Top Ten Tips for Teaching Pronunciation

1 Know your objective. Pronunciation is about being understood by people all over the globe. It’s not about pretending to be American or British. You don’t need to teach every small detail of the way they speak in the US or UK – very few learners will ever learn that, and there is no reason to anyway. English is a world language now – it doesn’t belong to any particular country.

2 I’m OK! Say that to yourself. Teachers sometimes feel they aren’t a good pronunciation model because they aren’t ‘native speakers’. That’s not true. If you are an intelligible speaker of English, you are a perfect model. When we think of English as a lingua franca, the term ‘native speaker’ no longer makes sense – we are all native speakers of it!

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Sounds and Spelling

Demonstration of game from PronPack 2: Pronunciation Puzzles
Mark Hancock teaching sound-spelling patterns

It is not always clear if sound and spelling patterns are a matter of pronunciation or of literacy, and for that reason perhaps it is sometimes overlooked in pronunciation teaching. However, in my experience, most learners come to pronunciation class already under the influence of written words and spelling-induced errors are some of the most frequent problems.

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Mark Hancock's homophone challenge 3
Homophones aren’t always single words

Homophones are sometimes more than a word. Sometimes phrasal homophones are called ‘oronyms’ In this example, the two phrases are phonetically identical, and this is made possible by the phenomenon of linking: in this instance, it is not possible to say with certainty whether a /t/ consonant is at the end of one word or at the beginning of the next!

Mr Twain

pronpack mishearings cartoon Mr TwainA man apologises for arriving late for his appointment. The receptionist, looking at the list of expected clients, guesses that this is Mr Twain. The man, probably not Mr Twain in fact, still has his late arrival on his mind and hears this as “Missed a train”. How was this misunderstanding possible?
We may suppose that the receptionist speaks a version of English where an r is not pronounced after a vowel (eg England, Australia, New Zealand) so that “Mr” sounds like “Mista” or “Missed a”. But what about “Twain” for “train”? Well, the /r/ is possibly one of the most variable phonemes in the language, with an enormous range of pronunciations across different accents, and even from speaker to speaker. Some speakers pronounce it as something almost resembling a /w/ – possibly as many as 10% in England. There is no evidence that the receptionist is among this 10%, but evidently the man thinks she is!

PronPack in Japan!

Happy to say that PronPack is available, print-on-demand, from Amazon Japan – click on the image above to see the page. Amazon also prints-on-demand in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, the UK and the US. If you are in one of those countries, simply log onto the Amazon website and type “PronPack” into the search box.

English Language Awards

English Speaking Union recognises PronPack
PronPack is a finalist for an English Language Award!

Since 1971, the English-Speaking Union has celebrated the highest quality English language teaching resources. This year, there are four categories for the  awards, each focusing on materials which develop oracy (speaking and listening) skills: Resources for Young Learners (ages 3-12); Resources for Secondary to Adult Learners (ages 12 and above); Resources for Teachers; The President’s Award for the use of new technology in ELT.

PronPack 1-4 has been shortlisted for the award in ‘Resources for Teachers’. Also in the same category are  ‘A Syllabus for Listening’ by Richard Cauldwell,  Puchta and Elliot’s ‘Activities for Very Young Learners’, ‘Mobile Learning’ by Shaun Wilden, and ‘Power-Up’, from David Farmer. The winner will be announced on November 20th, 2018 at a ceremony in London.