October 1, 2016

John Levis, Sinem Sonsaat, Stephanie Link, Taylor Anne Barriuso

This interview was also posted on the "NNEST of the Month" blog.

"A Conversation with a Multilingual" presents:

        Dr. John Levis     

Sinem Sonsaat


Dr. Stephanie Link                         Taylor Anne Barriuso

Dr. John Levis is a professor of Applied Linguistics and TESL at Iowa State University, where he works with future teachers and graduate students. Currently, he teaches Methods of Teaching Pronunciation, Oral Language Technology and Phonetics/Phonology. He started the annual Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching conference, and is the founding editor for the new Journal of Second Language Pronunciation.
Sinem Sonsaat is a doctoral student in the Applied Linguistics & Technology program at Iowa State University. She has presented her work at various conferences and is the editorial assistant of the new Journal of Second Language Pronunciation. Her research interests include pronunciation instruction, materials evaluation & development, and CALL.
Dr. Stephanie Link is an assistant professor of TESL/Applied Linguistics at Oklahoma State University. Her primary research interests are in the development and evaluation of emerging technologies for computer assisted language learning with a special focus on L2 writing and second language pedagogy.
Taylor Anne Barriuso is a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Utah. Her primary area of interest is the acquisition of second language sound systems. Currently, she is investigating features of the input that support the learning of novel allophonic alternations.

I would like to congratulate on your article “Native and Nonnative Teachers of L2 Pronunciation: Effects on Learner Performance” published by TESOL Quarterly and thank all of you for agreeing to be a guest on the NNEST of the Month blog. I first met Dr. John Levis and Dr. Sinem Sonsaat at Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching conferences (PSLLT), which was started by Dr. Levis in 2009. I have learned effective activities and pedagogical tools on the L2 teaching of pronunciation from the workshops, tips for teachers and poster sessions, but most of all, from the interaction with the 100-150 participants who come from all over the world.
I also invite our visitors to read the proceedings from each annual PSLLT conference on their website here.

Ana Wu: In your article, the goal of your study was to examine whether NESTs and NNESTs were different in the level of improvement achieved by students. A major finding was that there was no significant impact of teacher’s language background on students’ overall improvement of comprehensibility and accentedness (p.22-23).
In the EFL context, what do you think need further investigation on the topic of NNEST and NEST as pronunciation instructors?
Sinem Sonsaat: I’m thinking further investigation of the language awareness of EFL teachers. And also their confidence and how the relationship between those two things brings up results about their language teaching practices and their beliefs about themselves. Teachers’ priorities may change in different settings, especially in EFL since sometimes some people in EFL context may think that some suprasegmental features are not possible to teach, so that may affect their perceptions and beliefs.
John Levis: We did another study, Stephanie and Sinem and I, on Turkish instructors (Levis, J., Sonsaat, S., & Link, S., forthcoming, 2017). Actually finding out what nonnative instructors actually think and what they want was really helpful because we tend to pretend that they have the same needs as native instructors.
Stephanie Link: I also think it will be interesting to see what other teacher training programs are doing to train pronunciation teachers. I’d expect that the perception towards pronunciation instruction is going to trickle down; so if your teacher trainer has a certain preconception about pronunciation instruction, then it’s likely that you as a pronunciation teacher will also hold that.
And if the teacher trainer lacks experience in pronunciation training, then they’re not going to transfer experience to future educators. There has been some work in this (Foote, Holtby, & Derwing, 2011), but more would be great.
Taylor Anne Barriuso: Sometimes I feel there is more of an overlap between pronunciation instruction and phonology than most like phonologists like to think that there is.

