Published 17th February 2016
Many teachers find teaching pronunciation a bit tricky. When do you teach it, how do you teach it, what do you teach, are all common questions. While the general consensus is that certain issues of pronunciation should be taught as and when they come up, it is also beneficial to dedicate time to pronunciation issues which may not be come up organically but which will help your students in terms of their language learning.
Three common features of pronunciation are stress, intonation and connected speech.
Stress refers to both word stress and sentence stress. Word stress is affected by the word class and focusing on word stress and the use of strong and weak stress will help our students speak more naturally and more fluently. Students can think about word stress by categorising words, clapping stress patterns or making word statues.
Sentence stress actually changes the emphasis of a sentence. Your students can practise the effects of sentence stress by creating scenarios which illustrate the differences between That’s my hat vs That’s my hat.
Further, students can examine sentences to identify what is the important information and look at how that would affect the other words in the sentence. In this way they will be working on their fluency.
Intonation is the music of language. We usually change our intonation as a way of showing our attitude or to convey mood. This is best done with models so your students will know exactly what you are talking about, because sometimes it can be difficult to explain. One way for your students to get to know intonation patterns is to model the same word (or nonsense syllables) and students can match it to the attitude or mood being conveyed.
Connected speech is all about what happens to words when we speak naturally. If you think about it, when we speak naturally we don’t pronounce each word individually; instead, the words are influenced by their neighbouring words (as well as the stress of the sentence). For example, final sounds can be lost or assimilated into the next word.
Law+and+order = lawanorder
Can+you+see+him? = cnyouseeyim?
Once students are familiar with the different ways words are affected by connected speech, they can practise by doing shadowing. Shadowing is when your students read along to a recording, trying to speak at the same speed as the recording. Shadowing is a great way for students to practise a range of pronunciation features, particularly connected speech.
Teaching pronunciation may seem challenging but it is a necessary part of the EFL classroom. However you choose to teach pronunciation, make sure to include elements of stress, intonation and connected speech so that your students become more familiar with these aspects of English.