The Brothers

Levels: 
A2 upwards
Teaching point: 
TH sounds and variations
Theme: 
Sibling jealousy
Activity: 
Chanting
The Brothers - hancockmcdonald.com/materials/brothers

This chant is made up of five rhyming couplets, and it has an unusual density of TH-sounds (the hard TH in 'earth' and the soft TH in 'brother'. The hard TH is called ‘theta’, and for convenience, I’ll use that name to refer to both sounds.

If you have been working on the ‘theta’ sounds in class, you can use this chant for practice. Give out or project the poem and ask students which letters the funny symbols replace (answer: the letters TH). Play the audio of the chant for the students to listen to. Then play it again and ask them to say it themselves - there is a gap after each rhyming couplet for the class to repeat. Instead of using the audio with the voice already on it, you could model the couplets yourself using the backing track audio.

It’s good for students to try making the ‘theta’ sounds to raise their awareness, but you may find that they don’t adopt them naturally into their speech. Don’t be too worried about this. The ‘theta’ sounds are hard to articulate, and many people – including native speakers – have ‘theta-phobia’. For example, in many parts of England, speakers replace them with /f/ and /v/. In Ireland, many speakers replace them with something like /t/ and /d/. Meanwhile, speakers from France and Germany often replace them with /s/ and /z/. ‘Theta-phobia’ is so widespread that most listeners will have heard the alternative pronunciations before, and will consequently be able to understand. So from an intelligibility point of view, they’re not a high priority!

The chant was originally published in Hancock, M. (2003) English Pronunciation in Use Intermediate, CUP

Resources: 
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