Ana Wu:  In the same article, you also said that when the interviewer asked about preference for a speaking class, students replied confidently that a native teacher would be better; however, they typically struggled to explain why (p.22).” I was puzzled that after your students had a positive experience with a non-native instructor, who was Sinem Sosaat, they were not able to explain the reason of their preference.
  1. Were you surprised? What were your impressions?
  2. What do you think teacher trainers and NNESTs can do to change the students’ perception?
Sinem: I was not surprised as a nonnative speaker. It sounds so funny because I am the nonnative speaking teacher in this study and I should be thinking the other way around, but still if you ask me when I am learning a language I kind of also go, if we have a native speaker why not.  I mean you have the native speaker chance. I am not saying nonnative teacher cannot teach, I believe that they can, but I mean the native one who is not going to have the same difficulties or is going to have the intuitions, then why not? And I think learners are more strict with nonnative teachers when it comes to pronunciation, because suppose I am learning a foreign language now, and the nonnative teacher makes a mistake which I am aware of, I might say oh she doesn’t know that this is the way that she needs to pronounce it. But I won’t probably say that for a native teacher if they say something wrong. Or I won’t even think that there is something wrong.
John: I wasn’t surprised, actually. What I was surprised about was that they rated you two teachers really high; they saw you both as great teachers. I’ve seen this before but they’ll say, “Oh yeah you know, native, that would be better.”
Stephanie: I was definitely not surprised by the students’ response either because I feel like students are conditioned from a very early time in their language learning experience to strive for perfection, like the phrase “Practice makes perfect” has long been ingrained in the minds of students. Although many practitioners have moved away from this mentality, there are still many who promote it. And so the key issue is in how we define perfection.
Taylor Anne: I wasn’t surprised. For “What do you think teacher trainers and NS can do to change student’s perception?” I think that’s a way harder question of the whole idea of changing people’s perceptions when it comes to nonnative teachers. People’s perception of nonnative speech is just really varied.
Sinem: To change the perceptions of the students, I think if the teacher can show that she is confident teaching pronunciation and she is comfortable with it, it might change their perceptions. At least I would be convinced that my teacher is a good one if she seems confident and comfortable. She loves teaching pronunciation. She’s not there because she was the one who had to teach it. Then I would trust my teacher because sometimes this is what happens with pronunciation.
John: I think those perceptions are really deep and changing the perceptions means that you have to give them experience that allows them to see that this is not that big a deal.  And I think students are looking for perfection off a model, like somehow that’s going to transfer over to them.
I wonder also if all teachers have this but nonnative teachers have a kind of an authority issue. If you don’t feel you have the authority yourself, students might start picking away at your authority on this. I suspect putting yourself in the position of a learner help students’ perceptions as well.
Stephanie: Besides that, the teacher being a co-learner, I think it’s easier for a native speaker to disguise that they are actually co-learning.  I do that all the time. I’m co-learning with my students. We’re always learning and when I’m learning along with them, I still can be perceived as an expert. When I was first starting off with pronunciation instruction, I was also learning some concepts. When I was tutoring in that class, I was co-learning, but my tutee would never have guessed because I was able to disguise it, perhaps just by having this costume of being an all-knowing native speaker.

Ana Wu: Your study concludes that being an NNEST or NEST is not critical for being effective pronunciation teachers (p.25). In your professional opinion, what are the characteristics of an effective English pronunciation instructor? How important is “nativeness” (or the lack of it) for being a good teacher?
Taylor Anne: I would say a lot of the things that Sinem has already mentioned, like confidence.
Sinem: I think the first thing a teacher needs to know is to know what to teach, what the priorities are in your own context and also to have the ability to convince learners that what they are learning is something they need to learn. Because in different contexts, in my context, in the EFL context students might think they need to be able to say this specific sound, -th- sound, correctly so badly, that they need to learn that. But they may think they don’t need to learn intonation. So the teacher needs to be able to convince them whatever they are learning is important or tell them why it matters. Or if they don’t need to make the perfect –th- sounds, why it doesn’t matter. The teacher should be able to convince the students, show them why it’s important to learn things or why some of the other things may not make that big of difference.
Stephanie: There seems to be some sort of training in order to obtain this principle approach to pronunciation instruction. Awareness, which is our next paper, Language and Awareness, right?
John: Confidence makes a difference and there has to be some awareness building. How important is nativeness or lack of it for being a good teacher? It’s not. I have felt this for decades and it always frustrates me when nonnative teachers think “oh I’m not a native speaker therefore I can’t be a good pronunciation teacher.”  It’s just insane to me. But I understand that there’s a confidence issue, that nonnative teachers feel a bit more exposed as not being quite good enough. And I think that this gets into other issues, because I don’t think all nonnative teachers should be teaching pronunciation, just as I don’t think all native teachers should be teaching pronunciation. Most can teach it, you know, there’s a huge number of nonnative teachers who are just fine, and you know that most native teachers are fine too. But they need to know what they are doing.
Sinem: I previously thought being a native speaker would be enough for being a good teacher, but during my class observations I have seen a couple of people who are native speakers, and I thought they should stop teaching like this because they are not really teaching, this is not teaching. And I was surprised, I thought they are a native speaker but they cannot teach this? I was really surprised and I thought that teachers really needed some help to teach. I was not expecting to see a native teacher not being able to teach.
John: Just because you’re a native speaker doesn’t mean that you can teach.

