Sunday, 6 March 2011

Teaching and Learning Pronunciation

A lot of teachers shy away from teaching pronunciation or they think it isn't important for learners to know the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) symbols. No doubt they have their reasons, but I often get asked by students, 'But how do I learn how to pronounce a word?' They look up a word in a dictionary, and they see these funny squiggles beside the word and they don't know what they mean.

If only for this reason, for them to be able to pronounce a word by looking at the IPA, it's worth guiding them through the sounds of English.

If you're a teacher, but you aren't sure where to start, Adrian Underhill's videos are phenomenally inspirational - just search for him in YouTube. I have embedded his schwa lesson here:

Teaching pronunciation, however, may require too much time, which isn't always available in class. It is very useful as a filler, or perhaps as a five-minute warm-up, but the bulk of the work has to be done by the students themselves at home, so I'll post a few useful links.

First, its useful to know which symbols are used in English pronunciation. English has 44 speech sounds. These links below have interactive phonetic charts - click on the symbol, and you'll hear the sound it represents, and examples of words which have that sound. They all work fine with my tests, so it's a matter of preference which you use:


You can also download Adrian Underhill's Phonetic Chart from here

Then, there are many videos teaching pronunciation; below are some of my recommendations.

I found a set which are excellent for beginners as the presenter (UK) speaks very slowly, and quite clearly, but they have disallowed embedding. Click on the image to lead you to the video on YouTube:

CLIL EFL ESL ELL TEFL ESOL Games, Resources, Activities: Teaching & Learning PronunciationCLIL EFL ESL ELL TEFL ESOL Games, Resources, Activities: Teaching & Learning Pronunciation
CLIL EFL ESL ELL TEFL ESOL Games, Resources, Activities: Teaching & Learning Pronunciation

Jennifer (US) has some excellent pronunciation videos; the first lesson is reproduced below. The advantage of Jennifer's videos is the fact that they have subtitles, which may help learners quite a bit.

Sound Foundations Teacher Development Vocabulary Power 1: Practicing Essential Words   English Pronunciation in Use Advanced Book with Answers, 5 Audio CDs and CD-ROM (Win 2000/XP)

Once you're quite familiar with the IPA and its sounds, you might like to try these activities:

For more games & activities on Sounds of English, go to the left column of this page (For Your Browsing Pleasure),  click on the '+' sign beside GAMES AND QUIZZES, then click the '+' sign beside Sounds of English, and you'll see a few games listed.

There are a few more posts under the category English Sounds (further down, right after Q&A and before P.E.).

If you're a teacher, I would love to hear about your ideas and experiences on teaching phonetics, and if you're a student, why don't you tell us about your opinions on pronunciation?

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