Who is the teacher? : An investigation of upper secondary school students’ pronunciation of English and the possible underlying reasons

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Engelska institutionen

Abstract: Swedish school pupils are taught English from a very young age. Many speak English at a very high level thanks to this and also thanks to readily available television programmes in English, mostly from America but also from Britain. Some, including Marko Modiano argue that the English spoken in Sweden could be a new variety. There is some evidence in support of this in the form of previous studies showing to what degree American and British English is mixed by Swedes. The present study aims at exploring if there are any recurring patterns in the way Swedish upper secondary school students mix American and British English as well as possible underlying reasons. This was done by recording 32 informants at an upper secondary school in Stockholm while reading a list of words and sentences designed to elicit phonetic markers that separate American English from British English. The data from the recordings is complemented by a short questionnaire. Here the informants are asked about their preference for English varieties and what they believe the preference of English varieties is for their teacher, the school, their textbooks as well as what they watch on television and if they have ever been or would like to go to an English speaking country. Concerning whether or not the informants mix American and British English or not, the results clearly show that most believe they do, although most of them seem to favour American English on the whole. There seems to be an overall tendency to use rhotic /r/ and there were some differences between male and female informants. Looking at the results of the present study compared to previous studies there is a connection in that formal text types like word lists elicit more British English than less formal text types do. Concerning what they watch on television, nearly all informants watch American television shows and this could be, in part, responsible for the tendency to favour the American variety. Regarding other influences, there was some uncertainty, especially when they were asked what they believed was preferred in the textbooks and by their teachers. Though it seems most believe that British English is preferred over American English except for the school in general where most believe that both varieties are preferred equally.

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