Ana Wu: I know you all have been very prolific, giving workshops, writing books and articles, and conducting research. Could you tell us your current projects?
John: Stephanie, Sinem and I have a chapter on native and nonnative pronunciation teachers in ESL and EFL context and it’s coming out in a book, by Juan Dios (Levis, J., Sonsaat, S., & Link, S., forthcoming, 2017).  And then we have the language awareness one has to do with materials that we’re working on. Also, I’m doing a Critical Concepts in Pronunciation volume meant to be sold mostly in the Asian market (Levis, J., Munro, M., forthcoming, 2017). Murray Munro and I are going to write an introduction to it. It’s going to be a four volume collection of key readings, mostly journal articles that deserve greater visibility. These readings are all published articles, one goes back into the 1920’s. Basically, it’s four volumes, each volume will have about 20 articles.
Sinem: I am working on my dissertation. I’ve sent out the survey for needs analysis. What I’m doing is pronunciation instruction materials, so I am trying to see if an online teacher’s manual would encourage teachers to teach pronunciation more compared to a printed teacher’s manual, whether it would increase teachers’ knowledge or confidence. So the survey will show me what teachers expect from a teacher’s manual in teaching, and then I have two online units ready, I mean online teacher’s manual on two pronunciation features, which need to be evaluated by native and non-native teachers. All of those will show me how to improve my online teacher’s manual for the materials whose content was created by John Levis and Greta Muller Levis.
Taylor Anne: Right now we are in the works of developing a study about acquisition, so perceptual acquisition of second language allophones.

Foote, J., Holtby, A., & Derwing, T. (2011). Survey of the teaching of pronunciation in adult ESL programs in Canada, 2010. TESL Canada Journal, 29(1), 1–22.
Levis, J., & Munro, M. (forthcoming, 2017). Critical Concepts in Linguistics: Pronunciation (Vol. 1-4). Taylor and Francis.
Levis, J., Sonsaat, S., Link, S. and Barriuso, T. A. (2016), Native and Nonnative Teachers of L2 Pronunciation: Effects on Learner Performance. TESOL Quarterly. doi: 10.1002/tesq.272
Levis, J., Sonsaat, S., & Link, S. (forthcoming, 2017). Students’ beliefs towards native and nonnative pronunciation teachers. In J. Dios (Ed.), Native and non-native teachers in English language teaching. DeGruyter.


May 29, 2016

Michael Burri

This interview was also posted on the "NNEST of the Month" blog.

"A Conversation with a Multilingual" presents:

Michael Burri

First, I would like to congratulate Michael Burri on his publications about pronunciation teaching and the preparation of pronunciation instructors, and also on his winning the 2015 TESOL Award for an Outstanding Paper of NNEST Issues. Personally, I was very humble when Mr. Burri attended our “Voices from the NNEST Blog: Envisioning Landscapes for Future Generations,” at 2014 TESOL Convention, and am immensely honored for his acceptance of our invitation to feature his interview in this blog.

Ana Wu: You have a degree in Electromechanical Engineering in Switzerland. Could you tell us what led you to pursue a career in teaching ESL/EFL and a Ph.D specializing in the teaching speaking skills - particularly in the area of pronunciation pedagogy?
Mr. Burri: I spent the first 4 years of my life in the US but then completed my formative school years, including a 4-year apprenticeship in Electromechanical Engineering, in Switzerland. After gaining a couple of years of valuable work experience as an engineer, I felt a strong desire to (re)learn English for my proficiency had deteriorated to the extent that I was barely able to communicate in the language I was once fluent as a little boy. So I decided to study ESL in New Zealand. Upon my arrival, I was placed in the lowest level (pre-intermediate) but within 12 weeks I was pretty much fluent again – having learned English as an L1 in the US turned out to be an enormous advantage and subsequently sped up my acquisition/learning process exponentially. My time as an ESL student in New Zealand awakened in me a real interest in language learning, and so I completed a TESOL certificate at the same school in 1999. In early 2000, I landed my first teaching job at a small, family-run language school in Osaka (Japan). After a few enjoyable years in the classroom, I felt the need to get more teaching credentials and therefore enrolled in the MA TESOL at Trinity Western University (Canada) in 2004. Dr. Bill Acton took me on as his research assistant and his mentorship, passion and knowledge about the field was instrumental in getting me involved in TESOL and, ultimately, in helping me specialize in oral communication, particularly pronunciation instruction.

