Pronunciation Teaching

PRONUNCIATION TEACHING; Between A Necessity and A Limited Time
Review of Curriculum 2013 for SMK/MAK

Pronunciation is the most important part of speaking, therefore, pronunciation teaching is very essential to do. However, in its essence to be taught to students, the time given to the teachers becomes less especially by the implementation of curriculum 2013. This paper reviews the effectiveness and the impact may happen to pronunciation teaching through the change of the curriculum. By comparing some components of curriculum 2013 with KTSP as the previous curriculum, it is found that the number of Basic Competencies in curriculum 2013 are much more than in KTSP, in contrast, the hours of learning provided in curriculum 2013 is less than in KTSP. Thus, it seems that changing the curriculum does not effective for English language teaching, and the impact may happen is pronunciation teaching will be vanish from teaching and learning instruction in the class.
Key words: pronunciation teaching, curriculum 2013, components of curriculum, effectiveness, impact

Many English teachers agree that pronunciation is very difficult to master. It is like the statement argued by Fraser (2000, 7) that pronunciation is the most complicated aspect of language to obtain. Due to the difficulty, most English teachers, especially non-native speakers, feel unconfident to teach pronunciation (Fraser 2000, 8; Gilbert 2008, 42-43) because it will only make thing worse (Harmer 2001, 183). They assume that students will be able to gain useful pronunciation in the course of their studies even without formal pronunciation syllabus (Harmer 2001, 183).

Even though it is hard, pronunciation teaching is very important for the students because it is able to enhance their ability to speak infinitely (Harmer 2001, 183). Fraser (2000, 7) adds that the students’ speaking is intelligible if they have good pronunciation even they make errors in some areas, on the other hand, their speaking will be difficult to be understood if they have poor pronunciation even when their grammar is excellent. This indicates that pronunciation is viewed as the most essential sub-skill of speaking, so all English teachers need to teach their students in how they are able to pronounce English well.

Fraser has not finished explaining until here, the most interesting statement is that in the necessity to be taught, pronunciation is the aspect upon which least time is spent (Fraser 2000, 8). It means that beside the factor of teacher, the number of time provided in the class is another important factor which can effect to the pronunciation teaching. This situation relates to the new curriculum 2013 which has been implemented in education system of Indonesia since 2013-2014 academic year, exactly since the last July 15th, 2013. There are so many changes done by the government through this curriculum including the number of hours of lessons which there are some subjects that got addition time and there are others that get reducing. English is one subject that gets reducing time in curriculum 2013. So, this paper tries to review the effectiveness of decreasing hours of lessons of English subject, and the impact may happen to pronunciation teaching.

Pronunciation refers to the way in which a language or a particular word or sound is spoken. Because it relates to spoken language, there are two interrelated skills in pronunciation; those are recognition or understanding the flow of speech, and production or fluency in the spoken language (Broughton, et al 1980, 49). Pronunciation also refers to the making of sounds to create meaning. It includes attention to the specific sounds of a language, aspects of speech beyond the level of the individual sound like intonation, stress, rhythm, how the voice is projected (voice quality), and in its broadest definition, attention to gestures and expressions that are closely related to the way we speak a language.

Since sounds play an important role in spoken language, foreign language teachers have to take pronunciation teaching as the main activity in their classes. As we know that communication is a mutual relationship between the speaker and the listener. This indicates that the listener should understand what he/she hears in the target language and then he/she can produce the sounds of the language he/she is learning accurately. Unless he has sufficient knowledge of the sound patterns of the target language, he can neither encode a message to anybody nor decode the message sent by another person by learning the sounds of the target language within his mother tongue.

Pronunciation teaching itself becomes rather incidental to a course of study by the mid of 1980s. With greater attention to grammatical structures as significant basics in discourse, to balance between fluency and accuracy, and to the explicit specification of pedagogical tasks that a student should accomplish, it becomes clear that pronunciation was a key to gaining full communicative competence (Brown 2000, 283). So, teachers should include pronunciation teaching in courses and expect students to do well (Morley 1991). By teaching pronunciation to the students, it will be very useful for them to become more familiar with the sounds of language (English) and it will also be very useful to achieve the goal of pronunciation itself which will be discuss below.

Because pronunciation has strong relationship to spoken language, it is not enough for teachers to teach pronunciation only theoretically about what pronunciation is, what kinds of phonemes are, and so on. The most important thing is how the students can pronounce each word. However, it is different to writing which structurally and grammatically has to be in the correct form, spoken language does not emphasize on them. It is true that spoken language also has to be correct, but not grammatically. The correctness and accuracy in spoken language refer to the way in which the words are pronounced.

