- Ø Why teach pronunciation?
Pronunciation is an integral part of foreign language learning since it directly affects learners’ communicative competence as well as performance. Foreign language instruction generally focuses on four main areas of development: listening, speaking reading and writing. Foreign language curricula emphasize pronunciation in the first year of study as it introduces the target language’s alphabet and sound system, but rarely continues this focus past the introductory level. Teaching pronunciation is important for us, such as:
- • Intelligibility (the speaker produces sound patterns that are recognizable as English)
- • Comprehensibility (the listener is able to understand the meaning of what is said)
- • Interpretability (the listener is able to understand the purpose of what is said).
Mastering grammar, having a good knowledge of vocabulary, being able to read and write well, is all part of learning a language. However, not being able to pronounce words hugely hinders communication, especially since it is believed that, learners who are unable to pronounce words are also unable to understand them. This means that teaching pronunciation is an important area which should be dealt with regularly.
For example, a speaker might say It’s hot today as IS ho day. This is unlikely to be intelligible because of inaccurate sound, stress and intonation patterns. As a result, a listener would not find the speaker comprehensible, because meaning is not available. Because the speaker is incomprehensible, the listener would also not be able to interpret the utterance as an indirect request to open the window. Clear pronunciation is essential in spoken communication. Even where learners produce minor inaccuracies in vocabulary and grammar, they are more likely to communicate effectively when they have good pronunciation and intonation (Burns, 2003).
- Ø What is sound?
– Sound is a type of energy made by vibrations. Sound is made when air molecules vibrate and move in a pattern called waves, or sound waves.
– Sound is produced by a rapid variation in the average density or pressure of air molecules above and below the current atmospheric pressure.
– The sounds that we hear, from the voice of the person right next to you, to the music coming from your iPod earphones, to the crashing noise of shattered glass, all come from a vibrating source.
– Another examples of sound: laugh, scream, yelling, radio
- Ø What is stress?
We generally use the word stress when we feel that everything seems to have become too much. But stress here is pressure or tension exerted on a material object. In linguistics, stress is the relative emphasis that may be given to certain syllables in a word, or to certain words in a phrase or sentence. The term is also used for similar patterns of phonetic prominence inside syllables. This simple sentence can have many levels of meaning based on the word you stress. Consider the meaning of the following sentences with the stressed word in bold. Read each sentence aloud and give a strong stress to the word in bold:
I don’t think he should get the job.
Meaning: Somebody else thinks he should get the job.
I don’t think he should get the job.
Meaning: It’s not true that I think he should get the job.
I don’t think he should get that job.
Meaning: That’s not really what I mean. OR I’m not sure he’ll get that job.
As you can see, there are many different ways this sentence can be understood. The important point to remember is that the true meaning of the sentence is also expressed through the stressed word or words.
- Ø What is intonation? Why teach it?
- Intonation is about how we say things, rather than what we say. Without intonation, it’s impossible to understand the expressions and thoughts that go with words.
- Intonation is a word used to refer to how a sentence sounds. How a sentence sounds if it’s a question sounds different from how a sentence sounds if it’s a statement. If you say a sentence out loud, first as a question and then as a statement, you’ll hear the difference in sound. Or Intonation refers to the raising and lowering of the tone of one’s voice. And intonation is the rising and falling of tone.
- Example of intonation:
Say: ‘It’s raining’.
Now say it again using the same words, but giving it different meaning. You could say it to mean ‘What a surprise!’, or ‘How annoying! ‘Or ‘That’s great!’. There are many possibilities.
- Intonation exists in every language, so the concept we’re introducing isn’t new. However, learners are often so busy finding their words that intonation suffers. Yet intonation can be as important as word choice we don’t always realize how much difference intonation makes:
– Awareness of intonation aids communication.
– Incorrect intonation can result in misunderstandings, speakers losing interest or even taking offence! As important as word choice. Why teach intonation.
Though it’s unlikely our learners will need native speaker level pronunciation, what they do need is greater awareness of intonation to facilitate their speaking and listening.
- Ø How to help students in pronunciation?
Good pronunciation comes from a lot of technical knowledge on the part of the teacher about placement of the mouth, etc. Language learning needs a lot of practice and both mechanical and meaningful practice lead to improved pronunciation. Only through practice will a skill become automatic and drill-like activities are not always considered interesting. There are many ways to help our students in pronunciation, such as:
– Listen and repeat
This will be the first and most common method of teaching sound specific pronunciation in English. You say the target sound and have your students repeat it after you. If you are teaching a long word with multiple syllables, start with the final syllable of the word and have your class repeat it. Then add the penultimate syllable and say the two together having your class repeat after you. Work backwards in this manner until your students are able to pronounce the entire word correctly.
When working on a specific sound, it may help your students to isolate that particular sound from any others. Instead of presenting a certain sound as part of a complete word in English, you can simply pronounce the sound itself repeatedly. When you do, your students can say it along with you repeatedly, focusing on the small nuances in the correct pronunciation and also engraining the sound pattern into their minds. This is especially helpful when you have several students struggling with a specific sound delineation.
– Minimal pairs
Minimal pairs are a great way to focus pronunciation on just one sound. If you are not familiar with linguistics, a minimal pair is two words that vary in only one sound. For example, rat and rate are minimal pairs because only the vowel sound differs between the two words. Additional minimal pairs are pin and pen, dim and dime, and bat and pat. You can use minimal pairs to help your students with their pronunciation by focusing on one particular sound. In addition to the pronunciation benefits, your students will also expand their vocabularies when you teach minimal pairs.
