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Pronunciation - paper and screen

(”The Teacher”, NR 3 (147) 2017, INDEKS 374385, „Pronunciation – paper and screen”, str. 58-62. Autorem artykułu jest Maciej Kotyński – metodyk L2- Language Consulting i Cambridge School of English)

These days, the ability to speak English fluently can significantly facilitate numerous aspects of your life. For example, it may increase your chances of landing a dream job. In order to become a fluent speaker of English and simultaneously to make your professional dreams come true you do not necessarily need to sound like a native speaker. However, your chances of being promoted may be significantly diminished if instead of talking about the “dessert” during the business supper with your boss you'll be discussing the “desert”. Read the article and learn some other reasons why working on pronunciation may pay off and how pronunciation can be taught.

The advantages of working on pronunciation

•    Making a good impression on other speakers;
•    Sounding more natural;
•    Misunderstandings and ineffective communication are substantially limited;
•    Poor pronunciation may result in making other people think your English is insufficient.

In spite of the fact that teaching pronunciation is not the easiest aspect of the second language teaching, teachers should never give up  encouraging their learners to improve this particular aspect of English. It requires a lot of practice on students’ side and it may be challenging for teachers. However, there are numerous techniques which can considerably facilitate this process.
    First and foremost, in order to teach the English pronunciation effectively, it is inevitable to inform learners that there are different varieties of the English language but you will focus on teaching only one of them in lessons. When a decision is  made then teachers should stick to it in order not to  make students feel confused.
Secondly, teachers ought to inform their learners what aspects of pronunciation will be covered in lessons (phonetic transcription, intonation, linking). When a particular sound is taught, teachers may demonstrate and explain how to pronounce it properly.   It also might be highlighted that improving the English pronunciation requires strengthening the jaw muscles because when we speak in the native language we often make different mouth movements and the tongue is placed out in a different position than when we speak English. Thus, learners may be told that practice is a key to success in this case.
    Additionally, teachers should do their best to motivate their learners to work on pronunciation. Therefore, it is essential to come up with many creative as well as interesting tasks which will allow students to see that they make progress.

Below you will find several exemplary exercises which may be used for teaching pronunciation.

Pronunciation exercises on paper.

Exercise 1.

Find 15 words in the word search below. All the words in the table are placed horizontally or vertically.

       bear        bird        rice      outside     question      throughout       street       rules
             neither    crash      girl          truth            over                 trash       sword

quadrat with symbols

This particular task is supposed to be done individually and it should take no longer than 5 minutes. The biggest advantage of this exercise is that learners have fun while doing it and they also have a chance to notice what the difference between spelling and pronunciation is.

Exercise 2.

Try to find a way from Start to Finish (move horizontally or vertically). You are only allowed to pass squares with words containing the /ð/ sound.

word games

Completing this task should not take longer than 5 minutes. Students work individually or in pairs. The main aim of this exercise is to let students practise the problematic th sounds. They need to distinguish words containing the voiced th sound /ð/ from the ones containing the voiceless th sound /θ/.

crosswordsExercise 3.

Do the phonemic crossword.

1. You feel it when you hurt yourself
2. The season of the year between winter and summer.
3. An electronic machine which is often used for work in an office.
4. A sister of somebody's mother or father.
5. A comparative form of funny.
6. Opposite of teach.
7. Money which you are paid monthly for your work.
8. A large boat used for travelling on water.
9. Past simple form of come.
10. You put them on you feet when you go out.
11. Past participle form of take.
12. A part of your body

Asking students to do phonemic crosswords is a good idea when we want them to practise the transcription of particular words. It is a pleasant activity which not only helps to practise pronunciation but it also gives an opportunity to revise vocabulary which was introduced beforehand.

Exercise 4.

Read the sentences below and mark all the linkings which you can see.

1. Mary ate an apple.
2. That bear is dangerous.
3. Close the window before you go out.
4. This idea is interesting.
5. Could you give me some milk?
6. That dog is barking at me.

