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Migrants' speech linked to job prospects

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/12/2016
A US job application form.: Image of application form © AP Image of application form

A greater focus on pronunciation when teaching English to migrants could help improve their employment prospects, according to Victoria University research.

Marty Pilott, who has a background in teaching English to speakers of other languages (Esol), says learning English and finding work are priorities for most new migrants.

However, the way some newcomers speak could be holding them back from getting a job.

Mr Pilott analysed how acceptable migrant accents are to New Zealand employers.

He conducted mock job interviews with 40 migrants and used the recordings in a survey of 95 employers.

He says the results show that poor pronunciation has a negative impact on a person's perceived employability.

Mr Pilott, who is about to graduate with a PhD in applied linguistics, says pronunciation is a neglected aspect of language teaching.

"It's the area that teachers are least well-equipped to teach, it's the aspect of language teaching that's taught the least and it's the area students are most reluctant to spend time mastering," he said.

"It's also the aspect of language that non-native speakers are most likely to be judged on when they first meet someone."

Mr Pilott said there had to be a greater emphasis on pronunciation, and fluency in particular, when teaching English to non-native speakers.

"It's not enough if a teacher's goal is simply to produce people who are intelligible, because that doesn't meet the students' probable goal of getting a job."

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