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English, it is said, is an unaccented language. This conveniently ignores words imported from French, which depend on the mood of the writer and a printer deep in the bowels of a newspaper. But accents indicate the emphasis and I recommend that all students of English as a foreign language (TOEFL) use their own private accent marks.
There are several factors that underlie the effective teaching of pronunciation such as age, exposure to the target language, prior second language instruction, aptitude, attitude and motivation. Age in particular plays an important role in acquiring a native-like accent in second language acquisition.
Because Arabic is a Semitic language, it differs significantly from English, which has a European language base. Native Arabic speakers may have a particularly difficult time with the aspects of English which do not exist in Arabic.
The answer to this question is plain and simple: very, if not the most important thing. You see, English is a stressed language as opposed to others that are considered syllabic languages. It means that stress is what carries most of the meaning in spoken language, rather than syllables. There is a very practical way of getting to understand this.
According to recent research, 60 percent of English speakers now speak another language as their native tongue. This group of people learn English as a second, or even third, language. As a result, the way people use and speak English is changing. More and more English speakers use it in a way that is particular to their region.
Many years ago, a presenter at an ESL conference I attended began his stimulating, and very memorable, presentation with a ten minute mini lesson in . . . Thai! The audience of ESL teachers, syllabus planners and curriculum designers was stunned, but the point was effectively made: Learning correct pronunciation and intonation in a foreign language is not as simple as ESL teachers seem to think!