The Mistakes You’re Making Teaching Pronunciation

Pronunciation Teachers can be focused on teaching certain things, while missing valuable lessons for students.  Here are some mistakes to avoid when teaching English pronunciation:

  1. TALKING TOO MUCH – This is a common error among ESL and English pronunciation teachers! Make sure you are allowing time for students to listen, think and respond in English. Don’t fill up all the air with your talking! A good rule of thumb is for the teacher to talk less than 25% of class time and for the students to talk more than 75% of class time. Read an earlier post on Using Pauses in ESL Class.
  2. Not including STRESS, RHYTHM and INTONATION – Many teachers think if they teach English sounds, this will be enough. This is a big mistake! Teachers must give instruction on correct stress, rhythm and intonation also. Much more than individual sounds, a student of English must stress the correct syllables, or risk changing the meaning of words (person vs. percent) or the meaning of sentences. Many ESL students were taught to have intonation rise at the end of a question – but that only applies to questions that can be answered “yes” or “no”, or are clarifying questions. Wh- questions and choice questions (coffee or tea?) can have falling intonation. Read an earlier post on Stress, Rhythm and Intonation.
  3. Not including LINKING – Here’s another area that foreign students often miss. Many students are told to slowly and carefully pronounce each word, but this is not helpful in sentences and conversation. As soon as possible, students should learn how to link words together in sentences. Read an earlier post on Linking.
  4. Working on FOSSILIZED ERRORS – Let’s be frank.  Working on errors that are not making any changes are not going to be very satisfying for the student or the teacher. If you have a student who has made a particular pronunciation error for 15 or 20 years, be sensitive that this error might never change! Work on skills that show improvement.
  5. Focus on PERFECTION – At the risk of saying this too many times, let me say this again:Your goal is progress, not perfection. It is almost impossible to get rid of a foreign accent! There will always be some pattern that will show others that English is not a student’s first language. Students need to work on improving their communication skills. The goal is for a student’s English to be clear and understandable in conversation.

Teachers, please keep these ideas in mind and your teaching will be more effective. Keep up the good work teaching English!