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IV. Listening and Pronunciation
as Subject Matter
erhaps something closer to home than computers, such as improving both listening and pronunciation by looking at the way English is actually spoken, would provide a better subject for content teaching. The Education Testing Service recently released figures on TOEFL scores, and South Korea was at the bottom among 25 Asian countries in listening comprehension, tied with Japan, North Korea, Macau, and Burma (Korea Times, May 30, 1997). However, South Koreans have considerable reading comprehension and grammar skills, because the nation's rank in TOEFL scores jumps to 11th place after reading and grammar scores are averaged with listening scores.
This situation has long called for listening instruction, and in 1993, I was asked to develop and teach annually a two-credit course in listening comprehension for English education sophomores at Jeonju University. At the same time I also developed and began teaching a two-credit course in pronunciation for the same students. That these two courses should be related was suggested by a fairly common situation among EFL instructors, dual expertise in listening and pronunciation, as seen in Morley (1991a, 1991b) and Gilbert (1987, 1993). Gilbert (1993) makes the connection explicit by stating that the way English is heard is closely related to how it is spoken, and Murphy (1991) contends that raising student consciousness of how English is actually pronounced can promote both pronunciation and listening.
In her pronunciation text Clear Speech, Gilbert (1993) includes, albeit on a basic level, a description of several English phonological patterns, that is, the "rules" of pronunciation. As Dekeyser (1994) coyly puts it, "The teaching of rules has been a controversial issue." However, it is undeniable that students often reap a substantial benefit from "knowing the rules." Overseas universities require a certain level on the TOEFL test simply because students achieving that level can function in an English-language environment, and it is a truism that the best essays in an advanced composition class come from students with the highest TOEIC scores. In a similar vein, learning the rules of English pronunciation could also reasonably be expected to benefit students.
This would be especially valuable at Korean universities, where improved student pronunciation must often begin with breaking habits derived from years of English study in an environment where input is largely written. This is because for breaking any bad habit, conscious awareness of the new goal is helpful. As I will show later, poor pronunciation patterns among Korean university students exist side-by-side with incorrect concepts as to how English is spoken. That is, student predictions of how a given piece of English is pronounced are often wrong, though usually quite consistent among students.