An intelligibility-oriented approach to teaching Hong Kong English pronunciation

Jim Y. H. Chan, I. W. S. Chan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputConference publication


The choice of an appropriate pronunciation target for second language (L2) learners has been controversial in English language education. Traditionally, this target has been guided by a native-speaker ideology, but it has largely been criticised because it no longer serves the diverse needs and functions of most international communication, where L2 speakers are the overwhelming majority. It is argued that contemporary pronunciation teaching should focus on maintaining international intelligibility rather than achieving native-like pronunciation. Following this intelligibility principle, Jenkins’s (2000) lingua franca core (LFC) aims to offer a practical international pronunciation syllabus indicating which phonological features facilitate comprehension in international communication. In Hong Kong, Kirkpatrick (2007) argues that a localised pronunciation teaching approach can be developed by identifying the pronunciation features of the educated form of Hong Kong English (HKE) which align with LFC. However, this educated form has yet to be concretely defined on an empirical basis. This study therefore aimed to implement Kirkpatrick’s proposal and develop an intelligibility-oriented approach to teaching pronunciation in Hong Kong. Specifically, 60 secondary students of different English proficiency levels participated in an 8/10-minute group interaction task involving 3/4 participants. Their interactions were video-/audio-recorded and transcribed phonemically, followed by the identification of typical HKE pronunciation features. These features were subsequently ranked according to LFC and their frequency of occurrences. The findings suggest that some more frequently occurring HKE features (e.g., long/short vowel contrast, initial consonant clutters) that may hinder intelligibility should be the focus of pronunciation teaching, whereas those that are less common and/or less likely to affect understanding (e.g., ‘th’ pronunciation, ‘dark l’) can be taught with lower priority. The paper argues that this feature-based pedagogy can offer teachers more specific guidelines on determining the priority of teaching and assessing particular pronunciation features based on students’ diverse needs and different English proficiency levels.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Fifth International Conference on Linguistics and Language Studies (ICLLS 2019)
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

The Fifth International Conference on Linguistics and Language Studies (ICLLS 2019), Hong Kong, 25-26 June 2019


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