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Teaching Pronunciation
Main Problems:

Aim

Content

Strategies

Types of Exercises.
Aim is to form and develop clear and comprehensible pronunciation. It is
impossible to achieve the aim of communicative ability without forming and developing
clear and comprehensible pronunciation habits and skills. Received pronunciation of the
English language is taught in school, that is the pronunciation of the language of radio,
TV, universities, colleges and schools.
Sound is the basis of all languages Language exists in meaningful sound
sequences. Words are meaningful combinations of sounds. Speech is meaningful
sound sequences.
So teaching/learning pronunciation is a matter of great importance.
To use a language as a means of communication, on the one hand, the learner
should form and develop receptive pronunciation habits and skills, that is to hear and
discriminate pronunciation units correctly and automatically to comprehend the
information conveyed, on the other hand productive pronunciation habits and skills, to
articulate pronunciation units automatically and correctly, to convey the information
clearly and comprehensibly.
In our conditions to teach/learn absolute correctness in pronunciation is hardly
possible, so we expect approximate correctness that makes communication possible,
among people speaking the same language.
So the aim of teaching/learning pronunciation is to form and develop clear and
comprehensible pronunciation, receptive and productive pronunciation habits and
skills, that is automaticity in hearing, discriminating, understanding, on the one hand,
and in articulating the pronunciation units on the other.
The following factors affecting pronunciation learning should be taken into
consideration.

native language of the learners

the age of the learners

exposure

innate phonetic ability
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
identity and language ego
 motivation and concern for good pronunciation.
The Content
The content of teaching/learning pronunciation includes:

sounds (vowels, consonants, and diphthongs),

stress (word and logical stress),

intonation (rise, fall, rise-fall),

rhythm and melody.
Connected with the content the peculiarities of sounds, stress and intonation
should be taken into account in both languages, comparing both phonic systems
similarities and differences, difficulties for assimilation and strategies to overcome the
difficulties should be underlined.
Learners should become able to hear, discriminate, understand, stress correctly,
intone, articulate, produce pronunciation units automatically, subconsciously.
Strategies for Teaching/learning Pronunciation
Languages have their specific phonic systems. The systems of Armenian and
English should be compared to find out similarities, differences, sounds which don't
exist in Armenian, sounds which seem similar but have a different shade of
pronunciation, to underline difficulties for assimilation in stress, sound and intonation, [to
design strategies to overcome/them aimed at organizing effective teaching/learning
process.
Sounds such as
The length of vowels ship-sheep, Iipleap
Voiced, voiceless consonants at the end of word bet-bed, hit-hid/ diphthongs
…..
create a lot of difficulties for assimilation or are cause of interference.
The pronunciation of words is not only a matter of sounds but also of stress.
Stress is fixed in Armenian and isn't in English which is another source of
interference/ negative transfer.
Intonation also presents difficulty to Armenian learners. It has grammatical
meaning as well.
îÕ³Ý Ý³Ù³Ï ·ñ»ó. ѳëï³ïáõÙ
The boy wrote a letter.
2
îÕ³Ý Ý³Ù³±Ï ·ñ»ó:
The boy wrote a letter?
Learners automatically pronounce English sounds, stress words and intone
sentences the way they do in their mother tongue. If the regularities coincide learners
don't make mistakes, if not interference creates mistakes. Teachers should know what
these mistakes/difficulties are and how to overcome them.
Teaching/learning pronunciation is based on both didactic and methodological
principles, such as automaticity, meaningful learning, native language effect,
self-confidence and so on.
Strategies for teaching pronunciation are: imitation, explanation, demonstration,
synthetical and analytical.
Imitation is the main way of teaching/ learning pronunciation. We learn what we
do and we don't learn what we don't do.
Practice
is
the
best
of
all
instructors.
Learners listen to the example, given by the teacher or the speaker, following the
example they try to articulate the pronunciation unit (sound, stress or intonation). If the
difficulty can't be overcome through imitation, the teacher tries to help the learners
through useful, helpful explanation and demonstration (whenever they are useful and
helpful, as little explanation and demonstration is possible) teaching/learning the
sounds ………, explanation and demonstration help learner to imitate the sound
correctly. This way the teacher may combine imitation, explanation and demonstration
to overcome the difficulty.
Children's ability to imitate is rather good, so this ability should be actively and
effectively used in teaching/learning pronunciation, besides too many cases are hardly
explainable to learners. That is why imitation is the main strategy for teaching/learning
pronunciation.
Foreign language teaching/learning in school begins with oral introductory
course, proceeds with oral approach and the unit of teaching/learning is the sentence.
So learners listen to a long sequence of sounds from the very beginning. lf the
sounds of a sequence are assimilated in the sequence (sentence) through imitation we
have synthetical assimilation, all the sounds in the sequence are assimilated together,
e.g.
My name is Nick.
He is ten.
She is my sister.
On some cases when there are difficult sounds in the sequence learners can't
assimilate them synthetically. So the teacher should take out the word with the difficult
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sound and the difficult sound out of the word and work on it, overcome the difficulty and
put it back in the sequence. e.g. What's your name? Where is your book?
This is my book.
That is your book.
What's your name? This is my book.
This is the analytical way of teaching/ learning pronunciation.
Learners imitate both in unison and individually. Imitating individually the teacher asks
first bright, then average and finally slow pupils to repeat the pronunciation unit after the
example.
Teaching pronunciation is a matter of great importance not only for oral
communication but also for written. As we mentioned above, language exists in
meaningful sound sequences.
Pronunciation skills are formed an developed mainly at junior stage of instruction,
but they should be developed and perfected through the whole course of instruction. So
the teacher should practise pronunciation drills whenever the necessary irrespective of
the stage of instruction.
Types of Exercises
Pronunciation exercises may be of two main groups:

