Published 2nd January 2018

Pronunciation is one of those things that we know we should teach but we often don’t get around to it, maybe because we don’t know when or how to go about it. Some teachers will systematically insert a pronunciation segment into their lesson but it is more of a gesture to their TEFL trainer who told them that’s what they should do than anything else. Which is funny, because we all agree that we are teaching our students English so they can communicate and be understood. Isn’t that what pronunciation does?

Okay, so now we’ve established that teaching pronunciation is important, let’s look at a few ways you can make your pronunciation teaching more effective.

Include pronunciation work when presenting new language

When we teach vocabulary items, grammatical structures or functional phrases, we need to spend some time on related pronunciation issues at the same time we deal with form and meaning. This does not only have to be individual sound problems, but could also relate to stress, weak forms, word families and other pronunciation issues.

Drilling is good, but…

Teaching pronunciation should not just involve drilling incessantly until you think your students sound about right. Pronunciation work should include activities which highlight the pronunciation “rules” so that your students can understand them better, and also activities to practise the pronunciation point in question.

Don’t be too hasty

It can feel like there are so many other important things to focus on in a lesson rather than pronunciation, but don’t forget the importance of pronunciation when using a language. While of course there is no need to spend an entire lesson on long versus short sounds, for example, there IS a need to spend more than 30 seconds on it. Your students need time to focus on these problems and digest them in order to be able to act on them.

Think outside the box

As we said before, teaching pronunciation is not only about teaching individual sounds. When planning your lesson, think about what aspects of pronunciation come into play with the language in question. There are the usual suspects of stress, rhythm and intonation, but don’t forget to include assimilation, elision, linking and prosody, just to name a few more.

[If you’re not sure what these terms mean, here you go:

Assimilation – when a sound become similar to a sound before or after it

Elision – when a sound may disappear in certain contexts

Linking – when the last sound of one word blends with the first sound of the next word so they sound like one word

Prosody – the patterns of intonation and stress in a language

So now you have no excuse. Be sure to include aspects of pronunciation in all your lessons, but remember to be smart about it and teaching it effectively and appropriately, rather than wasting everyone’s time.