Which PronPack – ebook or print?

PronPack is available in both ebook and print format. If you’re trying to decide which format to get, here are some points to consider.

The ebook is cheaper. It also benefits from having the convenience of audio files integrated, accessible at the click of a button. It’s also fast to navigate around the book directly from the contents page. It’s ideal if you want your own personal copy, and easy to carry around in your own device. You can’t print directly from your ebook, and for this reason, there are pdf files of all the student worksheets available on pronpack.com. These may be printed, or projected onto the board – it’s up to you!

The print book is more expensive, but it’s great if you like to have a book in your hands to browse through at your leisure. It’s also good for sharing – you can pass it around the staff room. If you’re looking for a version of PronPack to keep in the staffroom library, you’ll want the print edition. For the worksheets, you can photocopy in the good old-fashioned way, or else print from the pdf files on pronpack.com. If you need audio, the files for all the material can also be downloaded from pronpack.com.

Funny Misunderstandings

The /p/ and /b/ sounds cause problems for a lot of learners, who cannot hear or produce the difference between pairs of words like crap and crab.

1. Get students to read the dialogues and identify the cause of the misunderstandings.

2. Ask them to read it out in pairs. Get them to dramatize the situation as in a comedy sketches.

3. Pairs perform their sketch to the rest of the class. The rest of the class must produce the ‘canned laughter’ sound effect.

Students usually enjoy this activity, and it really forces them to make a difference between the pairs of words – because if there is no obvious difference, then the comedy sketch isn’t funny any more. As a side benefit of the activity, students get to see and practice repair strategies. Despite any amount of pronunciation work they do, there will always be misunderstandings, and it’s best to be ready to deal with these effectively.

The Sound of Silence

In my last class, a South Korean student told me about his weekend visit to Liverpool. He said it wasn’t easy to understand the local way of speaking, and gave the example of the question word What? He demonstrated how this word had been said, with the final ‘t’ replaced with a silence, or glottal stop, so it sounds like wha’?

The rest of the class agreed that this was indeed a familiar difficulty, though few could express it as clearly as the South Korean student. The problem is that there is a conspiracy of silence surrounding the glottal stop. Since it is not a phoneme of English, it doesn’t appear on phonemic charts, and since it is not on the charts, it is not on the syllabus. Since it is not on the syllabus, it remains under the radar for many teachers and their students. This makes it impossible to talk about. Students in a UK environment are subliminally aware of it, but often can’t put their finger on what it is – it just seems to make the speech of some of the locals sound jagged like broken glass. I don’t know why students should be left to cope with this common feature of English speech with no guidance from teachers. No doubt they can grow accustomed to it on their own, in time and with enough exposure, but the same could be said for many other features of English, such as the schwa, for example. A language class provides an opportunity for focused noticing and accelerated exposure. We should use it. (A glottal stop symbol is included in the PronPack sound chart for this reason)

Ps. The glottal stop is nothing new for many students. For instance, the number eight in Cantonese is transcribed to English as bat, where the ‘t’ represents a glottal stop. There was no better option to transcribe this Cantonese sound (or lack of sound) than the English letter which is so often pronounced that way. Think of Batman for example, and try saying that with a fully pronounced /t/. Pedantic or wha’?

(See also my comments on the glottal stop on hancockmcdonald.com)