Marsha J. Chan, Donna M. Brinton, and Judy B. Gilbert
How can language teachers prepare themselves to teach English pronunciation? Three pronunciation experts describe what teachers must know to teach students to pronounce English more clearly. We believe that any well-trained teacher can teach pronunciation. In a live presentation, which you may view here, we provide a training framework drawn on current theory and practice, engage participants in interacting with numerous points, and offer resources for further information. We describe and give examples of essential conceptual issues, basic oral language features, and fundamental instructional concerns. We offer practical suggestions for classroom teachers of English learners.
A. Conceptual knowledge: A basic philosophy of pronunciation
1. Spoken language differs from written language.
2. Pronunciation is a physical act.
3. Awareness of vowel duration is essential.
4. Listeners of English perceive the relative importance of information based on stress, intonation, and pausing.
5. Learning how to “listen mindfully” is essential to any kind of pronunciation improvement.
6. Pronunciation can be integrated in classes for all language skills.
7. Some aspects of pronunciation are more important than others.
8. Pronunciation work does not disrespect a learner’s L1, home culture, or identity.
B. Descriptive knowledge: The basic facts of pronunciation
1. The smallest building block of pronunciation is the phoneme (unit of sound) and its allophones (variations).
2. Pronunciation consists of segmentals (the individual phonemes) and suprasegmentals (stress, intonation, rhythm, and connected speech features)
3. Syllables and stress are the building blocks of rhythm and intonation.
4. Thought groups/tone units are the basis of all prosody/suprasegmental work.
5. Pitch change occurs on the most important word (the stressed syllable of the key word/focus word).
C. Procedural knowledge: The basic skills needed to teach pronunciation
It is important for teachers to:
1. have a working familiarity with both segmental and suprasegmental features of speech
2. perceive intonation patterns/pitch changes
3. perceive variable vowel duration that produces rhythm in English
4. teach pronunciation in connection with listening discrimination skills
5. use movement in teaching pronunciation
6. prioritize pronunciation issues for communicative purposes
7. provide useful feedback through demonstration and explanation
8. integrate pronunciation into language teaching
9. help learners develop automaticity
10. teach compensatory strategies
Click here to watch the video based on the live presentation given at the CATESOL 2013 Annual Conference in San Diego, California as the inaugural Teaching of Pronunciation Interest Group colloquium. Note: The sound during the introduction is difficult to understand. It becomes clear at the 4-minute mark, when the presenters begin speaking.
Click here to download the 6-page handout, which includes the pronunciation teaching framework, a selection of professional reference texts and resources, classroom textbooks (with suggested levels), and suggested websites for pronunciation and listening.