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Research Environments For Pedagogical Tools: Teaching and Learning with Authentic Oral English

Environnements de recherche et outils pédagogiques : enseigner et apprendre avec l’anglais oral authentique.
Anne Przewozny-Desriaux


Pour la plupart des enseignants anglicistes en contexte universitaire, la dimension de l’enseignement et de l’apprentissage de l’anglais oral peut rapidement devenir un casse-tête, au vu des nombreuses options méthodologiques, théoriques et techniques possibles. Ce qui reste central dans ces décisions est la question de la qualité de l’enseignement de l’anglais oral et des besoins des apprenants de niveau avancé. On peut ainsi s’appuyer sur la délimitation proposée par Coombs au sujet des « dimensions qualitatives » de la sphère pédagogique. La perspective générale du présent article étant l’enseignement et l’apprentissage de l’anglais oral, envisagés du point de vue de la linguistique de corpus et dans la perspective phonologique, nous proposons d’examiner les notions de nature et de valeur de ce qui est enseigné et appris à l’aune d’une question majeure en phonologie de corpus : la pertinence des données qui président à l’élaboration du contenu d’enseignement, et leur utilité pour l’apprenant. L’article cherche donc à circonscrire la notion de qualité en enseignement/apprentissage de l’anglais oral en termes 1) d’authenticité des données initiales telles qu’issues d’un corpus oral, et 2) de leur pertinence pédagogique et de la robustesse d’outils pédagogiques issus de l’activité de recherche. L’auteur se base notamment sur son expérience d’enseignement à l’Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, combinée à ses travaux de recherche dans le cadre du programme PAC. Ce cadre se situe dans une approche empirique en linguistique et plus spécifiquement dans la discipline de la phonologie de corpus.

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1For most teachers of English in an academic context1, the scope of teaching and learning (hereafter TL) oral English may well turn into a brain teaser, as there are many methodological, theoretical and technical options to take account of. What is eventually central to these decisions is the quality of the teaching of oral English, in relationship to the needs of advanced learners. We can rely on Coombs’ delineation of “qualitative dimensions” of the educational sphere in his second opus on international changes in education and its environments in the second half of the twentieth century. It is “the nature and worth of what is actually taught to and learned by real people in a real world by means of formal educational systems and nonformal education programs” (Coombs 118). Because the general perspective of this article is oral English TL, as supported by corpus linguistics and from a phonological perspective, we propose to examine the notions of the nature and worth of what is taught and learned in the light of a central issue in corpus phonology: the relevance of the input data (to be processed as teaching content), and its usefulness to the learner. The present article aims at defining the notion of quality in oral English TL in terms of (i) the authenticity of the input data issued from an oral corpus and (ii) the pedagogical relevance and robustness of research-based pedagogical tools. Our stand is built, among other things, on our teaching experience at Toulouse Jean Jaurès University combined with our research work in the PAC programme framework or Phonologie de l’anglais contemporain: usages, variétés, structure (Durand and Przewozny). The framework is based on an empirical approach in linguistics, and more specifically on the discipline of corpus phonology (Durand “Corpus”).

2In section one of our article, we offer some remarks about the place of oral corpora in oral English TL (with English as a Second Language for non-native learners). In section two, we discuss the notion of authenticity and the scope of its definition for the input data and then we consider its usefulness for oral English TL in connection with internal (linguistic) and external (non linguistic and normative) criteria. In section three, we propose a synthetic description of the PAC programme, the PAC-Teaching of English project (PAC-ToE) and the corresponding database that have been in use for pedagogical tool design and implementation. In section four, we describe a typology of tasks and resources, and some ready-to-use facilities that have emerged from collective teaching practice, exploitation of the PAC corpus and feedback by colleagues (from the Primary, Secondary and Academic sectors). We conclude that the long-term sustainability of relevant and efficient oral English TL can be a matter of adaptability and robustness of tools as well as of our ability to rely on authentic, contemporary and comparable input data.

1. Corpus linguistics, corpus phonology and TL

3In this first section we offer some epistemological and methodological remarks about the place of oral corpora in oral English TL (as a Second Language for non-native learners) and what we see as some of its core scientific and educational corollaries.