recognition exercises

reproduction exercises
Recognition exercises are aimed at developing learner's ability to listen to,
discriminate and understand the sounds, stress, sound sequences and intonation. The
assimilation of clear and comprehensible pronunciation depends on learner's ability to
and on the factors mentioned above (native language, the age, exposure...).
To acquire the phonic aspect of the language learners should perform a lot of
exercises in listening and understanding on the one hand, and speaking, articulating on
the other.
Listening can be done in two ways:

Listening to the teacher, classmates and TV

Listening to tape-recording, records or radio.
In the first case listening is reinforced by visual perception, in the second is not.
All listening exercises begin with listen and do.
1. Listen to the following words. When you hear the sound
…….. raise
your hands or green cards.
Ten, pen, fine, this pan, than, fan
2. Listen attentively to the following words and raise your green cards or
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hands
a.
when you hear a short sound
b.
when you hear a long sound
ship, live, sheep, piece, hit, leave, hid
3. Listen and say whether there is any difference in the following pairs of
words:
Ship-sheep; live-leave;
Bit-bid; hat-had;
use(v)- use(n);
niece-knees.
4. Listen to the following sentence and say which words are stressed:
)
The table is in the middle of the room.
5. Listen to the following sentences and raise your hands or green cards,
when
you hear a rising tone/falling tone/rise-fall tone.
Reproduction exercises are aimed at developing learner's articulating habits. Learners
should not only pronounce English sounds correctly but also combine them into words,
phrases and sentences. They should be able to produce pronunciation unit correctly,
automatically, subconsciously.
At each lesson a few minutes should be devoted to drilling difficult sounds, stress
or intonation. The teacher may turn to pronunciation drill whenever it's necessary to
draw his learner's attention to the phonic aspect of the material they deal with.
The material used for drill should be connected with the lesson they study. The
teacher should attentively follow the pronunciation of learners, find out mistakes and
shortcomings, suggest exercises including mispronounced sounds, phrases with stress
and sentences with intonation, suppose they mispronounce ……… .
The teacher selects words including the sound and drills them,
man, can, cat, black, has.
The man has a black cat.
Teaching present continuous, past simple.
The following skills can be conducted;
speak-speaking
wash-washed
buy-bought
sit-sat
read-reading
open-opened
bring-brought
sing-sang
play-playing
want-wanted
teach-taught
run-ran
sit-sitting
hand-handed
begin-began
run-running
Different sentence patterns can be used to drill their intonation: such as
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special, general, alternative, disjunctive questions, poems, proverbs and useful
expressions can be used as well.
“A friend in need is a friend indeed’’.
“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and
wise’’.
Achieving the aims of teaching/learning pronunciation, that is forming and
developing clear and comprehensible pronunciation habits and skills one and the same
time we prepare the learners to use their pronunciation abilities automatically and
subconsciously to solve the problems of phonic aspect of communication successfully.
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Pronunciation ideas
Pronunciation can be an overlooked area of language teaching, partly because
teachers themselves may feel more uncertain about it than about grammar or lexis,
worried that they don't have enough technical knowledge to help students
appropriately. However, when teachers take the risk, they are often surprised to find
that it makes for very enjoyable and useful classroom work1.
Anyway, no excuses. Here are some ideas that don't require that you or your students
know phonemic symbols or any detailed background knowledge of phonology. Try
these out and then, when you feel more confident, move on and study the other parts of
this chapter.
Model new words in context
When you teach lexical items, give students a chance to hear you saying the
item naturally spoken in the context of a typical short phrase or sentence. Take care to
stress naturally (rather than as a 'perfect' sentence). Allow students to repeat the
phrase and give them honest feedback if there seem to be problems. If necessary,
remodel it and let students work out what they are doing differently
Modelling intonation
