Published 3rd April 2019
If you asked your students why they are learning English, some will say “to study”, some will say “for my job”, others will say “to travel”, but at the crux of all of these answers is communication. Our students want to learn English in order to be able to communicate with English-speakers in their particular situations. This is why mispronounced words is such a big issue in any English as a Foreign Language classroom.
Problems in pronunciation can very easily lead to a breakdown in communication. Listeners who cannot understand what learners are saying will assume the learner’s level of English is lower than it actually is, all because they cannot understand what they are saying.
What can we do?
As teachers it is up to us to draw our learners’ attention to any mispronounced words. We need to understand they might not even realise they are mispronouncing them. Then we need to help them understand how they are mispronouncing the words and how to pronounce them correctly. Finally, we need to allow for plenty of opportunities to practise this pronunciation.
However, not all learners make mistakes with the same words. Learners in the same class can make different pronunciation errors, even learners with the same first language. What you need to do is make a list of the most commonly mispronounced words in your class. Write these words down, give a copy to each student and stick a copy on the wall.
Now that you have a list, you need to use it, and regularly! Here are five activities you can use with this list to try to improve your students’ pronunciation.
5 Ideas to deal with mispronounced words
Each student must choose words from the list and write them in a Bingo grid. (The teacher can make copies of these for future use). Initially the teacher can call out the words for the students to cross out, but in later rounds students can take turns calling out words.
For a quick warmer activity, assign each student one of the words on the list, but make sure there are two students for each word. The students must mingle and say their word to the other students until they find their partner who has the same word.
Play hangman with the words, but instead of using letters, use sounds.
Back to the board
Arrange the students in groups so that one person in each group has their back to the board. Write one of the words from the list on the board. The other members of the group must describe the word – using any means necessary – so that the person in the hot seat can guess the word. They need to shout out the word with the correct pronunciation to be given a point. To make it more difficult, you can use more than one of the words in a sentence.
Divide the students into groups. Give the meaning of one of the words on the list. Any student who knows which word it is must shout it out. If their pronunciation is correct, their team is given a point.
All of these activities provide your students’ with opportunities to practise the pronunciation of these problematic words. During these activities, you need to monitor and make sure they are pronouncing the words correctly. If not, be sure to correct the error. Because these are all relatively short activities, play them regularly over a few weeks and when you are satisfied with their pronunciation, make a new list and do it all again!