One of the most expressed needs yet one of the most difficult things to address- improving students’ English pronunciation. I would say that 90% of my students tell me during our first session that they would like to improve their pronunciation. While we often tell them, “Yes, of course, no problem!”, it’s actually a little more difficult to put into practice. The truth is, there is only so much we can do during English lessons to focus on correcting and improving pronunciation and that students need to put in extra effort outside of their English classes to ‘hear’ real improvements. During this article we’ll talk about both tactics- the things you as teachers can do during sessions and then some tips you can give to your students on improving their pronunciation on their own time.
During an English lesson
By working with a native speaker, students are already benefitting from your sessions together because they have the opportunity to listen to your accent, the intonation you use, and the stress you put on certain words and syllables. One thing you can do during sessions to help students with their pronunciation is to correct them when you hear then making these common pronunciation mistakes. In this article we talk about some of the most common mistakes for Italian students who currently make up most of our student base on Fluentify. When correcting your students, make sure to exaggerate the physicality of your mouth movements to help them to understand where their tongue or lips should be when saying certain sounds. Have them repeat the word (or words) a few times so that they are more likely to repeat the correct presentation in the future.
TIP! As the student is reading, keep a list of the words that he/she struggles with. You can have the student repeat them towards the end of the session and then have him/her do an audio recording of these words as a follow up activity.
Another thing you can do during sessions is have the student read some text aloud. Sometimes it can be difficult to interrupt a student while he/she is speaking to make pronunciation errors. By specifically doing a pronunciation activity, like reading a text, you can focus on listening for the errors and correcting the student as he/she goes along.
Outside of English Lessons
This is where the student really needs to be dedicated to improving. As we said, a lot of pronunciation practice and improvement will come from activities done outside of English classes or sessions. Here are a few things you can tell your student to try outside of sessions to work on pronunciation.
1. Listen to English things
Listening to English podcasts, radio stations, TV shows, or movies is a great way for students to practice pronunciation. Especially with resources like TV shows or films where students can pause them, encourage them to repeat some lines they hear while they’re watching. Then they can play back the clip and compare their pronunciation to the clip. The more that students listen to these types of materials, the easier they can also work on their intonation and stress.
TIP! If they want to take it a step further, tell them to record themselves saying the lines using a smartphone or computer app and then play it back. It’s easier for students to hear their own pronunciation mistakes when listening to a recording of themselves speaking.
2. Look in the mirror
Pronunciation is a very physical thing and students need to train their mouths to make sounds they may not have ever made before. Tell your students to look in a mirror while they say some sentences in English. Here, they can again use a video clip to repeat what they hear, watch the actors’ mouth movements closely, and then try to replicate those movements by looking in the mirror. This link has some visual representations of what the mouth should look like for certain English letter sounds and Sounds of English has tons of videos and audio clips of native speakers pronouncing common sounds. You can send these links to your students to help them practice the physical side of pronunciation.
3. Follow English pronunciation resources
There are a ton of resources to help students work on their pronunciation. Youtube channels such as Rachel’s English and Elementary English have fun videos to help students work on English sounds as well as intonation. ManyThings also has a section dedicated to pronunciation where students can listen to recordings of random sentences or word groups and repeat them back. This website has 10 minute podcasts dedicated to breaking down English pronunciation and going through sets of words with similar sounds. You can send any (or all) of these resources to your students who are really hoping to improve their pronunciation!
These are just some ways that you can help students improve their English pronunciation both during and outside of English lessons. Remind them that speaking with an English buddy is the best way to reinforce these skills so they should keep up with their Fluentify sessions!
Anything we missed? Leave a comment below!
2 thoughts on “How to Help Students with Pronunciation”
Katie, you work fast!
I totally agree we need to be honest with students that they have to work hard to improve their pronunciation outside our lessons – thanks for all the resources.
I suspect some people have a better ‘ear’ than others. Some people pick up accents and others do not. Which may make it difficult for some learners to notice how they sound.
At the moment I’m asking myself what my strategy is to help my students with pronunciation. Am I trying to help my students sound less Italian or more English? If more English, what kind of English?!
If students have an Italian accent but can make themselves understood, why bother? Or are there some “red line” sounds and habits that I should not let go?
Perhaps the Fluentify tutors could compile a “red list” of the pronunciation difficulties to overcome?
Thanks for your ever useful blogs.
Hello Katie, really informative post as usual, I have found in my collection some other links which may be of use.
http://soundsofspeech.uiowa.edu/ – app