Ana Wu: In 2015, the NNEST IS and its members were honored to award you the TESOL Award for an Outstanding Paper of NNEST Issues.

a. Could you tell us what the paper was about?
Mr. Burri: The paper was about some preliminary findings that eventually were published in the Australian Journal of Teacher Education (AJTE) in 2015. At the time of the presentation I was still trying to wrap my head around what the data were actually telling me. I had collected a large amount of data because I not only followed 15 graduate students (10 NNESTs and 5 NESTs) during the length of an entire postgraduate course on pronunciation pedagogy, but I collected pretty much every word that was spoken and written during the course of the semester. A preliminary data analysis suggested a connection existed between participants’ linguistic background and their cognition development. This led me to analyze the data according to participants’ self-identified nativeness, which in turn ended up being the presentation I gave at TESOL.

The paper explored and compared the development of student teachers’ beliefs, thoughts, attitudes and knowledge (cognition) (Borg, 2006) about pronunciation pedagogy. I collected data in a postgraduate course on pronunciation pedagogy – offered at an Australian university – over a period of 17 weeks. In a nutshell, the findings showed that participants’ cognition shifted towards a more balanced approach to pronunciation instruction (i.e., student teachers thought that both segmentals and suprasegmentals should be taught in L2 classrooms). As stated in the abstract, “Non-native speakers’ self-perceived pronunciation improvement, an increase in their awareness of their spoken English, and native/non-native collaboration played critical roles in facilitating participants’ cognition growth.” The findings also supported previous cognition research suggesting that teacher cognition is a complex area to study (e.g., Aslan, 2015; Feryok, 2010). The article can be downloaded here for free.

b. What led you to be interested in NNEST issues?
Mr. Burri: My own linguistic and cultural background naturally led me to be interested in NNEST issues, but a couple of instances I encountered during my years of teaching English in Japan also contributed to my interest in this area. The first incident took place at the immigration office in Osaka in January 2000. I showed the officer the full-time teaching contract I had signed the day before. He glanced at my Swiss passport but stamped my American one……the other event was a native speaking colleague sarcastically commenting on my English being “not quite native-like.” That comment really bothered me, and it took me quite a while to figure out what my place as an L2 teacher in this field was, and what kind of teacher I want to be. My graduate studies at TWU helped me tremendously in this regard. Once I was able to better understand my identity and role as a TESOL practitioner (and researcher), I developed a keen interest in NNEST issues, especially in areas that are intricately and often politically intertwined, such as nativeness, accents, pronunciation and identity.

Question 3: Congratulations on the publication of your article “Student Teachers’ Cognition about L2 Pronunciation Instruction: A Case Study” published in the Australian Journal of Teacher Education in 2015! Your study examined the cognition (i.e. beliefs, thoughts, attitudes and knowledge) development of student teachers during a postgraduate subject on pronunciation pedagogy.  One of your findings suggested that student teachers speaking English as an L1 did not gain the same understanding of the role of suprasegmentals in pronunciation instruction as their NNS peers (p.76) and that NS cognition was enhanced by learning about pronunciation pedagogy together with their nonnative classmates (p.77).

What do you think teacher trainers in TESOL programs can do to prepare NNSs become effective in the teaching of pronunciation?

Mr. Burri: That is a really good and important question. First of all, L2 teacher educators should draw on the strong declarative knowledge of the English sound system many NNSs bring to their programs. NSs tend to lag behind a bit in this regard, and so teaming up NNSs with NSs and have them work collaboratively on the sound system as well as on learning to teach pronunciation can be mutually beneficial. If a class consists solely of NNSs, pedagogical aspects of pronunciation instruction should be more emphasized. I find that NNSs often need and desire to learn about practical tools – or pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1986) – to be able to connect their existing theoretical knowledge with practical classroom application. Parts of my research (e.g., Burri, Baker & Chen, accepted) showed that one way to achieve this is to first train student teachers in various techniques and then provide them with opportunities to visit real-life L2 classrooms to observe some of the techniques in application. If observations are logistically not possible, using video footage of L2 instructors teaching pronunciation is an effective alternative to foster student teachers’ understanding of how pronunciation can be addressed in L2 classrooms.

Also, as discussed in the AJTE paper, plenty of opportunities should be provided for NNSs to work on their own pronunciation and language awareness. There is a close relationship between NNSs self-perceived improvement of their pronunciation and an increase in their confidence about having the ability to teach pronunciation to their students. Providing language support for NNESTs is not a new concept (e.g., Braine, 2005; Liu, 1999; Park, 2006; Snow, Kamhi-Stein, Brinton, 2006) but it seems to me that a pronunciation course is an ideal venue to help NNSs work on their own pronunciation, and, at the same time, equip them with the tools to include pronunciation in their L2 classrooms.

