ESL Pronunciation

Pronunciation TH

Pronunciation ED

Pronunciation A, E and I

When teaching ESL pronunciation is obviously a vital ingredient in being able to get the students to communicate properly.

At the Krakow airport (in Poland), the border guards were eventually given English lessons after a particular error was made. A flight had just landed from Chicago, but what with the Customs Hall being rather small and crowded, an official stopped the passengers at the door, put out his hand and commanded assertively, 'WHITE!" The passenger in front of him seemed to get edgy, so again he repeated, even more authoritatively, 'WHITE!" This carried on awhile, with the passenger getting angrier and angrier and the customs official becoming all the more insistent.

Of course, it turned out that the customs official had actually wanted to say 'wait', and the passenger happened to be a black man. A vowel can hold a lot of meaning!

Then of course there's the famous Berlitz advert with the German Coast Guard manning the emergency receiver. A mayday call comes in, 'Mayday, Mayday! Can you hear us? Can you hear us? We are sinking, we are sinking.....'.

If you haven't seen it, you need to watch it, it's hilarious.....Berlitz advert.

ESL Pronunciation Teaching Techniques

As with other aspects of teaching, doing ESL pronunciation should be interactive, and interesting for the students. These are some of the things that I do during my lessons:

  • I include lots of lessons with authentic English, taken from movies, talk shows, interviews and documentaries. Have a look at my listening lessons if you would like to try some of them out.
  • I do drills with the students, focusing on particular sounds. I wouldn't spend more than about 15 minutes in one lesson doing this, but rather do it consistently over a period of time. Have a look at some of my pronunciation word lists and exercises. In this case the teacher demonstrates the pronunciation and intonation, and the students copy it.
  • During the lesson, I make a note of the pronunciation (as well as other) errors that the students make, and then go through them at the end of the lesson.
  • For smaller classes, when there is a reading, the students can read either the whole, or a part of the text out loud.
  • The BBC have got great resources on their website. They have a section entitled Words in the News, where an article is abbreviated and some vocabulary is highlighted. It is possible to listen to the article, and read along at the same time. So for homework, I get the students to choose their own article, they need to listen and read along, and after each sentence stop the listening and repeat what has been said. During the next lesson I get feedback from them. They have to tell me about their article and the new vocabulary they have learnt.

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