GRADUATE GROUP6420: Syntax & Phonology; T ConradDiscussion of the Saudi Pronunciation ProjectSummer 2011

DIRECTIONS: I’m going to give you time now to discuss the following notes with each other about the Saudi pronunciation class your graduate class has been paired to for this summer. As you go over the notes below, brainstorm together how things are going, what we will be doing today, and your own ideas about how we might proceed throughout the term.

BACKGROUND: Several times in the past I have combined a class of ESL students with this or another teacher education class so that both sides could benefit from the learning/teaching experiences. Usually there have been enough students on both sides that I could involve everyone together at the same time. For example, last summer for part of the EN 4420/6420 class time we all taught a group of Saudi students together, interacted with a Middle Eastern film called “Amreeka,” and planned social activities outside class (a hike, an picnic, going to a Real soccer game). However, this time, I found out there would be a smaller number of ESL students so I decided to make this a project just for the graduate students, then you will be sharing your work with the rest of the class.

GOALS: My goals involve helping the Saudi students to improve their English pronunciation, while you, the American teachers, investigate Saudi culture, the Saudi dialect of Arabic, and which English sounds are the most difficult for Saudis. I’m also hoping you can learn some basic Arabic from the Saudis and discover which Arabic sounds are most difficult for English speakers. I’d like you to begin using phonological principles and the IPA as tools to describe what you’re learning. These activities will involve tutoring, keeping a teaching journal, and writing up a reflection paper about your findings by the end of the term. The experience will be an interactive qualitative study through which the results will “triangulated” in the sense that throughout the term each of you will be checking with each other about your findings concerning English and Arabic pronunciation and tutoring problems and solutions. The Saudi students will also provide valuable additional insights. What you learn can also be compared with research about Arabic and English and the teaching of both languages. I’m expecting that you will all be formulating and revising these goals in various ways as the term proceeds.

RESOURCES: You and the Saudi students, your teaching journals/observations, our course syllabi, teacher materials for each chapter that I will supply, photos and names of the Saudi students, your own online or other research to help you answer questions that come up. Please feel free to email me ( or call my cell (901-564-5944) or make appointments with me as necessary to meet in my office: EH 257.


1) Decide among yourselves which of the Saudis you would each like to work with on a regular basis.
2) Decide on a back-up plan about how you will pair up if a student doesn’t come to class. Discuss the homework: five words for each of these letters: t, d, s, z. Here are some connected kinds of practice: a- how do each of these sounds occur in the same place in the mouth but with varying “modulations” (special affects you have to create to produce the consonant sounds); b- which letters are “stops” and which are “continuants”?; c) which of these letters AT THE END of words produce the following: plural, past tense (both [t] and [d] sounds, sometimes [əd]), 3rd person singular (He/She reads the book); d) have the students use some of their words in complete sentences. Can they pronounce the words naturally by themselves and also in the context of a complete sentence?
3) Go over other homework in Chapter 8
4) Work on your Arabic with your students: Does Arabic have these sounds: t, d, s, z? Are any of these sounds in their Arabic alphabet? Can you learn at least one simple word in Arabic with each of these letters, transcribing them first perhaps in English spelling, then later in your journal figuring out the IPA transcription? Have your student begin teaching you the Arabic alphabet or simple common words, greetings, expressions. Begin writing them down in your journal. Search for English sounds that are hard for Arabic speakers to recognize or produce (vowel variations, p/b), as well as Arabic sounds that are hard for us as English speakers.
5) Give your student a doable homework assignment for Wednesday based on interesting things you learned today or from Chapter 8 or 9 from her/his book.

TEACHING JOURNAL: Follow up what happened today by writing up a journal account, doing any research that may help you, discussing with the Saudis and with each each other (I will always give you time during class to compare notes), or talking with me.

SOCIAL/OUTSIDE CLASS TIMES: I know we’re all busy, but it might work out from time to time that you would like to meet with your student outside class. We might also plan some kind of group activity for all of us involved in this Saudi pronunciation class. Last summer, we planned a hike, soccer game, cook-out, and a movie.