Ana Wu: I find your paper very encouraging because many previous studies on NS-NNS collaborations show that the NNS is the one who benefits the most from team-teaching (Matsuda & Matsuda, 2001). Your study suggests not only that NSs can benefit more than NNSs, but more interestingly, that this can happen in teaching pronunciation where many NNS have expressed not having much confidence and expertise (LLurda, 2005). Were you surprised with your findings? What other topics should be the focus of new lines of research?
Mr. Burri: Teaching a couple of pronunciation courses prior to my doctoral studies enabled me to gain an understanding of the fact that NSs can learn a great deal from NNSs, especially in regards to the sound system of the English language. My thesis then provided me with empirical evidence; thus, I was not necessarily surprised but rather excited that the data confirmed some of my previous observations. What was surprising, however, was the extent to which the NNSs became increasingly more confident as the course progressed. The NSs saw this unfolding and suggested during the focus groups that NNSs would be better suited to teach pronunciation. What was also interesting was that this “ascribed identity” (Morita, 2004, p.598) further enhanced the NNSs’ beliefs that they possessed the ability to teach pronunciation.

Research now needs to examine more closely how NNSs (and NSs) teach pronunciation in their classrooms. My research has established that pronunciation teacher preparation can be effective, yet we need to know more about instructors’ pedagogical practices. Some recent studies (e.g. Baker, 2014; Foote, Trofimovich, Collins, & Urzúa, 2013; Levis, Sonsaat, Link, & Barriuso, 2016; Lim, 2016; Murphy, 2011; Wahid & Sulong, 2013) have provided important insights in this regard, but there is a definite need for more research that examines the effects of teaching practices on students’ pronunciation development, particularly in intact classroom contexts. This line of inquiry is important because to further improve pronunciation teacher preparation and, ultimately, pronunciation teaching as a whole, we need to better understand how L2 teachers – irrespective of their linguistic background – teach pronunciation and what challenges and successes they experience in their classrooms.

I also feel that classroom-based research would help foreground NNESTs pedagogical strengths. Sometimes I feel that we are focusing perhaps too much on fighting the NNEST/NEST dichotomy. This is, of course, important work, but to advance the field further, it might be more effective if we highlight more the positive pedagogical aspects of being a NNEST and the advantages multilingual instructors bring to their classrooms.

Ana Wu: What do you think are the characteristics of an effective pronunciation instructor?
Mr. Burri: Effective pronunciation instructors generally possess a solid understanding of phonology and phonetics as well as have a wide variety of pedagogical tools at their disposal to (a) diagnose L2 learners’ pronunciation needs and then (b) help them achieve intelligible pronunciation. Pronunciation is a motor skill (see, for example, Underhill’s, 2016, and/or Acton’s, 2016, work) and therefore effective pronunciation teachers are in tune with their body (or at least have a good grasp of the articulatory system), and, as our haptic work has shown, they use systematic gestures, movements and touch to provide their students with plenty of kinesthetic/tactile learning opportunities. A pronunciation instructor should also be a bit of an entertainer and create a safe and enjoyable classroom atmosphere in which learners can take risks and experiment with the sound system. Pronunciation is intertwined with a speaker’s identity in complex, social and psychological ways (Goodwin, 2014) and often “closely connected to self-image” (Levis & Moyer, 2014, p.276). As a result, many learners perceive pronunciation work to be a bit invasive. Creating a comfortable and supportive classroom environment is, therefore, essential in pronunciation work.

These characteristics apply to native and non-native pronunciation teachers. I firmly believe –and research is beginning to show this empirically – that NNSs can teach pronunciation as well as NSs, especially if they are trained in using systematic techniques. However, the provision of such training (or lack thereof) in graduate programs continues to be one of the biggest hindrances to effective pronunciation instruction. As several studies have shown (e.g., Foote, Holtby, & Derwing, 2011; Henderson et al, 2012; Murphy, 2014), pronunciation is seldom included in TESOL programs, and therefore the teaching of it tends to be not only based on instructor intuition and ideology (Hismanoglu & Hismanoglu, 2010) but it often lacks systematicity (Darcy, Ewert, & Lidster, 2012). This ad hoc type of approach is ineffective in helping students improve their pronunciation. It is relatively simple, to improve the efficacy of pronunciation instruction in NNEST and NEST classrooms, TESOL programs must include a pronunciation pedagogy course.

