Pron Probs Game

B2 upwards
Teaching point: 
Diagnosing pronunciation problems
Board game
Pron Probs Game -

This is a board game for use in teacher training. Players can use a dice and counter. They take turns to throw the dice and move. They should explain the pronunciation error in the sentence they land on, and match it with one of the causes in 1-5 at the top of the board. Alternatively, don't use it as a game: just ask participants to choose the examples they would like to comment on.

You can download the game at the bottom of the page, as well as the answers and a key. These may also be projected in a powerpoint presentation. Here are some notes  about my interpretation of the pronunciation problems in the grid:

Problems caused by spelling

1 ‘Bear’ is often pronounced like ‘beer’ because the ‘ear’ combination usually sounds like ‘ear’.

5 ‘Walked’ is often pronounced with 2 syllables because the learner assumes that the ‘e’ should be pronounced.

8 ‘Ache’ is often pronounced like the letter ‘H’ because it contains the letters ‘ch’ as in ‘church’.

20 Learners often pronounce the ‘u’ in ‘biscuit’ as if it were an extra phoneme.

Problems caused by spelling are not really pronunciation problems at all – they are caused by mistakes in decoding the written form of the language.

L1-influenced pronunciation

2 Many learners do not distinguish the vowel sounds in ‘fill’ and ‘feel’ because there is no similar contrast in their L1.

7 Learners often pronounce the /z/ as an /s/. If this is at the end of the word, it may be because of final consonant devoicing, which is common in many languages in Central and Eastern Europe for example. Alternatively, it may be because there is no /z/ in their L1.

12 Changing the /g/ to /k/ in ‘bag’ is another example of final consonant devoicing.

17 This example is a classic case of the confusion of /l/ and /r/ typical of learners from many East Asian countries.

Learners need to be aware of their L1 influenced accent features. They may sometimes cause misunderstandings, and if the learner is aware, they are in a better position to adjust their speech as necessary.

Common accent variation

3 Pronouncing the ‘a’ so that it sounds like /e/ is an accent variation which may be found in New Zealand English, for example.

11 In American English, the ‘t’ between vowels as in ‘riding’ sounds softer, like a /d/.

13 ‘Called’ may be pronounced like ‘cold’ in some accents in the North of the UK, for example.

15 Many speakers pronounce the ‘th’ in words like ‘three’ with an /f/. This is typical in London for example, and many other places.

Accent variants which are widespread like the examples above are not problematic because listeners are likely to have heard them before, and can usually adjust their ear to the speaker fairly quickly.

Stress error

6, 10, 16  In these three examples, the speaker has accented the function words, and as a result they sound like content words. Function words are not normally accented unless the speaker wants to emphasise them for some reason. Misplaced sentence stress like this can be surprisingly confusing for the listener.

18 The stress in ‘dessert’ is on the 2nd syllable. If the speaker places it on the first syllable by mistake, it will sound like ‘desert’.

Adding or losing a sound

4 The speaker has added a vowel sound before the consonant cluster in ‘sleep’. This is common with Spanish and Portuguese speaking learners, for example. It’s called ‘epenthesis’. This is not necessarily a priority problem because the listener can usually work out what the speaker is saying.

9 Brazilian speakers often add a vowel at the end of a word which ends in a consonant. Another example of epenthesis.

14, 19 Some learners miss off consonants from the end of a word. This is common for example, with speakers from South East Asia. It is more problematic than epenthesis because information is lost and the listener cannot always retrieve it.

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Thank you very much, Mark! Really useful resource!

What an excellent activity. Went down really well with my students. Thanks
Mark Hancock's picture

Glad you like it Satti!

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