Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Teaching Pronunciation (12)


“Pronunciation instruction has been presented in various ways. First there is model of imitation . . . A second technique for teaching pronunciation is explanation . . . A third technique is practice. A fourth technique is comparison and contrast. Two similar but significantly contrasting sounds are taught together, with an effort to highlight the feature that differentiates them . . . This kind of comparison helps pinpoint the difference, but doesn’t always guarantee efficient acquisition of the two contrasting sounds” (Bowen 1979 in Celce-Murcia, M. and McIntosh, L., Eds. Teaching English as a Second Language, Newbury House Publishers, Inc., Mass.: Rowley, 1979).

Face the class, walk around, speak at normal speed, and model the utterance for students to imitate. Produce the sounds in isolation, in isolated words, isolated phrases, and later in sentences. Finally produce them in communicative sentences. Ask the students to imitate your pronunciation. Generally speaking, production of sounds in isolation is for demonstration purposes only. It is always better to produce the sounds in words and phrases which can be easily explained and understood. The new sounds may be given in new words, but not in phrases and sentences which are not understood. Give the meaning for the item which is being drilled.

It is always better for the students to drill the words and phrases with their books or sheets open so that they will develop some sensitivity on their own to the correspondence between pronunciation and spelling.

Some of the simple exercises for the pronunciation of sounds are as follows: Prepare a list of the sounds used in English. Go through the list and model the same for the students. Ask them to imitate and repeat after you.

Prepare a list of admissible combination of sounds in English, go through the list, and model the same for the students. Ask them to imitate and repeat after you.

Prepare a list of very common words, write them as they are usually spelled in English, go through the list, model them for the students, and ask them to imitate and repeat after you.
Then select a few words from the list at random, ask the students to read them, keeping in their auditory memory the model you have provided earlier. In subsequent repetition drills, contrast a newly introduced sound with the one already mastered: pot:putt; lock:luck; rob:rub; duck:dock.

This may be followed by testing drills in which the teacher gives an item and the students recognize the sound in contrast to another. For example, the teacher gives bit and beat as the model. Then she gives words such as hit, heat, leave and live, and asks the students whether the given word resembles in its vowel with hit or heat. Note this kind of testing is more a testing of aural recognition than actual production. However, aural recognition is an important segment of actual production. Production and recognition should go hand in hand.


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