Chatterbox #172 – Interview with Jenn Foote

Are you self-conscious about your accent, or do you have trouble mimicking the speech patterns of native English speakers? In this week’s episode, you can learn useful information and some great tips for practicing your spoken English from Dr. Jenn Foote, a specialist from the University of Alberta in English pronunciation.

Fun factjennfoote

Learning a second language is not only useful, but also grows grey matter! It has been a long-held belief that teaching children another language at an early age delays their language development. However, current research indicates that bilingual children reach milestones at around the same age as their peers, and speaking more than one language has cognitive benefits, possibly resulting in denser grey matter in areas of the brain associated with language.

Expressions included in the learning materials

  • Shadowing
  • A suprasegmental
  • The takeaway
  • Off the top of your head
  • To bear with someone/something

Sample Dialogue


Today, we are very happy to talk with Jennifer Foote, or rather Dr. Jennifer Foote, from the University of Alberta. And we’re going to speak to her today about her specialty, which is pronunciation in English and pronunciation research. Now, there were moments of this audio that weren’t the best quality, so I apologize ahead of time for the quality of this recording. Just bear with us because there’s some really great content. Here we go.
Hi, Jennifer.

Jennifer: Thank you for having me on your podcast.
Suzanne: Yes, welcome to Culips. So introduce yourself, Jenn.

My name is Jennifer Foote, and I’m an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Alberta, in Western Canada. And I study, for the most part, I study second-language pronunciation, and I look at ways that we can improve how teachers teach pronunciation and how people who are learning a second language can improve their pronunciation. And I also look at what it is about somebody’s speech that makes it easy or difficult to understand.


I think that a lot of our listeners can relate to that. I think, even if we’re a native speaker of English, we have been misunderstood, or have been told, “What? What? What? I didn’t understand what you said? What exactly are you saying? Can you say it again?”

Jennifer: Absolutely. Yeah. I’ve certainly experienced that a number of times.
Suzanne: Yeah. And it doesn’t have to be in your second language. It can also be in your first language, where, you know, sometimes even in a very noisy place, right? “What? What did you say?”
Jennifer: That’s right. Or if somebody’s talking about something and you don’t really know the context very well or different first-language accents. I remember when I was younger, I was visiting a friend of mine in Ireland, and I was playing a game with her family that required you to answer a lot of questions very quickly. And every time they would ask me a question, I would just have to say, “pass, pass, pass” because I couldn’t understand their accents. I wasn’t familiar with their accents.
Suzanne: It can be difficult. You’re right. There are many accents I don’t understand as well, or it takes me time to acclimate, or get acquainted with, or get used to the accents of people.

That’s just it. I think getting used to it … Getting used to it and becoming more familiar definitely helps.

Suzanne: Yeah. So you work in pronunciation, and what are some things that have been very interesting to you, that you’ve discovered, or things that you might be working on currently in the research of understanding speech, of pronunciation?

english PodcastAudio/Learning Materials: Culips English Learning Podcast