Teaching Pronunciation (11)
Focus only on those sounds which are causing difficulty to the students. The following steps may be helpful in teaching the difficult sounds: Say the sound alone, but this may be avoided wherever possible. Say the sound in a word. Contrast it with other sounds. Write words on the board only when it becomes necessary to make your point clearer. Explain how to make the sound. Have students repeat the sound in chorus. Have individual students repeat the sound.
As Doff (1988:114) points out, say the sound clearly in isolation (so that students can focus on it) and in one or two words; and (ask) students to repeat the sound, in chorus and individually. If students confuse two similar sounds, it is obviously useful to contrast them so that students can hear the difference clearly. If students have difficulty in producing a particular sound (usually because it does not exist in their own language), it is often very useful to describe how it is pronounced, as long as this can be done in a way that students understand (using simple English or their own language).
Some other steps which you can follow are: use the minimal pairs to practice the sounds (will/well), say a word or phrase with the difficult sound, leaving a blank for the student to fill it in with the known word: A boy and a (girl); First, second and (third); a pigeon is a kind of (bird). You may also make up sentences with words which are difficult for the students to produce, and ask the students to repeat after you and then produce the same on their own.
Remember that a sound cannot be reproduced by chance. Students must first hear it and recognize. However, we should not spend a lot of time in practicing aural discrimination of sounds as a focused activity. Aural discrimination practice should take only a few minutes of class time.
Place the new sound in a fixed position in a number of words. Write these words on the board. Model these selected words, giving the same intonation for all words.
Aural recognition and discrimination is better achieved through minimal pair drills. Contrast two sounds in English in minimal pairs. Contrast two sounds, one in the native language of the leaner and another in English. Often it is helpful to give the approximate equivalent of the English sound in the learner’s native language. Emphasize that the similarity is only approximate, wherever some difference is noticeable.
Model the pairs and then ask students to tell the difference between the pairs of sounds. Same-Different exercise drills are very useful for this purpose. For example, you can give bit/beat/beat and ask which ones are similar and which ones are different. You can give the sentences He bit me/He beat me and ask the students to show where the difference lies.