Published 3rd August 2017

Many people think that if you can speak English you can teach English as a Foreign Language, which is almost like saying if you drink merlot you know how to make wine. Teaching English requires a much deeper knowledge of English than just being able to use and understand the language, especially when you consider that you need to teach not only vocabulary and grammar, but also the skills involved in reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Pronunciation is one aspect of the language which is often overlooked but is important to be considered when teaching as it is involved in both speaking and listening. Pronunciation is not the easiest aspect of a language to teach so it can be quite tricky for teachers to get to grips with.

Techniques for teaching pronunciation in the TEFL classroom

Luckily, if you have taken an internationally recognised TEFL course you should be familiar with the various techniques used for teaching pronunciation in the TEFL classroom. But if you haven’t, here are a few of our favourite ideas.

First of all, the key to teaching pronunciation is to teach it on an ad hoc basis. There is no need to dedicate an entire hour-long lesson to teaching pronunciation. Instead, keep an ear out for specific pronunciation problems your students are having and plan a short activity to deal with it. With a bit of experience, you should be able to anticipate what problems your students will have in terms of pronunciation based on their first language.

Pronunciation activities should be short, but they should also be fun. Though they need to include a certain amount of drilling in order to ensure the correct pronunciation is being learnt, they need to be entertaining and enjoyable to maintain interest in what could easily be a dry topic. Pronunciation games are a great way to practise problematic pronunciation while still maintaining a sense of fun.

Great games to teach pronunciation as a TEFL teacher

Pronunciation Bingo: Create bingo boards with words with similar, problematic sounds (hit, heat, tree, three) which the students will need to identify accurately in order to win the game. Alternatively, if your students are familiar with the IPA, bingo boards can be created with only the phonemes which they must identify from words you read out.

Odd One Out: Write a set of words on the board which all have the same sound, except one (boat, sew, low, clock). In teams, the students must identify which is the odd one out; in other words, which is the word with the sound that is different to all the others. If you do a few sets, this can be done as a race.

Memory Game: Make cards with pairs of words that rhyme. Give a set to each group of students. Students take turns turning over two cards to try and find a matching set – a pair that rhymes (hat, bat; mouth, south). If they make a pair they can keep the cards, but if the words don’t rhyme they must turn them over and let another student try.

These are just three easy games you can use to teach pronunciation in your TEFL class. There are many more – you can even find interactive games online which will be suitable for the classroom. Just remember, little and often is the key to teaching pronunciation.