pronunciation

Writing pronunciation activities – 5 things to consider

I’ve written quite a few pronunciation activities this year for a regional product (Asia). Here are a few random thoughts on the process…

Pronunciation for… what?

As Laura Patsko mentions in this interesting Pedagogy Pop-up, pronunciation is important for all skills, not just speaking.

A lot of the pronunciation stages in our materials focus on connected speech. The aim of these activities (IMO) is more to help learners decode natural speech rather than to produce a certain pronunciation feature accurately themselves. Of course, it would be nice if they could do both…

If the purpose of a pronunciation activity isn’t clearly communicated to teachers (and to learners) then this could lead to either having the wrong expectations. There is always a production element in our pronunciation activities, but accurate production of a certain feature might not be the primary aim of an activity.

What problems do the learners have?

This year I’ve been writing a regional product. I’ve taught in 3 of the 15 or so countries where the materials are used. I’ve found it’s pretty tough to address the needs of every learner with a regional product. Resources like Swan’s Learner English have been really useful for understanding common pronunciation problems faced by learners across a region. It’s always worth asking other teachers too – I’m pretty sure that our teachers have taught across the whole region between them.

Of course, it’s worth asking the learners themselves what difficulties they have, but there are practical issues. It might be hard to do this across a whole region, plus they might not actually know what they have difficulties with! (more…)

Flappy Drills – ‘Class, say after me…’

In this latest guest post, CELTA Trainer Nicky Salmon offers some tips for drilling pronunciation.

I watch a lot of teachers doing drills to focus on pronunciation.

Picture yourself drilling the following-

Teacher: OK class, listen….vegetable, vegetable

Students: Vegetable

Teacher: Vegetable

Students : Vegetable

Many teachers manage the turn taking (model, repeat, model, repeat) quite successfully but sadly forget to make it clear WHAT feature they want students to hear/identify and so repeat.

For example, with VEGETABLE,

-how many syllables are pronounced and which is stressed?

-are all the vowels full or is there a schwa sound in there somewhere?

If the teacher forgets to make it clear in some way what the features are, then this is a FLAPPY DRILL.

There are many times when we need to focus our students on making the sounds of the new language we are teaching them.

  • Maybe a consonant cluster in a new piece of vocabulary, for example, /br/ or /rts/.
  • Maybe the  schwa /ə/ sound or an unexpected pronunciation that doesn’t seem to mirror the spelling, for example, the varieties for the written ‘ea’,
  • Maybe the word has two or more syllables and the stress need to be identified.
  • Maybe the stress in a sentence is linked to the meaning or the intonation pattern is clearly linked to the feeling or attitude of the speaker.

(more…)

IATEFL 2017: Integrating pronunciation

I just watched a good talk from Mark McKinnon and Nicola Meldrum called ‘Making pronunciation an integral part of your classroom practice’. Here’s a link (I can’t embed the vid for some reason).

I’m a DipTESOL graduate so ‘pron’ is close to home for me. OxfordTEFL is also top of my list for places to work so I was excited about this one!

McKinnon and Meldrum started by mentioning the need to treat pronunciation as equal among language systems, and to integrate the teaching of ‘pron’ into our daily practice. ‘Sounds’ good to me.

They led with a video of one of their learners, Isabel, who was recorded completing a speaking task. As an audience we analysed some of the pronunciation problems she had. The point was to emphasise that analysing our learners’ pronunciation was important – once we know what the issues are then we can ‘begin to integrate relevant and useful pronunciation work’. True. (more…)

Noticing contractions

Contractions often come up as a pronunciation point in our Elementary level lessons. My students don’t have much trouble with ‘I am’ becoming ‘I’m’, but contractions with ‘you are’, ‘we are’, etc seem a bit harder to produce. I feel that if learners are struggling to produce it that’s one thing, but struggling to notice a contraction might be more problematic with regards listening. Context would help a lot anyway (especially with present continuous given Ving would follow), but I’m (contraction) trying out a few things to get learners noticing contractions more, and noticing whether or not they are actually producing contractions themselves!

This was my attempt the other day. The class have already done quite a bit on contractions, so I thought I’d test where they were. I made a load of cards with sentence on like these:

1709n

Etc. Nothing special. Students read a sentence to their partner and followed the instruction whether to use a contraction or not. Their partner guessed – ‘contraction’ or ‘no contraction’. To my surprise, genuinely as I thought they were pretty good at recognising these, they got a lot wrong!

We did a bit of drilling again, and students looked through the cards and tried to say each phrase in both forms (with/without contraction). Students tested each other again, but this time they chose whether or not to use a contraction themselves. Recognition improved – we eventually narrowed down the problem to the use of ‘You are/You’re’ which the students were really struggling with.

It’s nothing great, just some drilling and noticing. It was useful though. It was nice to hear students even at Elementary level trying to give reasons why they felt something wasn’t a contraction when there was ambiguity…

‘No, you still say two words. ‘You are’. Not one word. It’s more like one word. More like ‘YOUR’ – Y-O-U-R.’

Fair description I thought, especially for the level.

Feature image: imgur.com

I’m writing a series of short posts in response to Martin Sketchley’s blog challenge. You can view his new blog here.

Thoughts on teaching Vietnamese learners

I’m currently working at the British Council summer school in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s been a fantastic experience so far, and it’s the first time I’ve ever taught English to Vietnamese learners. It’s also my first stint at the British Council. Here are some of my early thoughts on what it’s like to teach Vietnamese students, problems they may encounter, and some teaching tips to help you out. (more…)