Melody Philip is one of our Trinity DipTESOL graduates and is now a teacher trainer and materials writer. We recently held a packed out session on pronunciation, as part of our highly successful ongoing free Friday morning Teacher Development Workshops held at Oxford TEFL in Barcelona. During this workshop, attendees looked at a variety of ways to integrate the often tricky topic of pronunciation into their classes and learnt some hacks to make teaching pronunciation easier. Here, Melody answers four questions which arose at the end of this workshop and offers some practical advice to help you start integrating pronunciation into your classes too.
I was delighted and honoured to be asked to give a session on an area of teaching which I am extremely passionate about, and one which is often seen as the “Cinderella” of the 5 main skills.
During the session, I decided to move away from the more traditional Q and A Session at the end and have a hat going round the audience with people writing their questions on slips of paper- an activity otherwise known as “Questions in a hat”- this proved very popular. So popular, in fact, that there wasn’t enough time to answer all the questions at the end. Here are some of the popular questions and a possible answer to them.
Question 1: “What do you do when you feel insecure about teaching pronunciation because you are not native?”
Well, first of all, I would say that competency in teaching in general is the key here, not where the teacher is from. Teaching from the heart is important and usually, when teaching pronunciation, the teacher uses their own accent / voice as a base. Anyone who feels unsure about teaching pronunciation should, I firmly believe, perhaps read some further books on the subject or, indeed, could follow a course and build their confidence that way.
Question 2: “Using the chart in class often means teaching RP pron. What about English as a Lingua Franca and focus on different accents in class?”
I completely agree. The phonemic chart is just one tool out of many which can help your students “grow their English”. Some teachers use it and some do not. In the end, as said in the Friday session, it is about knowing your students and the people in the room – including yourself. What do they want to learn? Why are they learning English? Perhaps carry out a needs analysis on pronunciation and find out what your students truly want and need- and then build a syllabus accordingly.
Question 3: “Can we teach pronunciation relating the sounds to the students´L1? English and Catalan share some similar sounds.”
Yes, that sounds a good idea. Again, it´s about knowing your students. Start with those sounds, perhaps, and then branch out to other ones- we would have an idea, perhaps, of which words are cognates and “false friends” in English /Catalan vis a vis vocabulary, so why not use this knowledge as applied to pronunciation?
Question 4: “Motivating students to learn pron- how?”
Firstly, you yourself have to be motivated to learn and teach pronunciation in order to motivate your students to do the same. Secondly, you perhaps need to do further training on how to teach pronunciation or read Kelly´s great (and practical) book How to Teach pronunciation, which is highly informative and has practical classroom activities in. Any general techniques for motivating particular groups of students can be transferred to teaching pronunciation, too, in my view.
You can see above some of the typical questions asked in the session in “Questions in a hat”. You could even get your students to put their questions regarding learning pronunciation on a piece of paper and put them in a hat, too. This way, their questions remain anonymous. Then maybe go through them with your students and make a syllabus or a series of lessons out of that.
If you are interested in developing your skills further and really getting into teaching pronunciation, Oxford TEFL runs online, blended and face-to-face Teaching Pronunciation courses, in addition to the Trinity DipTESOL which also has a strong focus on Teaching Pronunciation.