Ana Wu: I also need to congratulate you and your collaborators on your workshops on haptic pronunciation instruction (e.g. Acton et al. 2014, 2013; Burri, 2016; Kielstra et al. 2015), an integrated system for pronunciation instruction. At TESOL Convention, I had to fight to get a seat in a room with more than 100 people. What are your current projects?
Mr. Burri: Thank you for coming to our workshop. Doing these sessions and collaborating with Bill Acton, Amanda Baker, Karen Rauser, Brian Teaman, Shine Hong, and Nathan Kielstra (and several others) on the development of this haptic pronunciation teaching and learning system has been a real privilege. These workshops have always been well attended and well received, but we now need to establish an empirical research base for the system to further improve. We are in the process of writing an article about a study we conducted with L2 instructors in Australia. This paper should provide some interesting insights into haptic pronunciation instruction. Moreover, we are planning a study that is going to explore how Vietnamese teachers address pronunciation in their L2 classrooms.

I also intend to continue my research with the participants that took part in my doctoral study. Several of them are now practicing teachers (in Australia and Asia) and I hope to visit their classrooms in the near future to see how and to what extent they are implementing in their present contexts some of the pronunciation teaching knowledge they gained during their graduate studies. This type of longitudinal research is paramount for us teacher educators to obtain a better understanding of pre-service and in-service teacher needs, and, subsequently, to enhance the preparation of pronunciation instructors.

Ana Wu: Thank you for this insightful interview and rich resources! I am looking forward to reading your publications on your next studies!

List of References

Acton, W. (2016). Haptic-integrated clinical pronunciation research. Retrieved April 18, 2016, from http://hipoeces.blogspot.com.au/

Acton, W., Baker, A. A., Burri, M., & Teaman, B. (2013). Preliminaries to haptic-integrated pronunciation instruction. In J. Levis & K. LeVelle (Eds.), Proceedings of the 4th Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference (pp. 234-244). Ames, IA: Iowa State University.

Aslan, E. (2015). When the native is also a non-native: "Retrodicting" the complexity of language teacher cognition. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 71(3), 244-269.

Baker, A. A. (2014). Exploring teachers' knowledge of L2 pronunciation techniques: Teacher cognitions, observed classroom practices and student perceptions. TESOL Quarterly, 48(1), 136-163.

Borg, S. (2006). Teacher cognition and language education: Research and practice. London: Continuum.

Braine, G. (Ed.). (2005). Teaching English to the world: History, curriculum, and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Burri, M., Baker, A., & Chen, H. (accepted). “I feel like having a nervous breakdown”: Pre-service and in-service teachers’ developing beliefs and knowledge about pronunciation instruction. Journal of Second Language Pronunciation.

Darcy, I., Ewert, D., & Lidster, R. (2012). Bringing pronunciation instruction back into the classroom: An ESL teachers' pronunciation "toolbox". In J. Levis & K. Lavelle (Eds.), Proceedings of the 3rd Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference (pp. 93-108). Ames, IA: Iowa State University.

Feryok, A. (2010). Language teacher cognitions: Complex dynamic systems? System, 38(2), 272-279.

Foote, J. A., Holtby, A. K., & Derwing, T. M. (2011). Survey of the teaching pronunciation in adult ESL programs in Canada, 2010. TESL Canada Journal, 29(1), 1-22.

Foote, J. A., Trofimovich, P., Collins, L., & Urzúa, F. (2013). Pronunciation teaching practices in communicative second language classes. The Language Learning Journal, 1-16.

Henderson, A., Frost, D., Tergujeff, E., Kautzsch, A., Murphy, D., Kirkova-Naskova, A., Curnick, L. (2012). The English pronunciation teaching in Europe survey: Selected results. Research in Language, 10(1), 5-27. doi: 10.2478/v10015-011-0047-4

Levis, J., Sonsaat, S., Link, S., & Barriuso, T. (2016). Native and nonnative teachers of L2 pronunciation: Effects on learner performance. TESOL Quarterly, n/a-n/a. doi: 10.1002/tesq.272

Lim, S. (2016). Learning to teach intelligible pronunciation for ASEAN English as a lingua franca: A sociocultural investigation of Cambodian pre-service teacher cognition and practice. RELC Journal. doi: 10.1177/0033688216631176

Liu, D. (1999a). Training non-native TESOL students: Challenges for TESOL teacher education in the west. In G. Braine (Ed.), Non-native educators in English language teaching, (pp.197-210). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Llurda, E. (Ed.). (2006). Non-native language teachers: Perceptions, challenges and contributions to the profession (Vol. 5). Springer Science & Business Media.

