I sometimes hear from DipTESOL trainees who are finding it hard to get to grips with phonology. Common problems include:
- Arrgh! I just don’t know where to start with it? What should I learn about first?
- It’s not the learning about phonology, it’s how to integrate it…
A good way to approach either of these points is with a bit of reflection.
I did my Dip with TLI Europe, who were really good. Before we started the module(s) on phonology, our tutor sent us a few diagnostic/reflection questions. These helped us understand more about our current practice in this area, the needs of our learners, our attitudes to teaching pronunciation and our areas for development.
If you are mentoring a trainee I recommend going through some of these questions with them. These are mainly exploratory and designed to prompt discussion.
If you are a trainee then feel free to respond to any questions in the comments and I’ll offer some advice if needed/if I can!
Consider your context…
- Where are you teaching? What age groups / levels do you teach?
- Are you teaching monolingual groups? What language(s) do the learners speak?
- What are the goals of the courses you teach?
- How important is phonology within the courses or syllabus you teach?
- Are phonological aims important to the people you are working with? (find out more about your colleagues attitudes to pronunciation…!)
Consider the learners…
- How important is phonology to your learners? (if you don’t know, can you find out?)
- Do your learners favour a certain model of pronunciation? If so, what/why?
- What common problems do your learners have with phonology? Do you know/Have you thought about why they make these errors?
- What are the similarities/differences between your current learners and learners you’ve taught in other contexts? (focus on phonology)
Consider your subject knowledge/teaching practice
- What did you learn about phonology during your initial training courses?
- Have you learned much about phonology since your initial training? If so, how (e.g. reading, books, trial and error in class, INSETTs, etc)?
- Look at the the random features of phonology in this word cloud. Approximately what percentage of these terms are you familiar with? Which features do you feel comfortable teaching? Which features do you feel you should work on?
- Is phonology important in your classroom? How often does phonology feature in your lessons?
- Do you teach lessons with a main aim related to phonology? Have you ever done this?
- Does your approach to phonology vary depending on your learners? If so, how?
- How often do you correct phonological errors? Are the any patterns in how/why you correct these errors?
There’s a starting point for things to explore!