What to Teach and What Not to Teach, Yet Again: On the Elusive Priorities for L2 English Phonetics

  • Sylwia ScheuerEmail author
Part of the Second Language Learning and Teaching book series (SLLT)


The author takes stock of the different, sometimes rather emotionally charged, and invariably overlapping, instalments of the discussion about the segmental elements of the English sound system that merit more attention than others. The claims that not everything can be taught in the EFL/ELF classroom, and not all types of deviation from the intended target norm are of equal gravity, are relatively undisputed. What is a matter of continuing debate, however, is how that target is defined and, consequently, which errors matter more than others. The paper will home in on three major types of yardsticks that have been used—or at least proposed—in recent years, or that could serve as benchmarks for evaluation purposes: strength of perceived foreign accent, intelligibility, and broadly understood aesthetic considerations. The overarching criterion of teachability will also be invoked. The aim of the paper is to tentatively identify types of errors that figure prominently in all the above, and consequently point to areas of L2 phonetics that may deserve to be tackled first and foremost. While English dental fricatives and vowels re-emerge in the discussion several times, the overall conclusion is, rather predictably, that matters of pedagogic priorities are far from straightforward, and the discussion is, and promises to be for years to come, ongoing.


Native Speaker Corrective Feedback Pedagogic Priority Vowel Quality Foreign Accent 
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.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Paris 3—Sorbonne NouvelleParisFrance

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