When teachers want their learners to practise connected speech the easiest way of doing it is to give the learners several sentences and ask them to mark all the linkings which they can see. Even though this exercise is very simple, it will enable the teachers to check whether students know exactly where  the linking should occur. Nevertheless,  it is necessary to remember that all the rules of linking are supposed to be explained clearly straight from the very beginning in order to avoid further confusion.

Pronunciation on a screen

As it comes to teaching the English pronunciation it is necessary to mention electronic devices which teachers may use. There are numerous free applications which can be downloaded to smartphones or tablets in order to enrich everyday lessons. It is worth using  them as they do not only allow students to practice phonetic  transcription, but they also give a possibility to listen to proper pronunciation or even record  themselves  and compare it with the native speakers' pronunciation.

1.   Sounds symbolsae free  

This application contains several different options which can greatly facilitate the process of teaching the English pronunciation. After installing it, we can select whether we prefer the British or the American variation.
    The option entitled "chart" allows students to have a look at all symbols representing the English sounds. After clicking on a selected sound, learners will hear how it is supposed to be pronounced correctly. It is a very good option especially for students who still have a problem with remembering how to pronounce a particular sound.
    This application also gives students a possibility to do several short quizzes. They can read or listen to the given words and try to transcribe them. Such exercises are pleasant and enjoyable for students, especially when the rest of the lesson they spent doing traditional exercises based on handouts.




2. Speak English  

Speak English is also an application which enables learners to practise their pronunciation by doing some quizzes. Students need to pass all ten sets in order to unlock the next available level of the game. Doing such quizzes can be beneficial to students who still have a problem with picking up the words which they already know.
    Another option which is worth mentioning is the one entitled "all sounds". There are two different modes which we can select: audio and video. The audio mode allows users to select a particular sound and check how it is supposed to be pronounced. In addition, it is also possible to listen to some other words containing the same sound. Nevertheless, the video mode lets users see how sounds should be produced properly. There are 44 videos where a British native speaker presents what mouth movements should be made and how a tongue should be placed in order to pronounce a selected sound.


The aim of this article is to show  why it is worth teaching  pronunciation as well as to present what exact exercises might be used in order to achieve success. These days, teachers have a wide range of possibilities of teaching this particular skill because, except for traditional exercises prepared on paper, they can use modern devices such as smartphones, laptops or tablets. A combination of both greatly enriches lessons and causes that better results of teaching can be expected. However, teachers should bear in mind that it is impossible to teach pronunciation at one time and this is why they should try to focus on practising it with their students during  every class for at least a few minutes.


Exercise 1.

/beə/, /bɜːd/, /raɪs/, /aʊtsaɪd/, /kwestʃən/, /θruːaʊt/, /striːt/, /ruːlz/, /naɪðə/, /kræʃ/, /gɜːl/, /truːθ/, /əʊvə/, /træʃ/, /sæd/

Exercise 2.

bathe, southern, brother, that, them, these, thus, rather, than, there, weather, although, father, breathe, another, without, those, other, the

Exercise 3.

1. pain /peɪn/
2. spring /sprɪŋ/
3. computer /kəmˈpjuːtə/
4. aunt /ɑːnt/
5. funnier /ˈfʌnɪə/
6. learn /lɜːn/
7. salary /ˈsæləri/
8. ship /ʃɪp/
9. came /keɪm/
10. shoes /ʃuːz/
11. taken /ˈteɪkən/
12. hand /hænd/

Password: pronunciation /prənʌnsi’ eɪʃən/

Exercise 4.

1. Mary ate_an_apple.
2. That_bear_is dangerous.
3. Close the window before you go_out.
4. This idea_is_interesting.
5. Could_ you give me some_milk?
6. That_dog_is barking at_ me.


M. Hancock English Pronunciation in Use, 2003
Macmillan Sounds
Kaplan Speak English


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