Teaching Pronunciation
• Pronunciation involves far more than
individual sounds.
• Word stress, sentence stress,
intonation, and word linking all influence
the sound of spoken English.
• English pronunciation involves too many
complexities for learners to strive for a
complete elimination of accent, but
improving pronunciation will:
• boost self-esteem,
• facilitate communication, and possibly
lead to a better job or a least
more respect in the workplace.
• A student's first language often
interferes with English pronunciation.
Sometimes the students will be able to
identify specific problem sounds and
sometimes they won't.
• Another challenge resulting from
differences in the first language is the
inability to hear certain English sounds
that the native language does not contain.
• For problems such as these, listening is
crucial because students can't produce a
sound they can't hear.
• Descriptions of the sound and mouth
position can help students increase their
awareness of subtle sound differences.
Here are some ideas for focusing on specific
pronunciation features.
• Voicing
Voiced sounds will make the throat vibrate.
For example, /g/ is a voiced sound while /k/
is not, even though the mouth is in the
same position for both sounds.
• Have your students touch their throats
while pronouncing voiced and voiceless
sounds.
• They should feel vibration with the voiced
sounds only.
• Aspiration
• Aspiration refers to a puff of air when a
sound is produced.
• Many languages have far fewer aspirated
sounds than English, and students may have
trouble hearing the aspiration.
• The English /p/, /t/, /k/, and /ch/ are some of
the more commonly aspirated sounds.
To illustrate aspiration:
• have your students hold up a piece of facial
tissue a few inches away from their mouths
and
• push it with a puff of air
• while pronouncing a word containing the
target sound.
Mouth Position
• Draw simple diagrams of tongue and lip
positions.
• Make sure all students can clearly see your
mouth while you model sounds.
• Have students use a mirror to see their
mouth, lips, and tongue while they imitate
you.
 Intonation
 Word or sentence intonation can be
mimicked with a kazoo (mouth organ), or
alternatively by humming.
 This will take the students' attention off of
the meaning of a word or sentence and help
them focus on the intonation.
Linking
We pronounce phrases and even whole
sentences as one smooth sound instead of
a series of separate words.
'Will Amy go away,' is rendered
'Willaymeegowaway.'
• To help learners link words, try starting at
the end of a sentence and have them
repeat a phrase, adding more of the
sentence as they can master it.
• For example, 'gowaway,'
• then 'aymeegowaway,'
• and finally 'Willaymeegowaway' without
any pauses between words.
Vowel Length
You can demonstrate varying vowel
lengths within a word by stretching rubber
bands on the longer vowels and letting
them contract on shorter ones.
• Then let the students try it.
For example,
• the word 'fifteen' would have the rubber
band stretched for the 'ee' vowel, but the
word 'fifty' would not have the band
stretched because both of its vowels are
spoken quickly.
Syllables
• Have students count syllables in a word.
• Illustrate syllable stress by clapping softly
and loudly.
For example,
• the word 'beautiful' would be loud-softsoft.
• Practice with short lists of words with the
same syllabic stress pattern ('beautiful,'
'telephone,' 'Florida') and
• then see if your learners can list other
words with that pattern.
Specific Sounds
• Minimal pairs, or words such as 'bit/bat'
that differ by only one sound, are useful for
helping students distinguish similar
sounds.
• Tongue twisters are useful for practicing
specific target sounds.
Techniques
• Exercise should be simple, accessible, fun
and combine reception and production.
• Some students do feel embarassed to pull
ridiculuous faces when practising vowel
sounds
• but this soon passes and students enjoy the
pronunciation work.
• Where possible, exercises should be
communicative.
Exercise
• After having taught or exposed the students
to long and short vowels through listening
and oral work, the teacher can check
recognition, retention and ability to
discriminate in the following way.
• This could also be used simply for teaching.
Stage 1:
• The teacher writes a variety of words containing
the target sounds (long and short vowels) on the
board. The following is just one possible set.
• PORT PIT PAT PERT PET POT PUTT
PUT PART PEAT
• 0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
• Here, the only difference in sound is that of the
vowel.
• As in these examples, the word should begin and
end with the same consonant. 0, 3, 8, and 9, are
long vowels and the rest are short.
Stage 2:
• The teacher then models each word and
individal repetition follows.
• The vowel sound can be isolated and the
procedure repeated until the teacher is
reasonably sure that there are no major
problems.
• He or she then tells the students that they
are going to hear one of the words and must
write the number which corresponds to the
word they hear.
• What the students have written is then
checked and compared.
• This automatically leads into a
discussion of what they heard and what
sounds they are confusing.
• If student X heard 1 when the teacher said
9, they are confusing the short vowel / I /
with the long vowel / i: / .
• The teacher gives feedback and the
sounds may then be modelled again and
practised.
Stage 3:
• Two or three words are then presented
together and the procedure repeated.
• The teacher then tells the class they are
going to hear six words and that the
numbers correspond to an important
telephone number.
• The teacher delivers the words and asks ,
"What's my number?". Again there will be
differences in what was heard.
• This allows a focus on which sounds are
not being discriminated effectively by which
students and where their problems lie.
• Later discussion may revolve aroud what
strategies students may employ to improve
their discrimination skills - songs, minimal
pair games with friends, movies, radio, etc.
Stage 4:
• Learners are then invited to model the
telephone number.
• This stage usually generates much
discussion and disagreement along the
lines of
• - "You said ...... ", "No I didn’t ", "Say it
again" and so on and is usually very lively.
The teacher is, of course, the final arbiter of
what was really said.
• The important thing is that the learners are
thinking actively about their pronunciation
and how to repair it if necessary.
• They also begin to hear themselves (often
for the first time) and this is of
immeasurable importance in the retention
of sounds.
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Teaching Pronunciation