Mark Hancock's 50 Tips for Pronunciation Teaching

Appeared in: 
IATEFL Voices issue 278
Review by: 
Judy Tobin

(From IATEFL Voices issue 278 (Jan / Feb 2021)
In Mark Hancock’s 50 Tips for Teaching Pronunciation, the tips are divided into the following categories: goals and models, what to teach and how to teach it. There are further sub-categories, such as focus on the context; focus on the teacher; sounds, symbols and spelling; feedback and assessment. The clear aim here is coherence and ease of use. Hancock’s target audience is teachers of English for general communication, with the goal that building pronunciation skills will become what both learners and teachers look forward to. That speaks to me, as some learners in my classes express reluctance to engage in conversation outside the class because of pronunciation challenges, real and imagined.

Reading the tips and explanations felt like having a conversation with an experienced, knowledgeable and light-hearted colleague. As I read, I thought of my own classes. For instance, ‘Focus on intelligibility’ seems obvious. However, I reflected on how learners still talk about their accent biases, when it comes to discussing goals. I also appreciated the advice to ‘Raise the awareness of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF)’, as I find that discussing our shared ownership of English encourages learners to be willing to experience misunderstandings. Likewise, ‘Be selective’ was a useful reminder of target lessons on helpfulness, as opposed to what is available on the subject. The past tense of regular verbs ending in voiced and unvoiced consonants was a good example of that.

Hancock uses that same encouraging approach with the practical teaching tips; the attitude that he conveys to teachers is that which we want to impart to learners. The emphasis is on leveraging what we have: our awareness of growth mindset; what learners already know; the class as a culture and our shared vocabulary; resources that already exist and learner autonomy. For instance, with regard to the latter, Hancock expresses that he is in favour of using phonetic symbols in class because of how empowering they are in the hands of students. To that end, appendices include phonemic charts, a mouth diagram and a pronunciation maze, rounding off this short book as a handy and inspiring reference tool.
Judy Tobin
ESOL Teacher, St. John’s, Canada

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