Matsuda, A., & Matsuda, P. K. (2001). Autonomy and collaboration in teacher education: Journal sharing among native and nonnative English-speaking teachers. CATESOL Journal, 13(1), 109-121.

Morita, N. (2004). Negotiating participation and identity in second language academic communities. TESOL Quarterly, 38(4), 573-603.

Murphy, D. (2011). An investigation of English pronunciation teaching in Ireland. English Today, 27(04), 10-18.

Murphy, J. (2014). Teacher training programs provide adequate preparation in how to teach pronunciation. In L. Grant (Ed.), Pronunciation myths: Applying second language research to classroom teaching (pp. 188-224). Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.

Park, S. (2006). EFL teacher training for South Korean elementary school teachers. In M. L. McCloskey, J. Orr, & M. Dolitsky (Eds.), Teaching English as a foreign language in primary school, (pp.191-200). Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.

Snow, M. A., Kamhi-Stein, L. D., & Brinton, D. M. (2006). Teacher training for English as a lingua franca. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 26, 261-281.

Wahid, R., & Sulong, S. (2013). The gap between research and practice in the teaching of English pronunciation: Insights from teachers' beliefs and practices. World Applied Sciences Journal, 21, 133-142.


January 27, 2011

Dilin Liu

NNEST of the Month
February 2011
dliu [at] as [dot] ua [dot] edu

Ana Wu: Could you tell us your educational and professional background, and why you decided to become an educator?
Dr. Liu: After completing my undergraduate education with a major in English at Jiangxi University (now Nanchang University) in China and teaching at the university for a few years, I came to the U.S. in 1985 to pursue graduate studies, first receiving a master’s degree in TESOL from Oklahoma City University and then a Ph.D. in English from Oklahoma State University. I taught and served as the Director of MA TESOL at Oklahoma City University from 1991 to 2006 (first as assistant, then associate, and full professor). In 2006, I took the position of Associate Professor (promoted to Full Professor last year) and Coordinator of Applied Linguistics/TESOL in the English Department at the University of Alabama because UA is a research university where I would have more resources and time for research, something I enjoy doing very much. As for why I decided to become an educator, I guess it’s my destined professional calling. As just mentioned, I was selected upon graduation by my undergraduate alma mater to stay as an instructor of English. Then, when I was working on my dissertation at Oklahoma State University, I received a call from a former professor at Oklahoma City University encouraging me to apply for their advertised MA TESOL position. I applied, interviewed, and was offered the job. And the rest was history. Of course, the main reason I’ve been an educator for two decades now is that I really love teaching and research. I enjoy interacting with students and seeing them learn and grow. I sincerely believe, cliché as it is, teaching is a profession where what you do can truly make a difference in people’s lives.

Ana Wu: In your book chapter “Training Non-Native TESOL students: Challenges for TESOL Teacher Education in the West,” (1999) you said that cultural study, especially the study of cultures of English-speaking countries is therefore a subject that many NNS students want and should do more (p.207). Given that international graduate students in TESOL or applied linguistics programs stay in the USA two-four years, how can they maximize their opportunities to interact with local people, and continue to improve their communication skills and intercultural competence?
Dr. Liu: Based on my own experience and observation, the best thing to do is to find (or create) all possible opportunities to interact with individuals of other cultures or ethnic groups in this country. For example, one should try to participate in as many school and community activities as possible, including attending meetings of student organizations, visiting church and political gatherings, and attending/watching sports games. Also, one should try to read newspapers, listen to radio programs, and watch TV. The reason for participating in the aforementioned social, political, and sports activities is that, as I pointed out in my books on idioms, metaphor, and culture (2002, 2008), political, religious, business, and sports activities constitute arguably the most important aspects of American culture. The jargon used in these activities permeates American English (i.e., many English expressions/idioms come from these activities: promised land, touch base with, and the jury is still out [on something]. . .). A good knowledge of these topics will enable us to have a better understanding of the values and beliefs of American people (and also, believe it or not, a better command of American English as a byproduct). It is important to remember, however, that a casual participation and observation would not be enough. You have to be sensitive and pay close attention to what you observe, i.e. to note closely what people do and say. Then you have to reflect on what you observed, thinking about why the people acted the way they did and to what extent what they did and said is similar to or different from what people in your own culture typically do in the same context or situation.

