Reflecting on Pronunciation Class at the End of the Year

ESL Class Pronunciation Class San Jose CAWe had our last ESL English Pronunciation class yesterday. I have been thinking about what worked well this year, and what could be improved.  I love to survey the students at the end of the year.  Their responses help me to get a better idea of what they liked and didn’t like.  Here’s a free printable of my class “end-of-the-year” class survey.

They all wanted more talking time.  That shouldn’t surprise me since teachers talking too much is the No. 1 complaint of ESL learners everywhere!  So next year I’m going to use my student teachers to break into small groups more often.

The homework I give is really effective. Developed after 5 years of teaching, I’m pleased with the homework portion of class.  I give students a listening assignment – using web sources, they pick one audio clip (about 1 minute), listen to it, then write a brief summary of what the audio clip was about. In class they read their paragraph outloud.  This homework targets listening, writing, grammar, vocabulary and speaking. So the words they use to recall the paragraph are the words they read out in class.  This is different from reading a random paragraph the teacher chooses.  Because it actually targets the real vocabulary and grammar the students use!  See my previous post on listening homework with a free printable of my Pronunciation Class Homework.

They wanted grammar correction.  Since I focus on helping them pronounce English I usually stick to sounds, linking, reductions  and intonation in sentences and conversation.  I have not been correcting grammar very much, or very explicitly.  Since the class is only 1 hour, 40 minutes (and a few of them arrive late) they really isn’t much time to correct grammar.  I might be able to improve this if I use my student teachers in small groups more.

I want to try using more movement in class next year.  mostly I just taught at the front of hte class and wrote on the board.  I’d like to do more picture description too.  I think this may stretch the students even more.

Pronouncing “the” or “thee”?

Pronounce The or Thee

Pronounce The or Thee

A very common word in English is “the”.  But you might notice we pronounce it two different ways!

If “the” is next to a consonant, it will be pronounced [thuh]:

the book  [thuh book]

the car  [thuh kar]

the man  [thuh man]

If “the”is next to a vowel, it will be pronounced [thee] and often has a linking sound [y] to help you easy say the phrase:

the orange  [thee (y) oranj]

the ending  [thee (y) ending]

the acorn  [thee (y) akorn]

So practice the pattern for an improved American English pronunciation.

 

Pronouncing “Jesus”

Wedding Jacob Brittany

Wedding Jacob Brittany

My Korean student came to Bible study today. And I noticed the way she said “Jesus” was hard to understand. Now this is not the “Jesus” that my Hispanic friends say –“Hay-soos”.  That is very easy to understand. This Korean “Jesus” sounded like “Jeezhus”. I noticed that instead of using a Z sound there in the middle, she was using a ZH sound, like in the middle of “measure” or “vision”.

So we chatted about how to say “Jesus” using an American English pronunciation.

Jesus = “Jee  ZuS”

To get that correct Z sound, practice Z words like zip, zipper, zoo, zebra, buzz, fizz, ways (z), and goes (z).

If it’s still hard to get the Z sound in there, try backwards chaining.  That’s when you say the last syllable first, and add the next syllable, building the word outward from there. So try “Zus”, “Zus”, “Zus”, “Jee  Zus”, “Jee  Zus”, “Jee  Zus”.

Best of luck, and keep up the good work speaking English!

 

Close & Clothes (Misunderstood Words)

Close_Clothes_pronunciationMy ESL and pronunciation students say these words are often confused – “close” and “clothes”.

Below are some helpful hints for pronouncing

close – near

close – shut

clothes – apparel

1.      close kl oh s near My house is close to school.

Almost always “close to”

 

2.      close kl oh z to shut, or to end He will close the door.

The service will close with a hymn.

 

3.      cloze kl oh z a test where the reader supplies the missing word Cloze worksheets are often used in ESL classes.

 

 

4.      clothes kl oh z (more common pronunciation) garments for the body She wore her favorite clothes.

 

 

5.        kl oh thz  – th/vibration (less common pronunciation)    

 

 

 

6.      clothe kl oh th – th/vibration (uncommon word) to put clothes on, or to dress Clothe yourself with compassion” Colossians 3:12

 

 

7.      closed kl oh zd past tense of close, shut The door was closed.

 

 

8.      clothed kl oh thd – th/vibration past tense of clothe, or dressed She was clothed all in white.

 

 

Jaw Stability/Jaw Grading in Tongue Thrust

TongueThrust Eng Vowel Ex Pix page jpgIf you have a student or client with tongue thrust (as known as oral myofunctional disorder)  you may need some information about the jaw.

Learn more about the jaw here and see my resources for therapy ideas on Teachers Pay Teachers.com.

Vowel QuadrilateralThe vowels are often affected by the position of the jaw. If you are teaching English pronunciation to a foreign-born speaker, they may improve their low vowels /ae/ as in /cat/, and /ah/ as in /pot/, if they open their mouth wider (move their jaw to a low jaw position).

See my free printable English Vowel Quadrilateral here.

See my free printable Mouth Openings Pictures & Words Page here.

The entire Tongue Thrust/Jaw Stability handout packet is available on TeachersPayTeachers.

10 Ways to Improve your English

10 Ways to Improve Your EnglishImprove_English_ESL_classes_SanJose_CA

Speaking

1.Join an ESL class for regular practice in English.

2.Practice with a native English speaker every day for a few minutes. Tell your American friend, neighbor or workmate you are trying to improve your English, and ask them to chat with you each day.

3.Learn English sounds and pronunciation rules. Most helpful to learn are TH, R,L and the different vowel sounds. Use the expected stress in longer words. Learn to link your words together smoothly in a sentence, and not pronounce each word separately.

