39. Issues regarding Nepali ELT scenario – II


Pronunciation, Nepali Pronunciation:

I don’t know how linguists or phonologists would take this but when I hear an English teacher pronounce ‘because’ as /bɪkɑ:ʊs/ (be-kows) or /bɪkɔ:z/ (be-kooz) consistently, it gives me a little headache. My friend in ELT class says he’s read Larry M. Hyman’s Phonology: Theory and Analysis word by word and page by page. Yes, he can tell us the definition of Neutralization all right but when he says /pʌləs/ (palas) for ‘plus’ or /ɪmpʌtɪ / (im-pati) for ‘empty’, it just doesn’t sound that convincing. I’m not trying to be a pedant or any prescriptive tyrant here, but you know.

May be people professing Nenglish have the answer to this. I would love to see them add /bɪkɑ:ʊs/ and /ɪmpʌtɪ / into Nenglish lexicon or corpus, because these pronunciations are ever so widely heard among Nepali students and teachers. That’s a good criteria – broad use, isn’t it? I suggest adding ‘eight’ as /ʌi:θ/ (ah-ee-th) too. Not trying to patronize anyone at all, you know.

May be I’ll start saying /bɪkɑ:ɪz/ just to add a new Nenglish variant. If it’s okay for Indian people to standardize ‘knowledge’ as /nɑːlɪdʒ/ (naa-liz), may be it’s okay for me to start saying /bɪkɑ:ɪz/. Well, that’s just sounds like a pretty stupid idea, you know.

Of course, many claim and believe that there’s no Standard English anymore and hence, there’s no standard pronunciation. But, however, nevertheless. Even if /bɪkɑ:ʊs/ and /pʌləs/ – these pronunciations  pass the test of clarity, intelligibility and acceptance in our Nepali context, they will still make me itchy, you know.

OK. Enough of me acting like a whiny old hag. Those are my pet peeves and I think I should keep them to myself. Everyone has one, right? However, the questions strolling in my mind are:
What defines a ‘correct’ pronunciation?
Does pronunciation matter?

Do you pronounce –
dilemma: /dɪˈlemə/ or /daɪlema/ (dai-lay-ma)
determine: /dɪˈtɜː(r)mɪn/ or /dɪtɜː(r)maɪn/ (de-ter-maa-in)
develop: /dɪˈveləp/ or /devləp/ (dev-lop)
people: /ˈpiːpəl/ or /piːpʊl/ (pee-pul)
decade: /ˈdekeɪd/ or /dɪked/(dee-kayd)
(the first being standard pronunciation, the second one being Nepali English pronunciation)?

Interestingly, the teacher who says /bɪkɑ:ʊs/ for ‘because’ pronounces ‘Nepal’ this way – /nephɑːl/ (nay-faal), with an aspirated /p/ in the middle. Will this be a common tea-shop pronunciation in the near future?
Q: Where are you from?
A: I’m from Nephal.
I dare not imagine that right now.


2 thoughts on “39. Issues regarding Nepali ELT scenario – II

  1. Hi,

    Thanks very much for sharing this.

    I’m really short of time, so can’t answer extensively, but I’d say you’re right to be concerned about it. While features of Nenglish may not be a problem within Nepal, it could become a problem for native speakers, and especially in ELF contexts, where apparently people rely on the actual sound signals that they hear much more, and the context much less. Regional varieties do certainly pose problems for native speakers too though. Once I brought a friend into a school class in Korea, and had to translate my students Korean English into NS English so he could understand.

    To get to your questions, what defines a correct pronunciation? Honestly, I don’t know. There are too many varieties of L1, L2 and EFL English to create a ‘standard’, and plenty of evidence to show that in connected speech native speaker English is much harder to understand. Does it matter? Yes, I think it does. It may even be OK to say /bɪkɑ:ʊs/ in a Nepali context, but it strikes me that if you are to survive internationally, you at least need the skills to make yourself comfortably (no wincing) understandable to a range of audiences and their Englishes.



    • Thanks Alex for your comment. I wanted to know how people outside Nepal would take on variation of Englishes and I think you put it very clearly about how features of ‘Nenglish’ might be a problem for people from a wider EFL contexts.
      Cheers !

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