The politics of pronunciation – talk by Helen Ashton

Collins in partnership with British Council India invites you to a talk on The Politics of Pronunciation by Helen Ashton.


Helen Ashton trained at The Central School of Speech and Drama, graduating with Distinction from the MA in Voice. She specialises in speech and accent work, which she teaches at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), in London. She has coached actors in many different accents for Stage and Screen appearances. Helen is co-author of the pronunciation guide Collins’ Work On Your Accent which was published in 2012, and teaches English pronunciation to speakers of all languages. Helen also holds an MA with First Class Honours in History from The University of Edinburgh.


Dialect coach, Helen Ashton believes that accents reflect our identities, and no one way of speaking is inherently better than another. However, this doesn’t mean that pronunciation teaching should be abandoned altogether. There is a middle ground: there is a difference between training people to talk like Received Pronunciation drones, and helping them to speak in a way that is expressive and clear to anyone listening. Although individual accents should be respected, there comes a point where pronunciation habits can be a limitation to fluency.

In this presentation, Helen will argue that pronunciation teaching should be flexible, and tailored to students’ individual goals. She will include examples from the Indian context and consider one of the key issues here that gets teachers arguing: should our children be taught English models of pronunciation or is it acceptable in this global world – for them to speak with Indian accents? She will also present key skills and concepts that are useful for teaching different pronunciation models.

There is space for both sensitivity and rigour within pronunciation teaching in India, and without either one of them, we are letting our students down. Read more here


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Collins is best known in India for its dictionaries, language reference books and course books for international schools. In a major new initiative Collins has now launched skills books for phonics, spelling, ELT, mathematics and reading for children in Indian schools in grades 1 to 8, and will shortly be publishing course books covering ELT, mathematics, science and computer science also for grades 1 to 8 focusing initially on the requirements of the CBSE board.

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You can follow some of the discussions on Twitter @inBritish and @TeachEngIndia with #Pronunciation

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3 thoughts on “The politics of pronunciation – talk by Helen Ashton

  1. Florin Nicolaescu

    Dear Ms. Helen Ashton,
    I am very happy that a book like yours, whick is dedicated to working on Accent was published by a prestigious printing house like Collins, because it is truly welcome and helpful.
    Although I am not a specialist in the field I would like to make known to you a personal opinion referring to the way you divided the languages in several groups.
    I do believe and I learned in school and afterwards that Romanian is a LATIN language. The Romanian people was formed from Romans and “Daci” the habitants of the ancient Dacia who was conquered by Traian. Even the national anthem of Romania says one of our ancestors is the Emperor Traian, the conqueror of Dacia. The other is the brave and wise Decebal – the leader of Dacia – who, after the capital of Dacia – Sarmisegetuza – was conquered by the Romans, took himself his life.
    The Romanian language should be classified also in your book together with the Italian, French, and Spanish.
    Do you know that the Romanian language comes directly from the latin language of the ancient Rome and, even at present, is very, very much close to the Italian language?
    A Romanian person and an Italian person can understand each other almost 70%, when speaking. That happens only because the two languages, Romanian and Italian, are very, very much alike.
    It is very easy for Romanians to pronounce Italian words and the same thing is true for Italians who pronounce Romanian words.
    But, if I want to discuss with a Greek, for example, I do not understand anything what he says because I didn’t study the Greek language before, and the words are so much different.
    Believe me, I am not wrong, the classification you made should be modified at the next edition of the book.
    As for the Moldavian, there does not truly exist a Moldavian language. The Moldavians speak the Romanian language, there are slight differences in accent, but they understand each other 100% when speaking and writing, excepting the meaning of some regionalisms.
    The Romanians people and the Moldavian people are brothers.
    Please check my statements with some true historians and linguists. You will be surprised to find out how much I am right.
    Finally, once more, I want to congratulate you and Ms. Sarah Shepherd for this book which is a very good tool for all learners.
    Very truly yours,
    Eng. Florin Nicolaescu
    Petroconsult S.R.L. (a Romanian Engineering and Technical Services Company).


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