1.1 A diversity of oral English TL targets

4In an interview with Cots and Tusón (54), Van Lier gives three levels of definition of research in relationship to teaching: (i) teaching as research, (ii) research as a sequence of actions that may be motivated by a theoretical, quantitative or qualitative approach, (iii) research in a theoretical narrow way, in particular a type of research that is not applicable to TL issues. Scientific research is a necessary framework in oral English TL. More specifically, contemporary research in empirical phonology (Durand “Corpus” for corpus phonology, Pierrehumbert et al. for laboratory phonology, and Solé et al. for experimental phonology) is indispensable to oral English TL. The PAC corpus, with explicitly documented contemporary native primary (audio) data, secondary data (transcription, alignment on the speech signal, encoding, extraction) and metadata may provide valuable contemporary input data for TL. It may also contribute to methodological, theoretical and epistemological demonstrations in teaching fields ranging from oral/listening/comprehension/writing skills, English phonology, oral English linguistics, corpus linguistics, to dialectology and sociolinguistics and, more generally speaking, descriptive linguistics.

5The primacy of research in oral English TL can be envisaged as a balanced point among others on the continuum between pedagogy and linguistic acquisition. This balance rests on the specificities of various teaching sectors, the learner’s multiple needs, as well as our own ability as teachers to structure relevant input data, adequate modules and TL tools. In France, an academic English teacher can teach oral/listening/comprehension/writing skills, segmental phonology, prosody, introductory courses in articulatory and acoustic phonetics as well as transcription skills in the Langues, Littératures et Civilisations Etrangères (hereafter LLCE) sector. No doubt will he or she also give introductory courses in English phonetics and in oral/listening/comprehension/writing skills in the multidisciplinary sectors of Langues Étrangères Appliquées (LEA) and LANgues pour Spécialistes d'Autres Disciplines (LANSAD) (Crosnier, Gledhill and Kübler, Van der Yeught, Terrier and Maury).

  • 2 Given the frames and contexts of teaching and learning nowadays, we do not strictly consider the “c (...)

6In other words, there is a diversity of targets in oral English TL. Besides, there is an increasing educational demand for a robust but easy-to-apply theoretical and methodological basis. In our ten-year experience in in-service training for teachers of English (Primary and Secondary sectors), the teachers’ views systematically display a demand of both of theoretical and practical tools so as to meet the needs of specific profiles of learners. According to these views, in oral production, learners fear to produce oral speech and teachers may feel some inhibition in relation to the cohesion of the group in the classroom2; in perception, teachers observe a common phonological deafness surdity and a relative inability of learners to discriminate between rhythmic and stress patterns. Our colleagues’ requests range from occasional tips to permanent structured tools, so as to (i) help learners to discriminate between phonemes, syllables, (ii) provide technical and cultural explanations of the International Phonetic Alphabet, (iii) produce an oral English as close to the chosen norm as possible (with the help of articulatory criteria), (iv) perceive and produce speech rhythm and basic intonation patterns. An additional comparative demand emerges on the part of our colleagues from the Secondary sector: to get illustrative data, educational material and a variety of tools to discriminate between the two mainstream standards of English —a non-rhotic Standard Southern British type (Hughes et al.) and a rhotic North American English (Labov et al.).

1.2 Oral corpora, corpus phonology and TL

7Some recent developments of corpus linguistics and the branch of corpus phonology seem to confirm the contemporary needs of teachers and learners in spoken material. Educational material is still scarce but a number of oral corpora, applications and educational software are indeed dedicated to TL and research (Ballier and Martin, “Developing” and “Speech”, Detey et al., Granger, “A Bird’s Eye View”, Gut, Trouvain and Gut). On a continuum of native to non-native Englishes, let us quote the AixOx corpus (Herment et al.), ANGLISH (Tortel), LINDSEI and LOCNEC (Gilquin and De Cock), and the Trinity Lancaster Corpus of Spoken Learner Corpus (McEnery). There is a recent tradition of oral corpora of native English whose audio and methodological resources serve as a basis for research in language acquisition (the ICE is one of them).

  • 3 See Gledhill and Kübler for a detailed delineation of English for Specific Purposes and linguistic (...)

8Boulton insists on the impact of these types of corpora in the field of English for General Purposes and English for Specific Purposes3, whether it is for linguistic description or pedagogy. In both perspectives, the goal is to reach for “the reality of language use” (17). A major development in corpus linguistics has been the shift from a Corpus-Based Approach/Corpus-Driven Learning methodology to an approach based on Data-Driven Learning. In Johns’ words, “ (…) the language-learner is also, essentially, a research worker whose learning needs to be driven by access to linguistic data –hence the term “data-driven learning” (DDL) to describe the approach” (2).

