Pronunciation: The Oft-Neglected Skill

Diane Ramanathan has been a LINC Home Study instructor with The Centre for Education and Training since Feb 2014. She is also a part-time professor for the TSL program at Algonquin College.


Pronunciation: The Oft-Neglected Skill

I was talking to my student teachers about their Practicum experience, and one of the students mentioned that she had done a lesson on pronunciation. She said that the reception to this lesson was fantastic, and the students asked why there was not more focus on pronunciation in the LINC/ESL classroom.

I thought about this. Pronunciation often ends up being the last criterion on a rubric for a speaking assignment/task.  It is hard to focus on pronunciation in a multi-lingual class where it feels like the needs are so diverse and it seems impossible to address them all.

I have found that it is helpful to have a holistic focus. Do we want our students to be able to master a particular sound (like the dreaded \θ\), or do we expect improved communication overall? Some students may never master all the sounds of English, but they can still improve their overall communication.

Adding 30 minutes a week to focus on stress, rhythm and intonation can raise awareness about how English pronunciation works, and allows students to notice what they sound like. It also builds skills that can be applied to any real-world scenario.

Using material from lessons is convenient, and also can act as a review.  For example, you could show students a sample dialogue/text from a previous lesson, and ask them to identify the content words. I remind students that content words convey the main ideas. Without these important words, the sentence doesn’t make sense.

I like to go for a walk on Fridays.

Content words are stressed; they are said a bit louder, more clearly, and given a bit more time. Students can repeat the sentences and use a variety of techniques to emphasis the content words.  For fun and variety, I have asked my students to:

  • Clap for each content word (like, go, walk, Fridays)
  • Stand up /raise hand
  • Stretch an elastic
  • Blow a kazoo

Once the students get used to it, you can add text with negations and questions. This method doesn’t require much prep, but goes a long way to building oral fluency.  It’s also relevant and fun!

Working with student teachers helps me to reflect on my own teaching practice and methods. These have worked for me; which methods do you use to incorporate pronunciation into your lessons?

Diane Ramanathan has been a LINC Home Study instructor with The Centre for Education and Training since Feb 2014. She is also a part-time professor for the TESL program at Algonquin College.


2 thoughts on “Pronunciation: The Oft-Neglected Skill”

  1. Absolutely True!
    Diane, I really admit the truth that Pronunciation is often left behind in the ESL/LINC classroom. I am a supply LINC/ESL instructor for a quite a long period of time. I personally witnessed this issue. So, I always incorporate pronunciation in my class, which I received a huge welcome at all levels.

    1. Hi Yoheswari,

      Glad to hear it! In the beginning I had to remind myself to include it and now it has become habit 🙂

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