An English course for UniCamillus lecturers: Mr Rotatori explains the importance of phonetics

The UniCamillus Language Centre (UCLC) has the task of promoting the teaching and learning of English while also developing independent language learning in conjunction with the whole University. That is why Mr Alessandro Rotatori will be conducting a course on Medical English Pronunciation specifically designed for university lecturers between October and November 2023.

Mr Rotatori, what is the purpose of your course, which is, in fact, the first of its kind in Italy?

“The course is aimed at our lecturers. Its purpose is to improve the pronunciation of English, particularly medical terminology. The lessons will delve into every aspect of the phonetics of medical English: not only the pronunciation of individual medical terms but also excerpts of phrases and texts taken from real-life situations. This will help enhance both general English speaking skills and interaction with students during academic activities conducted in English, especially with non-native English speakers”.

This fits into UniCamillus’ international context, with multiculturalism being one of its fundamental characteristics. What are the main difficulties that lecturers face when communicating with non-native English speakers who are not from the United States or the United Kingdom?

“Having a background knowledge of English phonetics, whether it be British or American, helps understand other, less-known or not ‘standardized’ patterns. Unfortunately, phonetics is not taught well, even at university level. One of the challenges teachers at our University often encounter, for example, is communicating with individuals who speak English with an Indian accent. Indian English is a standard variety, like American or British English, but not everyone is accustomed to its sounds. Guiding the teacher towards learning and exploring British or American English can also improve comprehension during conversations with Indian or Singaporean students, Singaporean English being another variety of English increasingly described in textbooks nowadays. By being aware of both the differences and similarities between accents, starting from a reference model, you can better understand what a foreign student is saying”.

In your experience, from a learning perspective, besides traditional lectures, how else can teachers practise and improve?

“As I said, the study of phonetics is often neglected in Italy, leaving students unsure of what they can do on their own to practise. We are constantly surrounded by English in our daily lives, so any activity that requires its use can be beneficial. I always advise my students to try and find real-life examples of the pronunciation we study in class. For instance, watching the BBC for 5 minutes and analysing even short utterances can help students understand native speakers better. You must constantly stay curious and try to notice things that we looked at during the course”.