Ease of acquisition and ease of comprehension: Finding the equilibrium


Peter Trudgill (Fribourg)


In a paper presented at AMU in 1998, I said that my own response to the question of 'why teach RP?' was 'why not?. We have, after all, to teach something'. I also said that 'I am a non- RP speaker, but I believe that it is convenient that students learning English English still have a non-regional model available to them'. I have not changed my mind on these points. The present wokshop, however, gives me an an opportunity to give a more nuanced account of this view. I base this account on analyses of the English pronunciation of students at the University of Fribourg. Fribourg is a bilingual university where a majority of students are native speakers of Swiss German or French, but where there is also a large minority of Italian speakers. This has the consequence that students of English quite spontaneously use this language to talk to each other, as well as to members of staff of the English department, and even weaker students achieve a high degree of fluency. I present an account of those phonological and phonetic features of English which cause difficulties for students of the different language backgrounds, and then make a number of teaching proposals based on analyses of comprehension difficulties caused by aspects of students' pronunciation for native English speakers i.e. me.