When you teach grammar, allow students to hear some typical examples of
natural uses of the language. So, for example, when teaching present perfect
progressive, don't just teach it as dry examples, but model a typical real-life sentence or
two yourself with real feeling, such as 'I've been waiting here for two hours!'. A loud,
angry sentence like this will be much more memorable than a written example. Get
students to repeat it to each other - and don't let them get away with flat, dull intonation.
Encourage them to say it with real feeling.
Recognise the feeling
Write up four or five short spoken phrases on the left of the board (e.g. 'Where
are you going?' 'Yes, please.'). Write up a number of 'moods' on the right (e.g. 'angry',
'delighted', 'sarcastic'). Read out one of the phrases in one of the moods (adapting your
intonation and stress to transmit a clear feeling). Ask students to compare ideas with
each other and decide which was used. Later, learners can continue playing the game
in small groups.
Use dialogues
When you work with printed dialogues, don't just read them silently, but get
students to spend time thinking about how to say them. A useful task is to ask them to
1
Jim Scrivener, Learning Teaching, Macmillan Books for Teachers, 2007,p. 284
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go through the text deciding and marking which syllables are stressed, After that,
students can practise them, read them out and eventually perform them without scripts.
The aim is to speak naturally - which is hard to do when you are reading from text, so
it's important to include some textless work. Don't worry about students learning it wordperfectly; give feedback on whether they get the feeling right or not, rather than whether
they get the grammar spot-on.
Which pronunciation?
Chants
A 'chant' is a poem or dialogue particularly suitable for reciting aloud; it often
involves strong rhythms, clear everyday conversation, often exaggerated feelings
and a lot of repetition. Use published chants specially written for language students,
or write your own. Aim to help students to learn them by heart so that they can say
them confidently with suitable pronunciation. Teach them by modelling them line by
line and asking students to repeat them. If you offer dull flat intonation yourself- or if
students respond with dull flat intonation - there is little purpose in the activity. You
might want to go for the enjoyment of exaggerating the feelings and volume!
Shadow reading
This means reading at the same time along with a competent reader. So, for
example, you read a dialogue out loud, playing all parts, while the students follow the
text and read aloud themselves. This is likely to be most useful if it is done more than
once, so that students get a chance to improve; try short texts read a number of
times rather than one long text read once. As an alternative, you could try using a
recording.
Voice settings
One interesting approach to pronunciation may sound a little odd at first. It's
based on the idea that, rather than work on all the small details of pronunciation
(such as phonemes, stress patterns, etc.), it might be better to start with the larger
holistic picture - the general 'settings' of the voice. If you think about a foreign
language you have heard a number of times, you are probably able to quickly recall
some distinctive impressions about how the language is spoken - the sorts of things
that a comedian would pick on if they wanted to mimic a speaker of that language;
for example, a distinctive mouth position with the lips pushed forward, a flat
intonation with machine-gun delivery, a typical hunching of shoulders, frequently
heard sounds, a generally high pitch, etc.
Do your students have such an image about British speakers of English? Or
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Australians? Or Canadians? One useful activity would be to

watch one or more native speakers on video;

discuss any noticeable speech features;

try speaking nonsense words using this 'voice setting' ('comedian'
style);

practise reading a simple short dialogue in as 'native' a way as they can.
(This will probably seem quite funny to your students, who will initially tend to do
fairly bland copies, never quite believing that a voice setting may be so different or
exaggerated compared with their own language; encourage them to risk looking and
sounding really like a native speaker.)
Before we go much further with pronunciation, there is one important question a
teacher needs to consider, namely which pronunciation variety are you going to
teach?
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