9The overwhelming majority of corpora fit written data exploitation: the object of acquisition is reached through the written medium, even when the original input data are claimed to of an oral nature (10% of the BNC). In fact, corpus linguistics as applied to TL usually attaches little importance to the oral dimension of English. The latter has scarcely been tackled in major publications in the field so far (as in Thornbury, Walsh, or Cheng; but see Detey for a counterproposal).

  • 4 See for example LexTutor (initiated by Cobb as soon as 1997;, and European (...)

10As with the BNC, the initial processing and exploitation options of these data forbid the researcher and the teacher to access more than orthographic transcripts. Furthermore many of those big corpora do not deal with authentic or natural speech acts, as we will argue, but mainly with sophisticated and highly codified ones, such as a conference or a radio programme. This may be one of the reasons for the lack of use of research-based oral data as structured for TL. Another reason for this state of affairs concerns methodological difficulties in oral data processing (Coleman et al.). The written medium seems to be almost immediately accessible, its duplication and diffusion are straightforward. The written material does not seem to be elusive and its symbolic nature may facilitate memorisation. This bias is strengthened by a tradition of primacy of the written word over oral production. Many works, software and calculation models have been generated by the expansion of computational linguistics and strong research and educational requirements in translation and terminology for example. This context logically led to a sturdy tradition of association between practice and theory in the field of (written) corpus linguistics4.

11Historically, a third reason for the lack of regular use of authentic oral material as applied to TL was some backwardness in technical equipment. One might say that even though academic institutions have caught up this technical lag, the training challenge has remained for teaching staff to operate on a dynamic basis (Kübler). Following the trend that we mentioned earlier for written corpus linguistics, collaborative work between educational practitioners of oral English TL and corpus linguists should be more encouraged and recognized, on the line of what has been done with the Trinity Lancaster Corpus of Spoken Learner Corpus (TLC-SLC, Gablasova et al.). There is a negative way to gauge the position of (native and non-native) oral corpora in corpus linguistics as applied to TL. Boulton and Cobb clearly state that there is simply no DDL study on oral language whether it is from the point of view of speech comprehension or speech production. The positive way to look at this situation is to set up common strategies of spoken data gathering, structuring and processing (as with the TLC-SLC, McEnery).

2. Authentic input data for oral English TL

  • 5 In Cots and Tusón (57), Van Lier identifies three elements defining awareness: linguistic knowledge (...)

12There are different ways to consider the relationship between language, its usages and structure, and the learner. One would think that the closer the audio/video document is to “the reality of speech” (our expression), the more the learner is going to get proper awareness of an oral language, towards better proficiency and understanding of its structure. It all depends on what the teacher wants the learner to reach, from awareness of linguistic structures to variability of speech across speakers, styles and types of production and interaction. We believe that both views should remain unified, and that the learner misses the boat if only structural analyses are provided to him or her. The wealth of oral data may play a key role in the teacher’s demonstration of the diversity of the English language around the world. Alongside the fundamental pedagogical needs that belong to different educational systems (as discussed in Coombs) and communities of learners, diversity itself can act as a tool to get awareness5 of what unifies the English language. In our view, the diversity of English, be it geographical, sociocultural or stylistic, crucially needs to be attached to the notion of oral authenticity.

2.1 From authentic documents to authentic input data

13The term “authenticity” of oral English may be understood in connection with the classroom, with a continuum of usages sprouting from the “artificiality” of communication between the learner and the teacher. In this case this is acknowledgement of authenticity of a certain type of linguistic interaction between the teacher and the learner within the socially constrained context of the classroom (Taylor for a critical synthesis). Yet in accordance with our empirical phonological stance, we argue that the meaning of the word “authenticity” should be restricted to the nature of the input data. Indeed, if any type of document may be structured and used for pedagogical issues (Hardy), it does not mean that all documents are authentic (or granted as “generally authentic” and non modified, Hardy 20). Our perspective also differs from the point of view of Perrin (11, quoted in Hardy 20).

14In Cots and Tusón (53), Van Lier offers a notional distinction between authenticity and naturalness, once again in terms of a continuum rather than impervious categories between the classroom vs. real life. Beyond the functional legitimacy of an authentic document, the authentic value of an audio document should indeed be determined by the degree of naturalness of its input data. This proves to be relevant both in terms of scientific and teaching descriptive accuracy and learners’ motivation.