Listening

4.Watch TV programs with the subtitles on. Pre-recorded shows are best. Newscasts and live shows will have a lag between the dialogue and the printed caption.

5.“Eavesdrop” on English speakers around you. Listen to others conversations and try to figure out what they’re saying.

6.Listen to books on CD. It may help to have the printed book to look at as you listen. Listen without text for an added challenge. Check you public library for books on CD.

Reading

7.Read “easy reader” or “graded readers” children’s books. Your public library has hundreds of easy readers in the ‘juvenile’ section.

Writing

8.Write more in English – letters, emails, cards, or keep a diary.

Vocabulary

9.Keep a small notebook handy for jotting down new words and their meanings. Review your list and use new words in a sentence to help memorize them.

General

10.Make a goal for your English learning. Setting a goal is the best way to improve a skill.

Click here for the free printable 10 Ways to Improve Your English.

(Reprinted with permission – original post 4/23/12015)

KT for Chinese Speakers

esl-studentsHere’s help for Chinese speakers to get a more American English sound.  When consonantsc” (k) and “t” are in the middle of a word (like “practice”), or between two words in a phrase. (like “take two”), hold out the vowel just before the “k” sound, then make a gentle, quiet “k” linked to the “t”.

DO NOT fully pronounce the ‘k’ sound or it will sound like pra  KA  tice (practice) or da KA tor (doctor).

Listen to the audio here.

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practice

pra——>  ktis

doctor

do——-> ktor

active

a——-> ktiv

factor

fa——>kter

Free printable list of KT words here.

 

 

A Day in the Life of an SLP – Accent Modification

 

Day in the Life of an SLP Accent ModificationI’m headed off to work this morning, where I’ll spend 2 hours in English pronunciation class with adults from 5 different countries and cultures.  It’s every Monday morning and my current clients are Iranian, Chinese (Mandarin), Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese.  Our class is part of an ESL (English as a Second Language) program in our community.  Stand-alone courses like this are often called accent modification, and can be taught to groups or individuals.  The success of the program relies on client participation and teacher feedback.  As a speech language pathologist, I am applying my knowledge of American English to help clients.  The goals are for clients to understand spoken English better, and to speak English in a way that they are understood better by Americans.

ESL Classes

We learn and practice the sounds of English.  But just as important as sounds, we learn linking patterns in phrases and sentences.  We learn reductions (like “going to” is often reduced to “gonna”), because it improves listening comprehension.  We learn about rhythm, stress and intonation, which is particularly hard for students whose first language is monotone.  This photo shows clients and I practicing strong and weak stress patterns in sentences, moving a ball high or low as we speak. Lastly American culture is often a topic in class, as well as techniques to improve communication styles.

It’s the start of a new class and I need to record each client with a brief test.  I will listen to each recording and identify the target goals for that client.  I’ll write it up in a one page summary.  I’ll also take a recording at the end of the year for all the clients, and do another summary page.  This prep takes time, but is worth it to have pre-and post- recordings.  Clients get a listening home practice assignment each week.  They write a short paragraph and read it in class, and I provide feedback.  After class I read their home practice sheets to get a better idea of how each is listening, understanding and writing in English.

ESL classroom

To prepare for class, I’m following a text, choosing the lessons that are most needed for this class (L vs. R, and stress & rhythm),  but I also developed my own materials to teach about things that seems overlooked in pronunciation, (things such as jaw height for vowel sounds, for example). Early on, I had to try a number of texts and materials.  I also did some formal training, but much of my skill was learned “on the job” with clients.  It’s important to take notes on what topics come up for your clients.  I developed a curriculum, but often the need for new skills shows up in a session.  I research or develop materials to add when this is of value to the clients.

I see individuals, in person and by videochat.  Sessions are often held in the evening or early morning, because they are needed to fit around the client’s work.  Each client gets pre- and post- testing for a course, which is generally 15 weeks.  Some clients choose to take a second, or third course.  Each client uses a text with CDs of the American English accent.   I spend time prepping materials specifically chosen for each client. Often I record audio and upload it to Dropbox for clients to hear and practice.

I live in a high tech area that draws a lot of internationals.  I think that is why I’ve been successful at booking accent modification clients.  My clients are often professional men and women, who desire to advance at work, and they find their accent or communication style may be holding them back.  I work with children of professionals who want their child or teen to sound more like an American.  This translates to better education and work prospects for them.  I work with housewives, who upon coming to the U.S. realize their English teacher back in Japan or Korea taught them a lot of wrong things!

Speech language pathologists are uniquely qualified to teach accent modification. Your training and experience with speech, language and communication has prepared you to begin today.  If this is an area that interests you, I would encourage you to explore the possibilities.  SLPs are a generous group of people who will share materials, and ideas, and cheer you on in this area!  Many thousands of people worldwide desire to communicate in English.  Therefore competency in speaking and understanding English is greatly sought after now, and it will be in the future.

Understanding Can and Can’t

Understanding Can & Can'tA student in English Pronunciation class asked how to make “can” and “can’t” different, because when she hears Americans use these words it’s hard to tell them apart! Sometimes you hear the T on “can’t”, but not always.  There is an easier way to know the difference:

When we use “can” (affirmative), the vowel often gets reduced, and sounds like “kin” or “kun”.

But with “can’t” (negative), the vowel never gets reduced.  It always sounds like a short A sound.

“I can [kin] do it.” “Can [kin] you call me?” “We can [kin] go.”

“I can’t [kant] do it.” “Can’t [kant] you call me?” “We can’t [kant] go.”