On 2 May, after more than nine months in the making, the world celebrated a birth, the arrival of a long-awaited jewel that completes the family crown. While Princess Charlotte of Cambridge may come to mind, the arrival of which I speak is the Journal of Second Language Pronunciation or, more simply, the JSLP.
The JSLP, edited by TESOL’s own John Levis, is a scholarly journal devoted to research and practice surrounding second language pronunciation in all contexts of learning.
If TESOL is a family and its interest sections are siblings, pronunciation has long suffered the status of the fabled stepchild. Have you ever wondered why?
Levis opens the JSLP with a story we all need to know: that pronunciation was considered a fully legitimate aspect TESOL until the 1970s, when a new kid, communicative language teaching (CLT), came to town. Emboldened by its bully sidekick, the critical period hypothesis, CLT pushed pronunciation to the side, arguing that learner pronunciation would take care of itself (with enough comprehensible input), and that, in any case, teaching pronunciation was a waste of time (because face it: English learners will never sound like native English speakers, so why bother?). Pronunciation understood its own importance, but lacking a strong comeback, it moved into the attic to consider its plight.
Forty-five years later, never losing sight of its own value and having worked with several good therapists to make sense of its odd family culture, pronunciation is back, it’s all grown up, and it’s become downright sophisticated. The arrival of the JSLP heralds the return of pronunciation to its rightful place alongside second language reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary.
Every one of us should benefit from reading the JSLP, and many of us surely have something to contribute. Realistically speaking, the JSLP will not show up on newsstands next to People magazine anytime soon, because, well, no academic journal can hold a candle to Princess Charlotte.
Indeed, to get your hands on the Journal of Second Language Pronunciation, one must be “in the know.” Here are a few steps you can take:
1. Read the first issue online. If you have time to read only one article, read this one, in which John Levis describes the very existence of the JSLP as an “essential step toward disciplinary identity” and outlines how the JSLP is significant not only for pronunciation specialists, but to ESL/EFL professionals more broadly and, beyond English, all language teaching professionals.
2. If you work for an academic institution, tell your librarian that there’s a new journal in town, and that all the cool kids are reading it. (I find that librarians are particularly sympathetic to my desire to be cool, so long as by cool I mean “professionally engaged.”)
3. Share news of the JSLP with the same passion given baby Charlotte’s first coo. Seriously, the JSLP deserves to be talked about, and, as a new journal that relies on its readership, it needs to be mentioned in staff meetings, conference presentations, and social media.
4) Submit an article. Really. As the JSLP forges its path, it will need thoughtful contributions from the very people who read it. If you are a researcher, report your findings. If you love reading research, write up a synthesis of two or more studies and tell us what it all means for teaching. If you are a masterful practitioner, submit a teaching article, and if you are a savvy consumer of pronunciation textbooks or software, consider writing a review.
As with all marriages and births, the arrival of the JSLP has the potential to unite the family while forging stronger alliances beyond, in this case with applied linguistics, phonology, language assessment, and technology among others.
We’re headed in an exciting direction. In John Levis’ words, “We can predict… that surprises are in store.”
Levis, J. (2015). The Journal of Second Language Pronunciation: An essential step toward a disciplinary identity. The Journal of Second Language Pronunciation, 1(1), 1–10.