [aloud]: [In a socially graceful way, offers a more nuanced counter-observation to the one shared.]

Friend-of-friend: No, that’s not the case.

Me [inner voice]: I wasn’t asking, I was telling you, or rather, sharing what’s been told to me by the hundreds of people per year, as opposed to your sample of n= <5. Ah well, I don’t feel like rocking the boat socially at this party, so I’m really not going to go into this.

Me [aloud]: Oh.

Friend-of-friend: You know what the worst accent is, though? THE SPANISH. [goes on about how horrible and hard the Spanish accent is to understand, even harder than the Middle Eastern and the Arab.] I was teaching this lady once, she had the strongest accent, and I worked with her for so long, but she just didn’t even improve one bit. And I tell you it wasn’t because of me. [goes on to blame this woman for having the nerve not to improve her accent].

Me [inner voice]: Oh wow, so you must have drawn on your in-depth knowledge of the phonological systems and articulatory phonetics of North American English and South American Spanish, the most challenging phonemes and prosodic patterns for Spanish L1 learners of English, your familiarity the interplay of grammar/meaning and pronunciation, with the concepts of fossilization, learner identity and its influence on pronunciation performance, and access to a wide inventory of exercises for pronunciation explanation and practice and the ability to scaffold said exercises and explanations, in working with this woman, right? No? Oh, so you happen to be able to speak English by an accident of birth and  then watched My Fair Lady a few times? Ok, yeah, that’s definitely more or less the same thing.

Me: [downs the rest of glass of wine. Changes subject to weather].




One thought on “Dialogue

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