– Record and replay
At times, your students may think they are using correct pronunciation when in fact they are saying something quite different. By using a device to record what your students are actually saying, you have empirical data to play back for each person. Encourage him to listen to what he actually said rather than what he thinks he said. You may also want him to compare a recording of a native speaker against his recording of himself. In this way, your students will have a more objective understanding of their true pronunciation and be able to take steps to correct it.
– Use a mirror
Giving your students a chance to view their own physical movements while they are working on their pronunciation can be of great value. You can always encourage your students to look at your mouth and face as you pronounce certain sounds, but they will also benefit from seeing what movements they are making as they speak. Sometimes, becoming aware of the physical movements involved in pronunciation is all your students will need to correct pronunciation issues of which they are unaware.
When your students are facing a pronunciation challenge, it could be that English spelling is adding to the mystery of the spoken word. Instead of spelling new vocabulary out on the white board, try using phonetic symbols to represent the sounds (rather than the alphabet to represent the spelling). If you were to use phonetic symbols, the word seat would be written /si:t/ and eat would be written /i:t/. You can find a list of the phonetic symbols on several websites or in introductory linguistics books. Once you teach your students the International Phonetic Alphabet, you can use those symbols any time you introduce new vocabulary to your students.
– Show a vowel diagram
If you are using phonetic symbols to help you teach vowel pronunciation, a diagram of where each English vowel sound is produced can be eye opening for your students. Print copies to distribute in class or show your students where they can find this diagram online. When students know which area of the mouth in which they should be making their sounds, they may have an easier time distinguishing between similar sounds because they are produced in different areas of the mouth.
– Sing a song
Songs and raps in the target language can be used effectively as pronunciation models. Students listen to the song or rap, the teacher identifies a repetitive structure as a model and students write their own lines and practice them. The raps or songs can then be peer-assessed with a focus on pronunciation.
– Tongue twisters
Though tongue twisters are probably more popular for practicing consonant pronunciation, they are still a valuable resource for vowel practice. Not only are they a challenge to your students’ pronunciation abilities, they add an element of fun to the classroom that can help your students relax and therefore free them to be more daring in their attempts at English.
Provide opportunities for students to practice individually, in pairs and small groups. Tongue twisters and rhymes are great for starters, with students listening to a model and then practicing in pairs to encourage self and peer correction. Make practicing pronunciation into a game. Play vocabulary games like naught and crosses with two teams or in pairs and make accurate pronunciation one of the criteria for scoring points.
- Ø What aspects of pronunciation to focus on?
Learning pronunciation will elevate their level of speaking and undoubtedly will improve their listening skills. Before teaching pronunciation, many aspects should be taken into account. Among the most important ones are the roles of the teacher and the learner. Needless to say, the overviews of the various aspects of English pronunciation are sounds, stress, rhythm and intonation is essential.
We can say there are at least three aspects to developing good pronunciation:
- The ability to recognize the sound or pronunciation feature when native speakers produce it.
- The ability to recognize by yourself whether you are pronouncing something clearly (“self-monitoring”).
- The ability to produce the sound or desired pronunciation feature in your speech.
It will be helpful for you in working on your pronunciation to focus on all three of these areas.
Practice target areas of pronunciation in a variety of contexts:
- practice specific words
- practice with sentences which include the target aspect of pronunciation
- practice with paragraphs
- practice in free conversation
But in speaking activity, the pronunciations focus on your students’ intonation. Intonation is the rising and falling of tone. Without intonation, it’s impossible to understand the expressions and thoughts that go with words. Listen to somebody speaking without paying attention to the words, the ‘melody’ you hears is the intonation.
- Ø Pronunciation exercises
a. Minimal Pairs: minimal pairs are pairs of words that only differ in one feature. For example: ship- sheep/ loose-lose. Minimal pairs can be used to focus on differences in vowel or consonant sounds. The teacher writes a long list of contrasted words on the blackboard. Students draw two columns in a notebook. They write one sound at the top of one column and the other sound at the top of the other. They have to write the list of contrasted words down in the correct column.
b. Missing words: sometimes the teacher wants to practice a difficult sound. In this case she/he can say short sentences or phrases in which one word is missing. That missing word contains that specific difficult sound.
- For example:
A boy and a ——.
First, second and ———-
A pigeon is a kind of ———.
c. Making sentences: By using Bowen‘s technique the teacher can provide lots of meaningful practice of English sounds. The teacher writes a list of minimal pairs and students write sentences by using those words. For example: Thin-tin, sit-seat
- He is thin.
- He has tin.
- Don’t sit on that seat.
- Ø Some technique in teaching pronunciation
- The communicative approach, which took hold in the 1980a and is currently dominant in language teaching, holds that since the primary purpose of language is communication, using language to communicate should be central in all classroom language instruction.
- The goal of teaching pronunciation to such learners is not to make then sound like native speakers of English. There are some techniques in teaching pronunciation:
- Listen and imitate
A technique used in the direct method in which students listen to a teacher, provided model a repeat or imitate it. This technique has been enhanced by the use of tape recorders, language labs and video recorders.
2. Phonetic training
Use of articulatory descriptions, articulatory diagrams, and a phonetic alphabet (a technique from the Reform Movement, which may involve doing phonetic transcription as well as reading phonetically transcribed text).
3. Minimal pair drills
A technique introduced during the audio lingual era to help students distinguish between similar and problematic sound in the target language through listening discrimination and spoken practice.