15Morrow (in Taylor) provides a classical definition of real language: “An authentic text is a stretch of real language, produced by a real speaker or writer for a real audience and designed to convey a real message of some sort”. Now “real” language, speakers and messages can be produced both by native, non-native speakers and learners of the English language. We do not want to discard the speech of non-native speakers. Obviously, even whenever the latter are non-advanced learners of English, their speech may be put forward in the classroom with perceptive or/and productive pedagogical goals. A whole scale of proficiency can be built for that matter and interphonological research can feed on this wealth of data. Rather, the status of English in its diversity should be taken into account when defining “real” language, speakers and messages. The model of the three circles of English (Kachru “Standards”) provides an inclusive and therefore interesting typology of this reality of English:
• the norm-providing Inner circle concerns the traditional varieties of English as a native language;
• the norm-developing Outer circle comprises countries of the Commonwealth where English is not the original native language but plays a strong institutional role;
• the norm-dependent Expanding circle is made up of non-native national linguistic communities where English does not play any historical or institutional part but acts as a lingua franca or at least a common foreign language.

16This typology enables the researcher as well as the teacher to demonstrate the wealth of English varieties as a structured linguistic frame, taking account of historical, geographical and social parameters in the formation of this mosaic of Englishes. Moreover it is a non-prescriptive typology. Thanks to its descriptive impetus (Kachru “Liberation”), the teacher may refer to different varieties and statuses, hence using linguistic variation as pedagogical leeway while offering new perspectives on the teaching of lexical, syntactic, phonological, stylistic and cultural features of Traditional Englishes as well as New Englishes. This raises the issue of a shift in teaching norm(s).

2.2 A necessary shift in teaching norms, and back

17A binary system of norms explicitly prevails in French academic teaching (more implicitly in the primary and secondary sectors). Received Pronunciation (hereafter RP) is not an exclusive norm, nor is it a myth in the realm of real English (Kerswill). Nevertheless since the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the theoretical, cultural and educational weight of RP in oral English teaching and in phonology has been well acknowledged (Jones). Some other British standards (Southern British English, Regional RP) have been put forward in an attempt to dismiss the ideal of a static and homogeneous RP standard. The second norm of pronunciation in oral English TL, as well as for secondary education competitive examination, is General American (GA). These two norms are necessary for oral English TL and they have been rather exhaustively defined and documented for the French context (Lilly and Viel, Viel, Durand “La transcription” and “Le cadre”, Jobert, Jobert and Mandon-Hunter). Yet just as a unique and static norm may prove to be too restrictive, the use of two exclusive norms does not do justice to the reality of contemporary English. It looks essential to bring linguistic diversity in facts to the teacher, so that the learner may become aware of a panel of usages in different English-speaking communities, and also of some processes of linguistic normalisation and standardisation. In this perspective, dialectological and sociolinguistic approaches to the description of English can assist teaching and research.

  • 6 See Widdowson on the notions of standard and norm; Morley for a historical perspective in TESOL.
  • 7 Whatever the phonological definition of these teaching norms are.

18Some linguists have underlined the impossibility for learners to reach a native model. Jenkins considers that the traditional Inner circle RP native norm is not satisfactory anymore in the context of New Englishes and English as an International Language (EIL). Some debates reinforce this point of view. These debates revolve around (i) the definition of native/non-native anglophone speakers, (ii) the tension on a continuum of intra- and inter- national usages of L2 speakers in postcolonial varieties, (iii) the real social and professional needs of young adult learners, and (iv) the notion of correction as compared to the notion of intelligibility and the new non-stigmatising status of the learner6. Nevertheless the native learner as a model in oral English TL has been rehabilitated, including by non-native learner corpora experts. Gilquin analyses two favourable arguments at the European level: first of all, learners of English consider the teaching norm to be RP (up to 85%), then American English (20%), Canadian English and Australian English (about 2%)7, thus native Inner circle varieties; secondly, the norm of pronunciation that is given support by European learners as a teaching norm is a Southern British English pronunciation (80%). In France, the accent that is favoured by academic teachers remains RP. Thus, quite logically, secondary education competitive examinations candidates select GA far less than RP (Jobert).

