Writing a Book on Accents

 

From Tyler:

I’ve been thinking lately about writing a book on accent acquisition.

Which has mostly resulted in me thinking about the challenges associated with writing a book on accent acquisition.

And I’ll say up front: I know other Knight-Thompson teachers are laboring away at this very same idea, most of them much further along than I am. This blog post in no way aims to undermine their efforts, but rather explore the goals and challenges associated with accent acquisition education that arise when I think of writing a book on the subject. I’d love to have current authors’ feedback, and I hope that my pondering here benefits anyone else who’s trying to publish their expertise in written form.

I’d want the book I’d write to cleave closely to the bedrock principles of Knight-Thompson Speechwork. I’d want the book I’d write to build upon Speaking with Skill and extend the content, form, and playfulness of that volume into the process of learning and practicing accents of English. And I’d want the book I’d write to be accessible to all learners, whether for stage, screen, or improvisational use.

The bigger challenge, however, seems to lie in how to write a book that could stand on its own, in association with a classroom experience or a teacher but ultimately independent when sold in stores or online. I’m still in awe of Dudley’s authorial acumen in SwS, where a student (who reads carefully) can learn intellectually rigorous content alongside exercises and broader philosophical inquiry, leavened throughout with charm and gentle wit. I prefer that my students experience KTS with me or another teacher as a guide, but I also feel very comfortable letting them explore SwS on their own. If I leave them with that book, I know they will gain crucial insights about speech with only Dudley’s words to inspire them.

So what would go into a similar book about accent acquisition? Can the process of “learning a specific accent” be explored, explained, and exercised effectively with only the printed page as a guide?

So far, I’ve only been able to come up with a list of topics I’d need to investigate further. I’ve been making this list not only because I want to procrastinate from starting on this book I’d write, but also because I’d want to put myself on firm, evidential footing as I commit my accent experience into the unchanging and unforgiving written word. Each of these topics is worthy of its own blog post — and, who knows, that could happen — but I wanted to share them here, with you, the KTS community, to see what deserves (or doesn’t deserve) consideration when approaching the teaching of KTS accent acquisition. So, here goes:

Things I’d Like to Know More About Before Writing an Accent Acquisition Book

  • Motor skill learning
  • The learning process generally — how does it happen at the physiological level? are “different approaches” supported by research?
  • Language acquisition in general
  • Linguistic evolutionary processes throughout human history
  • Strategies for practicing (for speech and for skills, in general)
  • Alternatives to Wells’ lexical sets for understanding phonemic distribution
  • Current research in accent acquisition
  • Indispensable tools for accent learning (and the permission to reference them)

Just looking at that list gives me cold sweats. I know the existing literature is impressive and growing. But I still perceive a need for a text — like Dudley’s — that can treasure the complexity and rigor of linguistics and articulatory phonetics while also establishing a clear, accessible, and practical approach to accent skill.

So, KTSers, what am I missing in my list above? Or what’s not important? Does the perfect book already exist? Is it about to exist? How much can one book cover? Are books even a thing anymore?!

Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below!

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