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What is the Trinity DipTESOL unit 3 phonology interview like and how can you pass it?

Developing how to teach pronunciation is one of the main reasons teachers choose the Trinity Dip TESOL over the DELTA. As course director, I interview all candidates for our Diploma course and find it interesting it is still the area of teaching many teachers feel least confident about. 

The Diploma changes that!

If you take the course, you will be assessed on your knowledge of phonology and your pronunciation teaching in a 30 minute discussion with an examiner. You are also assessed in the Unit 4 teaching practice in terms of how you integrate pronunciation into your lesson objectives and how you deal with it in the lessons.

As a result, you become quite the expert in pronunciation. Indeed, a recent graduate told me he was the only diploma qualified teacher in his centre who got end-of-term feedback from his students saying they felt their pronunciation had improved dramatically that year. So, what is the interview about and how do we help you prepare for it?

The interview is divided into three sections.

In part one, you give a five minute talk on an area of pronunciation.

And then, the examiner asks you questions about it for a further five minutes. You can see some examples below:

A good talk shows you know your stuff, both in terms of knowledge of your subject and ability to work on it in the classroom. To help you prepare for this we have an assignment during the online stage of the course where you discuss possible titles for your talk with your classmates and tutor, and then you make a video of that talk which is assessed by your tutor.

They will give you feedback on ways you can improve the talk and what kinds of questions the examiner might ask you. You then get to deliver the improved version in a mock exam with your tutor- again you will get constructive feedback and a mark. By then you should be clear on how to do this section as effectively as possible- and be extremely knowledgeable about your chosen area.

Part two is a 5 minute transcription task

The examiner will read out a phrase of about 15 words. You have to transcribe what you hear in phonemic script. You can ask the diploma examiner to repeat the phrase as many times as you wish in the five minutes. We prepare you for this by doing lots and lots of practice! There are four modules on pronunciation during the online phase and as part of these you learn to recognise and write the symbols for all the sounds of English.

You also learn how these appear in Adrian Underhill’s phonemic chart. This can help you to remember the sounds as they are laid out in a clear and systematic way. Then, in subsequent modules, we include practice transcriptions.

We also set up a group for you using instant messaging tools where you can give each other practice by reading out your own phrases for others to transcribe and share with the group. You can then discuss any doubts with each other, and your tutor can jump in and clarify too. Below is an example of a transcription a trainee has done, where they have listened to a student and transcribed their speech. They have then identified some problems the student has. Maybe your students have similar problems!?

Part three is a 15 minute discussion on how you teach pronunciation

The main focus here is practical and the examiner expects you to talk about how you teach pronunciation. To do well in this section you should aim to display your knowledge of the subject while you describe your practice.

For example, the examiner might ask you, “What issues do your learners have with consonant sounds?”. An effective answer would be something like, “My adult Spanish speaking B1 learners have issues with the bilabial voiced plosive /b/ and the labiodental fricative /v/. They have this issue because the sounds related to these letters in their L1 are extremely similar and are closer to the English /b/ sound. To help them with this I know to do work on it when I am teaching vocabulary that contains these sounds. I find the most effective way to help them produce the sound is by making it physical. I help them notice where the lips and teeth are placed and then we work on how to push the air out to produce the two sounds. We then practice by jumping between the /b/ and /v/ sounds, going faster and faster each time…”

The candidate here shows they know the terminology and theory of how the sounds are made, and they know how to teach it. They are also clear in their description of the learners. Full marks! 

We prepare you for this discussion throughout the four modules by building your knowledge of phonology and testing you on it in weekly assignments, as well as through group discussions and live lessons which are a bit like video conference calls.

The tutor can then help you try things out face to face as it were, making it lots of fun. As with the other two parts, the mock assessment will help you to identify areas you can work on to ensure you do your best in the Unit 3 interview.

Have you been teaching for a minimum of 2 years?

If you would like to develop your teaching skills and advance your career in ELT, the Trinity DipTESOL course could be for you.

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