Pronunciation involves far more than individual sounds. Word stress, sentence stress, intonation, and word linking all influence the sound of spoken English, not to mention the way we often slur words and phrases together in casual speech. English pronunciation involves too many complexities for learners to strive for a complete elimination of accent, but improving pronunciation will boost self esteem, facilitate communication, and possibly lead to a better job or a least more respect in the workplace. Effective communication is of greatest importance, so choose first to work on problems that significantly hinder communication and let the rest go. Remember that your students also need to learn strategies for dealing with misunderstandings, since native pronunciation is for most an unrealistic goal. One nice activity to raise awareness of pronunciation for high intermediate/advanced student is described below:
Objective: to raise students awareness about vowel sounds and practice them.
Procedures: write on separate pieces of paper the names below and distribute among your students. Tell them that for the time being, they have the name written on the paper and you are going to call out the roll call.
Jan Bird Jan Baird
Jan Burt Jan Beard
Jon Bird Jon Baird
Jon Burt Jon Beard
Jen Bird Jen Baird
Jen Burt Jen Beard
What problems might your students have with this activity? Why do you think they might have these problems? And what aspect of pronunciation does this activity target?
If you indicated that learners of English might have problems discriminating among many of these names, then you are correct. This may be an issue if students don’t share the same sound differences in their first language.
And if you indicated that this activity targets the pronunciation of individual sounds, especially vowels, then you are also correct. As this activity shows, ever so slight differences in sounds can completely alter what the student understands. Much of your work as a teacher with pronunciation will come from the fact that your students, in their experience with their native language(s), have acquired the skill of overlooking differences which they must pay attention to in the language you are teaching them. This activity can call your student's attention to pronunciation in a fun way and it can provide you with the chance of showing them that what really matters in communication is how intelligeable you are!!!
references:Cunningham Florez, MaryAnn. "Improving Adult ESL Learners' Pronunciation Skills." December 1998. National Center for ESL Literacy Education. 22 Apr. 2004. <http://www.cal.org/ncle/digests/Pronun.htm>