Good Servants but Poor Masters: On the Important Role of Textbooks in Teaching English Pronunciation

  • Elina TergujeffEmail author
Part of the Second Language Learning and Teaching book series (SLLT)


Textbooks are the most commonly used teaching materials among European EFL teachers (Henderson et al., 2012), and it is undeniable that they have a central role in foreign language teaching overall. Scholars across time have claimed that the role of textbooks cannot be overestimated: textbooks determine a major part of classroom teaching (see Sobkowiak, 2012). This paper discusses the influence of textbooks in English pronunciation teaching in an EFL environment. It presents a study in which the occurrence of four typical pronunciation teaching task types and four pronunciation teaching topics were analysed in three data sources: textbooks, classroom observations, and learner interviews. The results indicate that textbooks do have an influence on teaching. This is clearly shown when it comes to task types or pronunciation teaching topics that are absent from the textbooks: they do not occur in the teaching either.


Task Type Core Curriculum Imitation Task Textbook Publisher Word Stress 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Bragger, J. D., & Rice, D. B. (2000). Foreign language materials: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In R. M. Terry (Ed.), Agents of change in a changing age (pp. 107–140). Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Company.Google Scholar
  2. Chapelle, C. A. (2009). A hidden curriculum in language textbooks: Are beginning learners of French at U.S. universities taught about Canada? Modern Language Journal, 93, 139–152.Google Scholar
  3. Council of Europe. (2001). Common European framework of reference for languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Cunningsworth, A. (1984). Evaluating and selecting EFL teaching materials. London: Heineman Educational Books.Google Scholar
  5. Deng, J., Holtby, A., Howden-Weaver, L., Nessim, L., Nicholas, B., Nickle, K., Pannekoek, C., Stephan, S., & Sun, M. (2009). English pronunciation research: The neglected orphan of second language acquisition studies. Prairie Metropolis Centre Working Paper Series, WP05-09, Edmonton, AB.Google Scholar
  6. Derwing, T. M. (2010). Utopian goals for pronunciation teaching. In J. Levis, & K. LeVelle (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1 st Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference, Iowa State University (pp. 24–37). Ames, IA: Iowa State University.Google Scholar
  7. Derwing, T. M. & Munro, M. J. (2005). Second language accent and pronunciation teaching: A research-based approach. TESOL Quarterly, 39(3), 379–397. Google Scholar
  8. Derwing, T. M., Munro, M., & Wiebe, G. (1998). Evidence in favor of a broad framework for pronunciation instruction. Language Learning, 48(3), 393–410.Google Scholar
  9. Derwing, T. M., Diepenbroek, L. G. & Foote, J. A. (2012). How well do general-skills ESL textbooks address pronunciation? TESL Canada Journal, 30(1), 22–44.Google Scholar
  10. Dirven, R., & Oakeshott-Taylor, J. (1984). Listening comprehension (Part 1). State of the art article. Language Teaching, 17, 326–343.Google Scholar
  11. Finnish National Board of Education. (2004). National core curriculum for basic education. Helsinki: Author.Google Scholar
  12. Finnish National Board of Education. (2014). Perusopetuksen perusteluonnokset.
  13. Foote, J. A., Holtby, A. K. & Derwing, T. M. (2011). Survey of the teaching of pronunciation in adult ESL programs in Canada, 2010. TESL Canada, 29(1), 1–22.Google Scholar
  14. Henderson, A., Frost, D., Tergujeff, E., Kautzsch, A., Murphy, D., Kirkova-Naskova, A., Waniek-Klimczak, E., Levey, D., Cunningham, U. & Curnick, L. (2012). The English pronunciation teaching in Europe survey: Selected results. Research in Language, 10(1), 5–27.Google Scholar
  15. Keenan, L. H. (2012). Textbook pedagogy: Some considerations. Classical World, 106(1), 117–121.Google Scholar
  16. Kumpulainen, T. (Ed.) (2010). Koulutuksen määrälliset indikaattorit 2010. Helsinki: Finnish National Board of Education.Google Scholar
  17. Lane, L. (2010). Tips for teaching pronunciation: A practical approach. New York: Pearson Longman.Google Scholar
  18. Lent, R. C. 2012. Overcoming textbook fatigue: 21 st century tools to revitalize teaching and learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Development (ASCD).Google Scholar
  19. Luukka, M-R., Pöyhönen, S., Huhta, A., Taalas, P., Tarnanen, M. & Keränen, A. (2008). Maailma muuttuu – mitä tekee koulu? Äidinkielen ja vieraiden kielten tekstikäytänteet koulussa ja vapaa-ajalla. University of Jyväskylä: Centre for Applied Language Studies. Google Scholar
  20. Morley, J. (1991). The pronunciation component in teaching English to speakers of other languages. TESOL Quarterly, 25(3), 481–520.Google Scholar
  21. Pennington, M. C., & Richards, J. C. (1986). Pronunciation revisited. TESOL Quarterly, 20(2), 207–225.Google Scholar
  22. Pihko, M-K. (1997). His English sounded strange. The intelligibility of native and non-native English pronunciation to Finnish learners of English. University of Jyväskylä: Centre for Applied Language Studies.Google Scholar
  23. Roach, P. (2000). English phonetics and phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University press.Google Scholar
  24. Seidlhofer, B. (2001). Pronunciation. In R. Carter, & D. Nunan (Eds.), The Cambridge guide to teaching English to speakers of other languages (pp. 56–65). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Seidlhofer, B. & Dalton-Puffer, C. (1995). Appropriate units in pronunciation teaching: some programmatic pointers. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 5(1), 135–146.Google Scholar
  26. Schmidt, R. (1990). The role of consciousness in second language learning. Applied Linguistics, 11, 127–158.Google Scholar
  27. Schmidt, R. (1995). Consciousness and foreign language learning: A tutorial on the role of attention and awareness in learning. In R. Schmidt (Ed.), Attention and awareness in foreign language learning (pp. 1–63). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  28. Sobkowiak, W. (2012). This is Tom = /zyzys’tom/. Pronunciation in beginners’ EFL textbooks then and now. Research in Language, 10(1), 111–122.Google Scholar
  29. Suomi, K., Toivanen, J., & Ylitalo, R. (2008). Finnish sound structure: Phonetics, phonology, phonotactics and prosody. Oulu: University of Oulu.Google Scholar
  30. Tergujeff, E. (2013). English pronunciation teaching in Finland. Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland

Personalised recommendations