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Pronunciation Workshop

Correct Pronunciation: Interferring Factors

Factors that may interfere with correct pronunciation in English


Students usually start learning English in their teens. Pronunciation correction is generally avoided because: Most students learn a second language through the Grammar-Translation Method (just like it says!) Therefore, there is no oral component in the curriculum. Opportunities to speak are, therefore, very limited and not encouraged because of time constraints in the curriculum; see next point in this connection. Teachers are usually speakers of their first language (L1), and cannot hear the students errors. Students normally copy what they hear, and so the cycle continues. This results in the many bad habits that develop over the years. (Average length of time of learning English for students who attend pronunciation classes at BVC is about 8 years; numbers of students who receive only minimal correction is about 4%; 96% receive no correction whatever). This can lead to fossilized pronunciation. As an analogy, think of what happens when you go from driving a 5-speed car to driving an automatic. You will automatically reach for the gearshift the first few times you get ready to move forward, and you have to think consciously about not needing to bother with this movement. After a few times, the habit of reaching for the gearshift starts to go away. Most of these habits are based on the L1, and can be predicted to some degree. (for example, think of a foreign accent in English you can usually tell a French L1 when they speak English). Please see handout 2. Additional useful resources are Learner English 2nd edition by Michael Swan & Bernard Smith (Cambridge, 2001) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-native_pronunciations_of_English. Students usually find it interesting to know that their particular errors may be influenced by their first language. But this should not give them the excuse that the error cant be corrected! Additional factors that will affect a students ability to hear/produce correct sounds/rhythms (not necessarily in priority sequence): Language ability Current age Ear health Gender Education Motivation Reason why they are in Canada refugee/economic, immigrant/job transfer, even unwilling immigrant, etc.

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Pronunciation Workshop
Correcting Pronunciation

What to correct in a students pronunciation


A students goal should never be I want to sound like a native speaker. This is most unlikely to happen because 99.9% of students started their study of English in their teen years. Students goal should be to reduce or eliminate only those features of their speech that interfere with the listeners ability to understand the message. A couple of exceptions would be the /th/ sounds in initial position in a word, and the dropping of past tense or plural/possessive/3rd person singular present tense; mispronunciation or omission of these sounds produces a stereotypical response in the English speaking listener (uneducated non-native speaker). Interference to comprehension can range from voice timbre rhythm pattern an intonation pattern that varies from the English norm an inappropriate sound some quirky movements of the mouth protrusion of tongue beyond the teeth maybe even general facial gestures that distract the listeners attention from the message. Students may have already had some experience in having to think about their pronunciation, and may have identified some of their difficulties. Its a good idea to ask them, and makes them participate more in the corrective process. The student may think that their difficulties are based in the mispronunciation of a sound, but research from the native speaker listener shows that misunderstandings arise more from incorrect stress placement, rhythm and intonation patterns. They may have to be coaxed to buy into the correction of rhythm and intonation patterns. Please give some thought to addressing these errors in the class. Only correct whatever is being studied/discussed at a particular time. For example, if the student is trying to master a particular intonation pattern, then it would be inappropriate to correct a faulty sound. Students should ask trusted English-speaking friends for feedback on their pronunciation. Remind students that most Canadians feel that they are being rude if they correct a students pronunciation, and will avoid doing so. Students sensitivity to sound should become more fine-tuned when working with pronunciation. Remind them that they are training their ear so that their ear can give them the feedback when they actively monitor their speech!

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Pronunciation
Correcting Pronunciation

How to correct a students pronunciation


IPA (students, especially from Asia are very familiar with the IPA). This helps a lot when describing sound. See handout. Mirrors Tape recorder in class; encourage recording of whatever is being studied at home. Digital recorders now available, expensive but well worth the money. Windows Accessories usually has sound recorder. This requires a headset, and is not expensive. Passing knowledge of how sounds are made (stop/friction sounds, etc). Overheads for those who require a visual to learn. These overheads can be front views of mouth, side views of position of tongue in mouth (please see examples). Use of self as model for demonstration of individual sounds, etc. Use of fingers/hands as model for individual sounds and words, to beat a stress pattern on the board (very effective); hands up or down to demonstrate a rising or falling intonation pattern. Use of language laboratory. Work from the individual sound (if they cannot hear a sound, they will not be able to produce the sound), to minimal pairs, to sentences, to a text and/or dialogue (which more closely resembles real-life natural situations). Student will need to focus attention on this sound, with particular attention on the characteristics associated with it; may be position of the tongue or shape of lips. Student will need to contrast these specifics with the positions associated with the misplaced sound. For instance: /p/ for /f/ - /p/ is a stop sound with 2 lips, /f/ is a friction sound with upper teeth and lower lip. Encouragement for even the slightest improvement - always has positive results! They will have to PRACTICE daily!

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Pronunciation
Learner Strategies

Strategies for the student


Here are some pointers - they are direct speech to the student pick and choose those that will work best for your students, their confidence level, their learning style, etc. Remember that the equipment that produces your first language also produces English. You will need to learn to move your mouth differently when speaking English. Speaking another language allows you to see things differently than you might if you only spoke your first language. This is a good thing! Try to read everyday oral reading minimum 10 minutes/day, and if possible, record the reading and listen for the error that you are currently working on. This strengthens your mouth muscles. This will also help your overall listening skills. Try silent reading although it doesnt appear to have anything to do with pronunciation daily reading in an interest area will increase your vocabulary and give you a larger working vocabulary. Look up unfamiliar words in a dictionary that reinforces Canadian English pronunciation. Dictionaries are now available both in paper and CD format. Learn the meaning, spelling and most importantly, the pronunciation (via symbols or voice). Try to paraphrase or use a synonym in the case of misunderstanding. Become interested in slices of life in Canada. For example, develop an interest in hockey or football, or popular television shows. Offer comments and opinions on slices of life in Canada to your friends, coworkers, neighbours. Positive outcomes to this small talk will increase your confidence, and encourage you to take risks with English! Join clubs for example, walking, skiing, photography, crafts, etc. Listen to the radio (CBC Radio 1 1010 AM/99.1 FM, CHQR 770 AM, 660 AM News). Listen to audio books. Watch movies with the subtitles turned off. Your ear will have to work much harder if you cant read! Consider volunteering! http://www.volunteercalgary.ab.ca/ Try to relax! You will have a more positive outcome with both speaking and listening.
The following is a sensitive issue bad breath! Many students come from parts of the world that do not practice good oral hygiene. Other students are affected by their daily diet or maybe it is a combination of both. If this is an issue with a student, please check with your classroom teacher regarding how to solve the problem. We often avoid dealing with this because it is so personal, but it may be the difference between success and failure in Canada.

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Pronunciation
Resources

Student Textbooks Clear Speech (beginner-low intermediate) Pronunciation Pairs (beginner) Basics in Pronunciation (beginner) Better Pronunciation for Immigrants (intermediate) Focus on Pronunciation (intermediate) Well Said (intermediate) All Clear! Advanced idioms and pronunciation in context (high-intermediate-advanced) Accurate English (advanced) Pronunciation Games (bingo) (low intermediate-low advanced) Pronunciation Made Simple (low-high intermediate)

Teacher Resources
Teaching Pronunciation a reference for teachers of English to speakers of other languages (Celce-Murcia/Brinton/Goodwin, 1996) Teaching American English Pronunciation (Avery and Ehrlich, 1992) How to teach pronunciation (Kelly, 2000)

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