Teaching pronunciation
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Teaching Pronunciation. Fiona Elsted. What do we teach when we teach pronunciation?. Features of Pronunciation Sounds (Phonemes) =Consonants (Voiced and Unvoiced) Vowels (Single (short and long) and Diphthongs) Suprasegmental Features Intonation Stress=Word stress, Sentence Stress

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Teaching Pronunciation

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Teaching Pronunciation

Fiona Elsted

What do we teach when we teach pronunciation?

Features of Pronunciation

Sounds (Phonemes)

  • =Consonants (Voiced and Unvoiced) Vowels (Single (short and long) and Diphthongs)

    Suprasegmental Features

  • Intonation

  • Stress=Word stress, Sentence Stress

  • And resultant Rhythm and Sounds in Connected Speech (assimilation, elision, linking and intrusion, juncture)

  • Assimilation

  • He’s a very good boy.

  • I’ve been going out too much lately.

  • I went to Liverpool last year.

  • Elision

  • We went to Preston the next day

  • Linking and intrusion

  • I agree

  • I saw it last night

  • Juncture

  • I scream, you scream we all scream for ice-cream

  • Can I have more ice?/Can I have more rice?

    Examples Adapted from Kelly, G., (2000) How to Teach Pronunciation PearsonLongman

English-a stress-timed language

  • What has happened to Lulu, mother?What has happened to Lu?There's nothing in her bed but an old rag-dollAnd by its side a shoe.Why is her window wide, mother,The curtain flapping free,And only a circle on the dusty shelfWhere her money-box used to be?Why do you turn your head, mother,And why do tear drops fall?And why do you crumple that note on the fireAnd say it is nothing at all?“What has happened to Lulu” by Charles Causley

What’s happening here?

  • Stressed-timed (isochronous) languages ‘stresses occur at regular intervals within connected speech ...and the duration of an utterance is more dependent upon the number of stresses than the number of syllables. To achieve the regular stress intervals, unstressed syllables are made shorter, and the vowels often lose their ‘pure’ quality..’

  • Kelly, G., (2000) How to Teach Pronunciation Pearson Longman


  • Adapted from:

    Thornbury, S., 2001 About Language CUP

Adult learners of English are unlikely to achieve native-like proficiency with regard to pronunciation.

  • Why might it be difficult for adult learners to achieve ‘native-like proficiency’ in pronunciation?

  • What is ‘native-like proficiency’ in relation to pronunciation?

  • http://sounds.bl.uk/Accents-and-dialects/BBC-Voices/021M-C1190X0043XX-0901V0

  • http://sounds.bl.uk/Accents-and-dialects/BBC-Voices/021M-C1190X0016XX-0201V0

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHfIAoF8gEc

Intelligibility should be the main aim of pronunciation teaching

‘Comfortable intelligibility’

Who judges this?

What about those who strive for perfection?

Stress, rhythm and intonation are more important than getting the individual sounds right.

‘Without a threshold level mastery of the English prosodic system, no amount of drilling individual sounds will increase intelligibility. As one teacher trainee put it after the training course, ‘Practicing pronunciation without prosody is like teaching ballroom dancing-- only the students must stand still, practice without a partner, and do it all

without music’.’Gilbert, J., 2010 Pronunciation as Orphan: What can be done? As We Speak, newsletter of TESOL SPLIS, 2010


Pronunciation should be integrated into other activities rather than taught as a separate system.Pronunciation teaching should start with listening

  • Looking at materials in pairs:

  • Material 1-The exercises are not in their original order. Work together to reconstruct the order.

  • What is the aim of each exercise. What do you think about this sequence?

  • Have you taught pronunciation in a similar way?

The model here:

  • Recognition

  • Discrimination

  • Production

  • Is this the only way though?

  • Advantages of Production first, then listening, then speaking again (Like Task-Teach-Task.)

More materials

  • How do published materials do it?

  • In pairs look at the examples of published materials provided.

  • -What approach to pronunciation teaching is taken?

  • -Is it effective?

  • -Would it work with your students?

Dealing with pronunciation errors on the spot

  • Facial expression: frowning, grimacing etc.

  • Asking for repetition: "Again, please“

  • Echoing: (with a questioning intonation)

  • Denial: "Wrong answer“

  • Questioning: "Is that correct?“

  • Visual aid: snake picture for third person “-s”

  • Checking that others have understood: ‘Did you understand that?’ ‘What did she say?’

  • Desmond Thomas 2011

How to correct

  • Self-correction by student

    2. Peer correction (open invitation to class)

    3. Peer correction (specified individuals/in pairs)

    4. Teacher corrects student (immediate)

    5. Teacher corrects student (delayed)

    6. Teacher supplies prompts to help student

    7. Teacher and class correct a series of errors

    8. Open discussion (round-up) at end of class.

Students should be taught to read phonemic symbols and use the phonemic chart

I enjoy teaching pronunciation and have some techniques for supporting it in the classroom

  • Mirrors

  • Kazoos

  • DA-da-da

  • Lip-synch

  • Drawing on the right side of the brain: backward chain drilling

  • Exaggeration

  • Physicality

  • Jazz chants

  • Poetry

What is difficult about teaching pronunciation?

  • Tends to be reactive rather than planned because teachers are unsure how to deal with it

  • Good materials are lacking-pronunciation seen as the ‘poor relation’

  • Phonology has often been taught as a ‘science’ with lots of theory and this can be scary for teachers (and students)

  • The specific terminology associated with pronunciation alienates some teachers

  • What do you think?

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