Each year, the annual TESOL Convention provides speaking-pronunciation-listening enthusiasts with dozens of opportunities to dig deeper and learn more about teaching oral/aural skills. Just browse through the Pre- and Postconvention Institutes for TESOL 2016, and you’ll see six sessions that focus on these important skills.
But if you really love pronunciation, you should also know about the annual Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching (PSLLT) conference. Started by Dr. John Levis in 2009, the PSLLT is the world’s largest L2 pronunciation conference and the only conference of its kind in North America. Largely research-focused, the PSLLT is an intimate conference that draws 100–200 participants from around the world.
What could be more fun?! However, with session titles like “Expanding the Vowel Space” (by Mari Sakai in 2014) and “Brazilian English x Brazilian Portuguese: A Dynamic Approach for the Analysis of Diphthongs in Forensic Contexts” (to be presented by Maria Lucia Gomes in October), a little voice inside of me started wondering:
Who should attend the PSLLT? What’s it like? Is it like a TESOL convention with a more specific focus? Can a classroom teacher like me submit a proposal?
These are all questions I’d been wondering about for a few years now, and yet the thought of simply emailing John Levis seemed somehow imprudent, like calling the Pope to ask him if I should buy tickets to see him during his U.S. tour, and, if so, what I should wear. Inappropriate.
But in my recent interview with the knowledgeable-but-not-at-all-scary pronunciation researcher Dr. Tracey Derwing, I asked her to recommend my next interviewee, and she had this to say:
And so I contacted John Levis and asked him for an interview, and he said yes. How simple was that?
It seems John Levis is a master of making it all sound simple. This is a man who is, at this very moment, doing it all: writing, researching, organizing conferences, editing the new Journal of Second Language Pronunciation (as mentioned in an earlier post). But as you’ll see in the excerpt below, having several irons in the fire is simply an invitation to add more: “I tend not to say no,” says Levis.
In describing the PSLLT conference, Levis describes three main features that distinguish it from other conferences:
- Research-Based Presentations – 20-minute sessions in which researchers highlight their findings from empirical studies on L2 pronunciation.
- Teaching Tips: My Great Idea – a 90-minute session in which you (the one with the great idea) have 10 minutes to present your teaching tip in a round table setting. After 10 minutes, a bell rings, and you move to another table; you end up presenting and getting feedback on your idea seven or eight times over the course of 90 minutes.
- Poster Sessions – a dedicated session during which participants circulate through the research- and practice-based poster sessions.
There’s a fourth feature worth mentioning—a benefit, really. After each PSLLT event, the conference proceedings are collected, edited, and published. It’s well worth browsing the proceedings, including these from 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013.
And so: Who should attend the PSLLT? I’d say anyone who values knowing how their own pronunciation teaching techniques are—or perhaps are not—supported by empirical research. It is clearly a highly academic conference, but one thing is certain: Without classroom teachers in attendance, the PSLLT runs the risk of preaching merely to its own researcher participants, and what a missed opportunity that would be.
So GO, listen, mingle, and get to know these fine people who write the books that we should all be reading. Our students have everything to gain from our participation.
This year’s PSLLT conference will be held on 16–17 October in Dallas, Texas, USA. Can’t make it to Dallas next month? Mark your calendar: The next PSLLT will take place in August 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.