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Edelstein gives talk on teaching public speaking

Department of Communication Studies Scholar-in-Residence Cathryn Cushner Edelstein and other language professionals from around the world gathered last summer at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, to share research, observations, and presentations at the 4th Annual Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching (PSLLT) Conference.

Edelstein addressed an audience of linguists, researchers, and teachers who specialize in teaching and studying pronunciation. Fittingly, the 2012 conference’s theme was “Setting the Course for Pronunciation Teaching and Assessment.”

Edelstein’s presentation topic, “L1 and L2 Learners in the College Public Speaking Course,” focused on methods for teaching college public speaking classes that contain both native English speakers (L1 learners) and English as a Second Language students (L2 learners). Edelstein drew on her own teaching experiences to discuss challenges, benefits, and ideas on how to teach public speaking courses that cater to the needs of both types of English-speaking students.

Examining linguistic elements such as inflection—the varied use of pitch when speaking—Edelstein discussed the differences and similarities between international and domestic English-speaking students.

“L2 learners often speak English with the inflection of their native language,” said Edelstein. “When speaking English, the ‘music’ or intonation pattern of their first language may be heard. However, many L1 learners speak in a monotone, or rise in inflection at the end of phrases.”

Edelstein stressed the significance of inclusion in the classroom and offered her audience a method for teaching effective inflection patterns that all students could embrace.

“No one feels singled out,” Edelstein noted. “This is the way to create an inclusive classroom.”

Edelstein also focused on the importance of providing students with clear instructions to both support English as a Second Language students who struggle with grammar and fluency as well as to underscore the point that “clear pronunciation is important for all speakers.”

Finally, Edelstein touched on how to address cultural differences in communication and participation in a classroom. In a course combining both international and domestic students from differing backgrounds and cultures, Edelstein said that native English-speaking students may not understand why English as a Second Language students communicate or participate differently than they do; she suggested it is beneficial to address this in the classroom.

“This last point is especially important,” Edelstein said. “Once the class has a shared understanding, the students are able to work more effectively in groups and support each other.”

The annual two-day conference will take place next fall at Iowa State University and focus on the theme of “Pronunciation in the Language Teaching Curriculum.” 

Edelstein's book Excuse Me, Can You Repeat That? How to Communicate as an International Student in the U.S. – A Reference Guide is being published by Five Star Publications and will be available next month.

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