Zoom Webinar

Event date: 
Tuesday, September 12, 2017 - 14:00
Zoom Room, 14:00 Argentina time
Buenos Aires
Extra info: 
Plus downloads
Zoom Webinar - hancockmcdonald.com/talks/zoom-webinar

This webinar has been organized by Stella Palavecino of the IES en Lenguas Vivas Juan Ramon Fernandez and hosted by Veronica Pintos of the British Council, both in Buenos Aires. Here's a summary of the main argument. You'll find the slides on a pdf below, and an MP3 of the rap, and a second karaoke version. The sound chart poster used in the talk can be downloaded here.

Pronunciation teaching: going beyond ‘listen and repeat’

Look at this conversation between a student and a language teacher. Look familiar?

S:        I quite like apples, but I prefer piers.

T:         You mean ‘pears’.

S:        ‘Piers?’

T:         No, it’s pronounced ‘pears’.

S:        ‘Pears?’

T:         Yes, good. Everybody say after me: ‘pears’

SS:      ‘Pears!’.

The brief conversation includes correction, followed by choral drilling. This is typical of the pronunciation work done in classrooms, and in many cases, it may be the only pronunciation work that is done. However, I would like to suggest that there is more that can and should be done to provide students with a more systematic and useful understanding of the phonology of the target language. In particular, I would recommend materials and activities which are designed specifically with pronunciation in mind. Having worked on creating such materials for many years, I’ve found that these tend to fall within four broad categories which I will label workouts, puzzles, pairworks and poems.

Pronunciation Workouts are choral drills, but more extended and specifically designed to highlight systematic patterns in the language. For instance, a workout may focus on the long vowels of English and how they are produced. Workouts, as the name suggests, are particularly good for muscle training, but also for ear training.

Pronunciation Puzzles are activities with a game-like element of challenge, such as mazes and crosswords. For instance, a maze may require a student to find a path from Start to Finish, only going through squares containing a word with stress on the 2nd syllable. Puzzles are particularly useful for awareness-raising.

Pronunciation Pairworks are communication activities based on the information-gap principle: one student has some information that the other student needs to know. For instance, the students must tell each other where certain places are on a map, and in order to make this focus on accurate pronunciation, the streets all have similar-sounding names. Pairworks are particularly useful in demonstrating to students the connection between pronunciation and meaning.

Pronunciation Poems are texts which contain a high density of a specific pronunciation feature. When the student hears or reads out the text, their attention will be focused on this feature precisely because there are so many examples of it in the text. Any type of text will fit this category, but poems are particularly good because they are often brief and self-contained. In the category of poem, I would include lyrics, rhymes, chants and raps. Other useful types of text are jokes, short stories and dialogues. They are particularly useful for helping students to notice and remember a pronunciation feature.

In this online workshop, I will briefly explain the four categories of pronunciation activity outlined above. I will then demonstrate how they work in class with one or two examples of each. By doing so, I hope to show how in pronunciation teaching, we can go beyond ‘listen and repeat’.


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