Teaching Pronunciation – #eltchinwag Summary 31/03/2014

A #eltchinwag summary written by Jane Seely of ECM, Dublin.


Jane Seely

Jane has been working in ELT for over three years and currently teaches IELTS preparation as well as holding the role of Academic Coordinator and pursuing her DELTA. When she’s not writing her vegan baking blog she is specifically interested in studying learner errors and first language interference in L2 pronunciation. She is @Jane_Seely on Twitter.

Teaching Pronunciation

This Chinwag opened up the conversation on the wide topic of teaching pronunciation, with emphasis on practice inside and outside the classroom.

What challenges come with teaching pronunciation for the teacher?

A lot of the discussion was focussed on the IPA and its potential pitfalls for teachers and students. @MaeBVee pointed out the challenge of teaching pronunciation different to your own as ‘An America teaching UK and vice versa’ @ChristineMulla agreed, describing how she ends up teaching a different pronunciation to her own accent, and how students notice the difference, ‘My Ss laugh at me when I get some vowel words wrong or it looks like it’s unnatural for me to say them’ @LahiffP raised the of issue the difficulty in dealing with the range of needs of students in a multinational class.

Do you teach with the IPA?

@HadaLitim always use the IPA, even with beginner students, as it gives the students a visual reference, and is ‘useful to compare sounds for e.g. SH vs CH’. @Louiseguyett described the IPA as a great place to start, but to @ChristineMulla the pressure to use it correctly in class and write words on the board in IPA is ‘daunting’. @MaeBVee agreed; ‘the chart intimidates me. I find it difficult to use it when I say a word comp. diff than someone else’. @Louiseguyett suggesting using the IPA to teach your own pronunciation, but said it’s also good to make students aware of different pronunciation. @eilymurphy shared ‘I’m not sure my Ss (French) want/need standard PR (UK or US) as long as their Globish is understandable’. Underhill’s physical approach to pronunciation proved popular, with one or two chinwaggers referring to it as their pronunciation crush, although @LahiffP  disagreed ‘with his insistence that the IPA can be used no matter what your accent. Brit-centric?’

What are the biggest pronunciation challenges facing ELT teachers?

Intonation became the central topic surrounding this question, with @LahiffP commenting on his difficulty with “the teachability of intonation. The rules about rising and falling just don’t ring true for me.” @HadaLitim agreed: ‘Intonation is so variable. Hardly teachable!’ and @MaeBVee found that ‘intonation  is on an individual basis sometimes’, especially in the case of regional differences, as mentioned by @LahiffP. @Louiseguyett pointed out that there are some basic intonation generalisations that learners can be made aware of. @LahiffP agreed, recommending ‘using word stress as a tangible way in’. The importance of conveying meaning through intonation was mentioned by several chinwaggers, with @LahiffP sharing a tip of doing dialogues with feeling; with 3 different meanings for the same phrase. @Louiseguyett addressed the issue of connected speech in pronunciation, emphasising the need for teachers to ‘start with connected speech from very beginning! Our learners need to understand when people speak’. The ubiquitous ‘wanna’ was mentioned as a helpful example for lower level learners, with early exposure to aid identification suggested by @McLaughlinLou. @Louiseguyett pointed out that we have to think receptively, and encourage students to focus on developing their receptive skills.

@McLaughlinLou asked how often learners are exposed to accents that are non-native; using songs, clips and films were suggested by the chinwaggers.

@Hadalitim uses BBC World News with students, despite the unreality of RP for many students. @shellfish1234 used The Gladiator speech with students, while @Christine Mulla described showing a scene from Veronica Guerin to a class and taking phrases, eliciting and showing connections and omitted sounds, then drilling and practising. @LahiffP suggested ‘learning off a short piece of verse, or song lyrics, and giving it meaning in order to be able to perform it’. @eilymurphy agreed, finding it especially helpful when students do this with a text they know really well, as they can play with it. @HadaLitim recommends using Monty python sketches, specifically the dead Parrot Sketch…

‘You mean this parrot wot I bought not arf an hour ago …’

With a few minutes to go @ChristineMulla asked what the most important thing about pronunciation is – ‘sound/stress/connections/being understood?’ with the latter being mentioned as the most important for students, who often feel like they aren’t getting enough help with their pronunciation in class, and get frustrated by small errors which change meaning.

This Chinwag produced a lot of hints and tips for pronunciation inside and outside the classroom. Useful apps for both students and teachers were recommended, such as Vocaroo, Croakit, Voki and Sounds Pron. Enjoy using them with your students!


@ChristineMulla got the inspiration flowing before the chinwag with a link to useful pronunciation apps and sites for students http://t.co/pB0ptJTjun

@HadaLitim responded with a useful link to an Adrian Underhill workshop http://bit.ly/1s5XCVxfor practicing the IPA.

@Louiseguyett just in case u hadn’t already come across them, Amy Walker vids handy for this http://bit.ly/1hbWduQ#eltchinwag

@ChristineMulla shared a link recommended by @Louiseguyett http://t.co/lrwOeH0tKx

@ChristineMulla this self-study unit from EnglishCentral for Ss who want to work on something specific  http://t.co/V6pCgwG0qH

@HadaLitim Stress! Judy Gilbert’s New School workshop’s a must watch, and Shaun Wilden’s lesson on euphemisms using the Parrot vid http://t.co/YRNQBSLVo2




2 responses to “Teaching Pronunciation – #eltchinwag Summary 31/03/2014

  1. Louise Guyett

    This chinwag was huge! What I mean is that it was such a big topic and in an hour we only barely skimmed the surface. There were a few things that I didn’t have the space to say, but desperately wanted to! Firstly, I really think it’s time that us teachers need to dedicate a little more time to learning about pronunciation and integrating it into our lessons. Granted, it’s not our fault; we receive very little training at certificate level while so much attention is given to grammar and vocab and it’s practically non – existent in course books. Secondly, the IPA seems to causes so much stress! What worries me is that people think that using the IPA means you have to teach RP. . .this is NOT TRUE!! I’m from Dublin and every sound I make can be represented by a symbol on that chart. The phonemic chart is a tool we can use to help learners discover the sounds in English and we can use it to show that how things can be said differently in different accents. I also believe it’s the foundation of pron teaching. Once you and your learners realise that, pron will be so much easier. We can use it to demonstrate stress, reduction and connected speech and for both productive and receptive purposes.
    Teaching pron is so much fun, it’s my favourite part of teaching and it’s in EVERYTHING from grammar to vocab to listening to spelling to speaking . . EVERYTHING! I know it can be really scary, but if you take the time to explore it, you will discover so much and your teaching will never be the same!

  2. Louise Guyett

    Everyone, please watch the Adrian Underhill video above. You will discover and learn so much in an hour. I cannot recommend it enough.

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