19The native speaker as a norm is not dead yet, and it should not be interpreted as a rigid constraint. Rather, on behalf of dialectological and sociophonological research, it should be contemplated as a reference model for oral practice and for theoretical activity. From a methodological point of view, the notion of “native speaker” as a norm helps the learner to be aware of phonological issues and phonetic training. It helps to represent phonological structure and constraints, systemic and non-systemic variability, inter and intra-dialectal variation and streams of English (Strevens “British”). It is also a stable source of analysis about the learner’s errors in production (“errors” being understood as “characteristics which are not present in the performance of native speakers of that language and are unacceptable to such native speakers” according to Strevens “Two Ways” 1). The postulate of a native yet non prescriptive model (belonging, in the view of Jenkins, to the sphere of English as a Native Language, or ENL) to serve oral English TL should therefore be integrated to a spectrum of exploitation of authentic input data to serve theoretical, methodological and practical tools along with English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and EIL. Within this ensemble of norms, New Englishes should not be considered, neither in theory nor in usage or in education, as deviant forms but as new dialects resulting from language change and variation.

20In sum, there exists a multiplicity of norms of pronunciation (or reference language varieties to use the label of Granger “Contrastive”) that are compatible with oral English TL. The challenge is to account for them scientifically so as to validate their representativeness in corpora, with RP and GA as phonological starting-points. This in turn expresses the vividness of the English language, the conditions and delineation of variation, and the diversity of stylistic usages in a non-prescriptive (and therefore presumably) useful approach for TL.

2.3 Authentic data and the stylistic criterion

21Whatever the norm chosen and the scope of its pedagogical applications, there is a need to define a continuum of authenticity relying on the stylistic criterion. In our view, the authentic quality of oral data is neither strictly linked to their functions nor to educational material building. We have explained why authentic data should be input data recorded from authentic speakers in a variety of English-speaking locations. We have mentioned the importance of geographical and socio-cultural variation for oral English TL. We now wish to emphasise the importance of stylistic variation as a key criterion to build relevant input data for oral English TL.

22The notion of stylistic registers has deep roots in oral linguistics and in the sociolinguistic paradigm. The point is to grasp a variety of speech styles, from casual or even intimate speech production to a variety of more formal speech acts. If casual speech recorded in an ecological setting is supposed to be a linguistic grail, less informal styles are clearly relevant for linguistic study and particularly in the field of phonology. In oral communication, one may speak or read in different ways depending on the sociolinguistic situation and other parameters. A wealth of informal speech acts does not bring much to phonological (and indeed linguistic) interpretation, if it is not documented by objective sociolinguistic information and double-checked by some data produced in more formal settings by the same speaker. Durand and Przewozny detail the stakes of such stylistic variation for the viability of phonological interpretation. Gut (292) discusses the influence of stylistic registers on the quality of oral production among learners (speech flow and articulatory ease).

23In the PAC step-by-step sociolinguistic approach to the constitution of an oral corpus (see section 3 below), the audio recordings reflect four main registers of speech acts: the reading of words (or phonological items of study) in citation form, the reading of a text (items in connected speech, level 1), semi-guided conversation and free conversation (connected speech, level 2) in a more familiar setting. Phonologically speaking, this four-level audio capture enables the researcher and the teacher to crosscheck the phonological system of a speaker, internal variation as well as phenomena of variation from one speaker to another one, according to different degrees of discourse fluidity. The stigmatised features that are present in the reading aloud of the text are interesting clues to the vernacular. A speaker who does not display a phonological opposition (such as STRUT/FOOT) in one of the reading tasks can be suspected of not having this opposition in his or her system. The gap of fluidity is compensated by the conversation tasks with the free conversation task.

24Provided that the recording is not done on the basis of an oratory, technical or professionally elevated (or phonologically modified) style, the input data that will serve to build educational material are thus always on the side of naturalness or authenticity of production, whether the conditions of recording are either controlled or more ecological.

3. The PAC framework and the database

3.1 The PAC programme

25The programme entitled Phonologie de l’Anglais Contemporain: usages, variétés, structure ( has turned into a reference corpora for researchers in the field of corpus phonology and related fields of study (from segmental to suprasegmental phonological issues, oral syntax, pragmatics, dialectology, sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics). From the onset, it was clear that the volume of data collected (in 2016, about 30 surveys of native varieties across nine English-speaking countries) was an interesting basis to support the teaching and the learning of oral English to EFL learners.