Many teachers probably think that the ultimate goal of their students in pronunciation should be accent-free speech that is identical from that of a native speaker. Nonetheless, with the rapid spread of English as an international language, native accent has become almost inappropriate to cross-cultural communication. Therefore, the goal of teaching pronunciation should be more realistically focused on developing functional intelligibility, communicability, increased self-confidence, the development of speech monitoring abilities and speech modification strategies for use beyond the classroom (Morley 1991, 498-500), clear and comprehensible pronunciation (Brown 2000, 284). It is quite possible for students to be trained to pronounce language in a way that is easily intelligible to native speakers without asking that their pronunciation has to be like a native speaker (Fraser 2000, 10).

Similar to Brown and Fraser, Harmer indicates the need for English teachers to consider intelligibility as the main objective of pronunciation teaching because the students, who are as foreign language speakers, commonly want to preserve their own accent when they speak the foreign language since that is part of their identities (Harmer 2001, 184). Moreover, Gilbert (2008, 1) states that the aim of pronunciation teaching does not mean that students have to sound like native speakers, but it helps them to learn the basic elements of spoken English in order that they can be easily comprehended by others.

In other words, teachers and students can defeat the difficulties often related to pronunciation by focusing their attention on the improvement of pronunciation which is “listener friendly”, so pronunciation teaching refers to learning and practicing the particularly English way of making a speakers’ thoughts easy to follow.

Stenhouse in Sheehan (1986, 671) gives his concept about curriculum that it is an effort to communicate the essential principles and features of an educational proposal in such a form that it is open to decisive analysis and capable of effective translation into practice. If we try to pay attention to the definition, there are some features which make the definition is interesting. Essential principles mean that curriculum should avoid getting lost in a mass of detail likely to cloud the issues. A curriculum ought to be reviewed and subjected to critical scrutiny from time to time. That it should be capable of being translated into practice is a fundamental requirement since this must be regarded as the acid test for any educational proposal relating to a vocation.

In addition, based on Law Number 20 Year 2003 on National Education System states that the curriculum is a set of plans and arrangements regarding the purpose, content, and teaching materials and methods used to guide the implementation of learning activities to achieve specific educational goals. Here, curriculum is seen as strategy consisted of ideas and the processes or techniques of implementation education in a period of time.

Curriculum is the most fundamental thing in education. Without curriculum, education system will not run well because curriculum has function as the base of implementing education. All educational institutions both formals and informal will run their programs by considering the curriculum. Besides, the curriculum serves as a reference or guideline. For teachers, curriculum is able to be a guideline in conducting learning activities in the class. For school or supervisor, it serves as the guideline in doing supervising. For parents, it serves as reference in guiding their children to study at home. And for the students, curriculum is a guideline for them to achieve the process of developing the quality of their potencies (kemdikbud 2012, 2).

Indonesia has just entered a new era in the education field by implementing the new curriculum, that is curriculum 2013. Pros and contras happened to welcome it, but this paper will not discuss about that because the government has stated to implement this new curriculum since 2013-2014 academic year, exactly since the last July 15th, 2013. The implementation of this curriculum is done gradually and gradually limited. Gradually means it is implemented only in the certain grades, those are in the Ist and IVth grade of elementary school, the VIIth of junior high school, and the Xth grade of senior high school. Gradually limited means this curriculum is implemented only by certain schools which are appointed by government both government and private schools, totally 6,329 schools in Indonesia consist of 2,598 for elementary schools, 1,437 for junior high schools, 1,267 for senior high schools, and 1,027 for vocational high schools. To specify this discussion, this paper will be focused on the implementation of Curriculum 2013 in vocational high school.

Curriculum 2013 is designed in competency-based curriculum form in which all documents, processes, and appraisals are based on goal achievements, contents, and learning materials. It is also designed to provide a learning experience as possible for students in developing their attitude, knowledge, and skill. Since it is designed in competency-based curriculum, the development of curriculum itself is directed at the competency achievement which is formulated from competency standard (SKL). And the success of curriculum is defined as the success of competency achievements which are designed in the document of curriculum by all students.
The structure of curriculum 2013 contains four components. Those are:
1. Main Competencies (KI). Main Competencies (KI) is formulated in Main Competency-1 (KI-1) for spiritual attitude, Main Competency-2 (KI-2) for social attitude, Main Competency-3 (KI-3) for knowledge, and Main Competency-4 (KI-4) for skill. (The table is enclosed).
2. The subjects. The subjects of vocational high school contains 9 compulsory subjects with 24 hours of learning in a week, and optional vocational subjects in which the students may choose what subjects they are interested in. (The table is enclosed).
3. The third is burden of learning, that is the whole activities that have to be followed by students in a week, in one semester, and in one academic year.
– Burden of learning in a week for XI and XII grade is 48 hours of learning
– Duration of one hour of learning is 45 minutes.
– Burden of learning in X, XI, XII grade in one semester at least 18 weeks and 20 weeks at most.
– Burden of learning in XII grade of odd semester is at least 18 weeks and 20 weeks at most.
– Burden of learning in XII grade of even semester is at least 14 weeks and 16 weeks at most.
– Burden of learning in one academic year is 36 weeks at least and 40 weeks at most.
4. The fourth is Basic Competency (KD). It is formulated to reach the Main Competencies, so it is divided into four groups based on the Main Competencies.
– Group 1: group of Basic Competencies of spiritual attitude in describing KI-1
– Group 2: group of Basic Competencies of social attitude in describing KI-2
– Group 3: group of Basic Competencies of knowledge in describing KI-3
– Group 4: group of Basic Competencies of skill in describing KI-4

