Embracing Linguistic Diversity – 23 April 2021

What is accent variation and why does it matter? – Gise Tome Lourido – PowerPoint of the talk is available here.

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‘Teaching’ Unconscious Bias to Foundation Year Healthcare Students – Nancy Woods

This talk is related to the module Academic Study Skills for Dentistry, Medicine and Healthcare Professions.

The main focus is to prepare them for their degree programmes so we teach reading and writing skills, how to research, importance of critical thinking, reflective practice, importance of academic integrity, presentations skills and so on…The students come to us with varying degrees of competence in English so there are times when we really focus in on language,  but we also expect them to work independently on their own weak areas through the feedback they get from us.

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Enhancing EAP students’ participation in the local community: an approach to teaching a local accent – Deak Kirkham

While international students of English are exposed to a range of accents (including those of international student cohorts) whilst studying in Anglophone contexts, they may not receive explicit instruction in any local varieties of English with distinct accentual patterns. This may prevent them from full participation in everyday life outside the University (e.g. when using public transport, when visiting more rural venues where accents may be stronger) as well as failing to exposure learners to the nature of the variety of accents in the UK (and beyond).

In an attempt to partially address this, the presentation offers a short classroom-based exercise explicitly mapping the phonetics of a short text in standard British English to its phonetic analogue in a ‘Yorkshire’ pronunciation. As such, it is intended not merely to raise awareness of certain features of the Yorkshire accent but also to bridge any communicative gap between students and ‘the local population’.

While offering a neat classroom activity, the exercise raises several questions of both ideological and pedagogical natures. In the latter category, we may ponder to what extent a fuller instructional programme in non-standard accents may benefit students of any foreign language.

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Accent Bias: Rethinking How to Develop Effective Listeners – Niamh Mullen & Peter Matthews

We recently conducted research as part of the LITE Academic Listening Project and findings indicate that many L2 students who come to study at postgraduate level at Leeds can experience initial challenges in transitioning to understanding English spoken in a variety of accents and at a natural speed. These findings have resulted in us reflecting on how we teach listening and develop listening materials for our students. Many of our students come from ELT backgrounds where coursebooks or other teaching materials expose them to a very limited variety of accents, and usually those that are sometimes labelled as ‘standard’. In our own materials’ development, we have tried to expose students to a range of accents, but this has so far not been approached in a structured way.

In this presentation, we will reflect on how our research findings have led us to rethink how we will approach developing students’ comprehension of different varieties of English in the listening materials we develop. We will share ideas on the approach we are thinking of taking as we move forward. We will also discuss more broadly what colleagues teaching large cohorts of L2 students who enter directly onto their programmes may need to consider in order to facilitate comprehension. Areas covered in this presentation will be of interest to colleagues who teach listening through English as well as colleagues teaching other languages, especially if they are preparing students to study abroad.

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Embracing Linguistic Diversity – Student survey findingsMilena Marinkova 

This talk gives a summary of students insights around accent bias and the importance of integrating linguistic diversity into our languag programmes.