26There are five original goals to the programme, namely (i) to produce an accurate picture of spoken English in its unity and diversity (geographical, social and stylistic variation); (ii) to test phonological and phonetic models; (iii) to favour communication between phonological studies and speech specialists; (iv) to provide data and analyses which will help improve the teaching of linguistics and English as a foreign language; and (v) to allow for the preservation of spoken varieties of English. In each area being surveyed, the recordings are done on the basis of a common protocol adapted from Labovian sociolinguistics. A "network" (à la Milroy) approach is used for the selection of speakers. Geographical diversity is favoured and researchers usually record at least 10 to 20 speakers per location (65 informants in Manchester for example) with a balance in gender and age grading.

  • 8 Boersma and Weenink, Institute of Phonetic Sciences, Amsterdam

27The recordings are processed with Praat8 to segment, label and transcribe the acoustic signal and provide further analyses. Orthographic representations are inserted on a specific tier and aligned on the acoustic signal. The principles of Standard Orthographic Transcription (SOT) allow for simple, fast and non-stigmatizing orthographic representation (Durand and Przewozny). Encoding with alphanumerical symbols is the last step before extraction, analysis and interpretation of the input data. The whole protocol can be completed according to the theoretical and practical orientations of the investigator (for example, phonological change explained by usage-based theories and the survey location (tests on variable rhoticity for example).

3.2 The PAC database

28A database was built in coherence with the structure of the PAC corpus, constituting a centralised online tool. There are several aspects to the database in line with the complementary approaches between linguistic and non-linguistic parameters to the surveys. Hence the archives of the linguistic data (primary and secondary data, see Durand, “Corpus Phonology”) are composed of all original audio files of data that were then sequenced, anonymised and renamed after the PAC conventions. For each survey (or location) of the corpus, a hidden archive was created.

29Non-linguistic metadata is to be understood and thus structured in a ternary way (Gut and Voormann): (i) information about the corpus: place and time, interviewees and interviewers; (ii) information about the survey: purpose, conditions of recording, place, time and technical devices; (iii) sociolinguistic information about the informants: year and place of birth, socioeconomic class, perception of the linguistic environment, judgment about a local or supra-local norm of pronunciation etc. (our sociolinguistic grid of reference includes up to 65 categories for each informant).

30The PAC data are structured with diatopic, diastratic and diaphasic criteria of analysis, which in turns is required for adequate queries through Dolmen, an application for the analysis of annotated speech corpora (Eychenne, see section 4.2).

4. Objectives and typology of PAC-ToE resources

4.1 Objectives

31The PAC-ToE project (PAC-Enseignement de l’anglais / PAC-Teaching of English) emerged in 2011 from the fourth original goal of the PAC programme. An impetus was the recurring exploitation of the PAC corpus in pedagogical context (English for General Purposes, Licence and Master levels; secondary education competitive examination training, Agrégation externe/interne) so as to illustrate speech variation in native Englishes and to demonstrate theoretical and empirical issues in phonology, corpus linguistics, dialectology and sociolinguistics. Chosen sets of oral data and metadata were therefore structured for pedagogical aims (with audio, visual and written material) and made available on the PAC website.

32Some of the underlying principles of the PAC-ToE project can be found in the classical works by Fligelstone or Renouf. Our pedagogical goals may be synthesised as follows: (i) teaching theoretical approaches underlying corpus phonology; (ii) teaching corpus-making methodologies; (iii) teaching oral corpora exploitation; (iv) native/non-native oral corpus exploitation for the design of educational tools.

4.2 Typology of PAC resources for oral English TL

33We rely on the traditional postulate of a priority of work on the perceptive filter for adequate L2 production (Flege, Escudero). This point of view is strengthened by our sharing of experience with colleagues (see section 1), and we would argue that a perceptive starting point based on authentic native English data may contribute to pedagogical efficiency, without ever losing sight of a much needed theoretical phonological point of view in TL.

34Two tools are commonly referred to in the PAC programme: Praat and Dolmen. In the field of oral English TL, these can be used to illustrate quantitative and qualitative criteria of analysis and to produce educational tools with a perceptive approach in the classroom (or in semi-autonomous learning). With Praat (​praat/​), a non-expert in phonology and phonetics can rapidly locate oral phenomena in the speech signal, label them, transcribe speech segments, compare and produce them in turn and zoom into the acoustic structure of sounds and prosodic phenomena. Acoustic and articulatory phenomena may be explained using the same method. Programs such as Transpraat convert the textgrids created in Praat into easily read text files. Dolmen (​dolmen) is an open-source application designed as a toolbox for corpus linguistics. Among other things, one can search the audio data, organise them in a tree diagram, check specific phenomena (such as Sandhi R) or annotate the data with metadata (survey, speaker and task).