Based on the curriculum, English is one of the compulsory subjects that have to be taught to students. It is in group of subjects A in which the substances are developed by the government. Group A is also categorized as the subjects that give the orientation in cognitive and affective competency. Like the other subjects, competencies of English subject are arranged based on the Main Competencies, then described to Basic Competencies gradually from easy to difficult, and from simple to complicate.

If we compare this curriculum 2013 to the previous curriculum (School Based Curriculum/KTSP), there are some changes that make them different. For example, the Main Competencies from the Xth, XIth, and XIIth grade are quite similar in curriculum 2013. It is different to the KTSP in which the Basic Competencies are divided into three levels; those are Novice Level for the Xth grade, Elementary Level for the Xith grade, and Intermediate Level for the XIIth grade. Then, curriculum 2013 has 11 KD for KI-3 (Knowledge) and 16 KD for KI-4 (skill) in the Xth grade, 12 KD for KI-3 (Knowledge) and 16 KD for KI-4 (skill) in the XIth grade, and 12 KD for KI-3 (Knowledge) and 16 KD for KI-4 (skill) in the XIIth grade. Those are much more and also more complicated than KTSP in which KTSP “only” has 8 KD in the Xth grade, 7 KD in the XIth grade, and 7 KD in the XIIth grade.

Besides the Main Competencies and the Basic Competencies, there is still another change. In the writer’s opinion, this change is worse than the Main Competencies and the Basic Competencies, that is the reducing hours of learning in a week. In KTSP, the time provided is 4 hours of learning a week for 7 or 8 Basic Competencies, in contrast, the time provided in curriculum 2013 is only 2 hours of learning a week for 11 and 12 Basic Competencies. How can the government explain this when English is still become one subject examined in the National Examination?

Some changes above surely will affect to the teaching and learning instruction in the class, especially to the pronunciation teaching. All teachers know that they have to teach listening, speaking, reading, and writing as the main skills that have to be mastered by students. Therefore, with the reducing time of English, the worst thing will probably happen is pronunciation teaching will be vanish from the teachers’ mind to teach, and they will use this reducing time as the strong arguments for them not to do.

Pronunciation teaching is very essence to do because that is one most important factor that can improve students’ ability to master English communication. The difficulty in teaching pronunciation should not be the reason for teachers not to train their students. However, the presence of curriculum 2013 is like a sign that teachers do not need to teach pronunciation.

Reducing the hours of learning and adding the Basic Competencies that have to be achieved in one semester can become the reasons. Here, teachers have to finish giving one Basic Competency mostly in every three meetings, whereas they have to consider teaching the main skills like listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The teachers feel proud and pleasant if they have finished teaching all material asked in one semester. By finishing giving the theory, they feel as if they have reached the target of learning, the real competency mastered by students is not too important. For them, the most important thing is the students are able to answer the questions of the examination.

To conclude, changing the curriculum, especially the reducing time of English subject, is not effective to achieve the students’ competency. Even, it is worried that curriculum 2013 will remove pronunciation teaching as the most important aspect of language to teach to the students. Of course, this is only an anxiety of a teacher who knows a little bit about this new curriculum. Critiques and suggestions will be very useful to answer the writer’s anxiety.

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_______ . 2012. The significance of pronunciation in English language teaching. English Language Teaching 5, no. 4 (April): 96-107.
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Sheehan, John. 1986. Curriculum models: Product versus process. Journal oj’Advunced Nursing 11 (January): 671-678.


About Nanang Lesmana

I am a teacher in SMK PKP 1 DKI Jakarta. I live in Pasar Rebo, East Jakarta. I am studying in UHAMKA Post Graduate School
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