Ana Wu: You have published over 30 journal articles, book chapters, and proceeding articles as well as three books (two authored and one edited). Also, you have served on the Editorial Advisory Boards of The ELT Journal (2001-2004), TESOL Quarterly (2005-2008), Reflections on English Language Teaching (since 2006), and the new TESOL Journal (since 2009). How do you deal with writer's block and avoid procrastination? Would you share some of your writing rituals?
Dr. Liu: I don’t think I really have a good answer to the question of dealing with writer’s block and avoiding procrastination. I often have to fight these problems myself. One thing that I think may help us in dealing with writer’s block is to always keep an eye on issues that interest or puzzle you in your teaching and learning (as teachers, especially NNEST, we are always learning). If you constantly ask questions and try to find answers, you are likely to come up with a topic worth writing about. Concerning overcoming procrastination, I usually set aside blocks of time and a self-imposed deadline for a writing project.

Ana Wu: You also have remarkable experience holding leadership positions in TESOL. Before being currently coordinator and professor of Applied Linguistics/TESOL in the Department of English at the University of Alabama, you directed and taught the MA TESOL program at Oklahoma City University for 16 years. You were also the President of Oklahoma TESOL (1996-1997) and the Chair-elect/Chair of the Applied Linguistics Interest Section (1994-1996, 2010-2012).

a. How did you prepare yourself for these leadership positions? What kept you motivated when dealing with difficult teachers? What inspired you when feeling marginalized or unsupported?
Dr. Liu: Actually, I didn’t really do anything special in preparing for these positions and I haven’t really had colleagues that are difficult to work with. I think I’ve been just very lucky as I have always had very supportive colleagues and administrators.

b. According to Manrique and Manrique (1999), studies on immigrant non-European faculty demonstrate that 20% of male faculty were discriminated against by colleagues in their departments. Have you ever faced subtle or covert disrespect to your authority? What are your most vivid memories noticing innuendos about your nationality or racial remarks from your peers or administration? How did those events affect your teaching philosophy?
Dr. Liu: I’m afraid I might not be in the 20% mentioned by Manrique and Manrique. As I said above, I’ve been very fortunate to have extremely supportive colleagues and administrators, partially as evidenced by my successful tenure/promotional experiences at both OCU and UA. I’m not sure whether I’ve faced subtle or covert disrespect. The reason I’m not sure is perhaps I’ve always tried not to view any comments on my nationality, race, or accent as disrespect or discrimination. Instead, I’ve tried to see such comments in a positive light and use them as a motivation to improve. For example, I remember that, during my interview for the Oklahoma City University job, a few of the search committee members commented on the fact that I was not a native English speaker and the likely implications it might have (e.g., students’ concerns). One member said, “We could say that you [referring to me] are from California.” (I guess the person mentioned California because it’s known as a place with many immigrants). I considered the comment good-natured or good-humored, but I also used it as a constant reminder for me to work harder to prove that I could be as good as anyone else. My effort paid off. In my twenty years of teaching in the U.S., I’ve had very few students complaining about my English. In fact, many of them praised my command of English. Many non-native English speaking students stated in the course evaluations that they viewed me as their role-model and wanted to emulate me.

c. What strategies would you consider essential to NNESTs with foreign background in order to navigate the cultural politics in one’s academic community?
Dr. Liu: I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer because of a lack of real challenges I’ve experienced in this regard. To me, good performance on your job is the most important thing. If you do well on your job, generally your colleagues, administrators, and, most importantly, your students, would appreciate you. I may be wrong on this but it’s the impression I have based on my experience.

Ana Wu: What do you see yourself doing ten years from now? What do you want to be remembered for and why?
Dr. Liu: I may be retired then but even in retirement I probably will still be doing some teaching and writing. I would like to be remembered as a life-long language learner, teacher, and researcher who has had the wonderful opportunity to learn a second language and use it in a very rewarding profession. My reason for wanting to be remembered not only as a language teacher but also a language learner and researcher is that, to me, to be a successful language educator, one must simultaneously be a life-long language learner and researcher.

Ana Wu: Thank you for your contribution to the blog.


Liu, D. (1999). Training non-native speaker TESOL students: The challenges for TESOL teacher education in the West. In G. Braine (Ed.). Non-native educators in English language teaching (pp. 197-210). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Liu, D. (2002). Metaphor, culture, and worldview: The case of American English and the Chinese language. Lamar, MD, University Press of America.

Liu, D. (2008). Idioms: Description, comprehension, acquisition, and pedagogy. New York: Routledge.

Manrique, C. and Manrique, G. (1999). The Multicultural or Immigrant Faculty in American Society. Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen Press.