35Without resorting to Praat and Dolmen, teachers and learners have access to the following types of PAC “pre-didactised resources” (Detey and Nouveau 108) on the PAC website, in connection with a series of pedagogical tasks: (i) audio recordings (about 30 seconds) can be used for listening and comprehension tasks, the study of the relationship between oral and written language, plain orthographic transcriptions, broad (phonemic) and narrow (phonetic) transcriptions, the perceptive discrimination between varieties of English (quality of the /r/ sound); (ii) orthographic transcriptions may support listening and comprehension tasks, broad and narrow transcription training and oral production tasks (reading aloud). The written medium allows for easy identification of salient inter-dialectal lexical, morphological and syntactic variation and sociocultural clues; (iii) when used in combination, recordings and orthographic and/or phonetic transcriptions allow for the observation of the correspondence between the speech signal and its graphic representation at different levels of analysis (from phonemic to phonotactic analyses, for example); (iv) published linguistic analyses of selected speakers and corpora. The monograph by Brulard et al. is a recent published outcome that displays (i) theoretical notions in phonology, (ii) a systematic study of 19 accents of English, available on a CD-ROM, and (iii) multimodal analyses of these varieties with further exercises.


36In this article we have expressed the conviction that better linguistic, dialectological and sociolinguistic awareness, understanding and restitution means of oral phenomena are key issues in oral English TL, both from the points of view of the relevance of the input data and of the robustness of educational material. With this double objective in mind, we have emphasised the role that research in corpus phonology needs to play. Whatever their status and normative effects, oral varieties of English need to be scientifically documented, modelled and structured, so as to give teachers and learners access to renewed and easier-to-handle material about oral phenomena. The authentic nature of the input data is a central issue to these objectives, as teaching staff and learners of the English language are keener to work on real and dynamic samples of speech. If one becomes technically able to provide this type of data with scientific and viable educational material (using comparable geographical, sociolinguistic, stylistic variation, metalinguistic interpretations), oral English TL could be reinforced on the long term in a much-needed non-prescriptive tradition.

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1 The origin of this article is a paper given at the 2015 RANACLES conference. We express our warmest thanks to Daniel Huber and Gabor Turcsan for their feedback and to the reviewers for their suggestions in the pre-final version of our article.

2 Given the frames and contexts of teaching and learning nowadays, we do not strictly consider the “classroom” as the traditional space, but rather as a symbolic structure of interaction (be it physical or by distance-learning, in a closed space or in an open space learning centre, and in hybrid systems of TL) between the teacher and the learner.

3 See Gledhill and Kübler for a detailed delineation of English for Specific Purposes and linguistic approaches to ESP.

4 See for example LexTutor (initiated by Cobb as soon as 1997;, and European collaborative projects such as TELL-OP (Transforming European Learner Language into Learning Opportunities) towards personalised adult learning in the context of E-learning and mobile learning (

5 In Cots and Tusón (57), Van Lier identifies three elements defining awareness: linguistic knowledge, sensitivity to language as caught in social settings, and a critical view on language in relation to external parameters (power or sexism for example).

6 See Widdowson on the notions of standard and norm; Morley for a historical perspective in TESOL.

7 Whatever the phonological definition of these teaching norms are.

8 Boersma and Weenink, Institute of Phonetic Sciences, Amsterdam

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Anne Przewozny-Desriaux, « Research Environments For Pedagogical Tools: Teaching and Learning with Authentic Oral English », Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues de spécialité [En ligne], Vol. 37 N°2 | 2018, mis en ligne le 30 octobre 2018, consulté le 26 mai 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/apliut.6243

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Anne Przewozny-Desriaux

Anne Przewozny-Desriaux has been an Associate Professor in English phonology (HDR) at the University of Toulouse and CLLE-ERSS research team (CNRS UMR5263), France. She is co-director of two scientific programmes in corpus-based phonology and sociolinguistics: PAC (The Phonology of Contemporary English: Usage, varieties, structure) and LVTI (Language, Urban Life, Work and Identity). Her scientific interests range from the linguistic, social and spatial development of varieties of spoken English to the teaching/learning of English (ESL/EFL) based on authentic spoken corpora of English and French. She has a strong commitment to promoting research-based educational material at the academic level as well as life-long training for English teachers.

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