How To Teach Pronunciation: 3 Essential Elements

How To Teach Pronunciation: 3 Essential Elements

Have you ever wondered what you need to have a successful pronunciation lesson? Do you ever question whether what you are teaching is meeting all of your students’ needs? It’s time to put your mind at rest.

Make sure you have these 3 parts in every pronunciation lesson, and you are sure to see success or, shall we say, hear it.

3 Keys To A Successful Pronunciation Lesson

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    The first step in any successful pronunciation lesson is to give your students the opportunity to imitate. Most often, you will be the model that your students will copy, but you can also use other sources. Use a recording from television, radio or the internet for variety. And you can always bring in a guest speaker to expose your students to a different style of speech. This can be especially helpful as English teachers tend to over pronounce rather than giving authentic samples of native speaker pronunciation. Someone not used to speaking with second language learners may be able to expose them to more realistic pronunciation.

    When giving a model for your students, you should focus on one pronunciation issue at a time, and choose that based on the frequency of errors you see in your students. Trying to address too many problems concurrently will frustrate and discourage your students. By focusing on one pronunciation issue, you will see more pronounced improvement in your students in a shorter period of time.

  2. 2


    After having your students imitate either you or your pronunciation source, you should explain to them the biological process of making that sound. This doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it may seem. The first step is to give everyone the same foundation. Reviewing the parts of the mouth can help your students clearly understand how to make appropriate English sounds. Print off and give your students a diagram of the mouth. Review the obvious terms for lips, teeth and tongue. Then point out the alveolar ridge (the curved part between your teeth and your palate), the hard palate (the front most part of the palate) and the soft palate (the soft area on the roof of your mouth). This way, when you are trying to explain the difference between /th/ and /s/, you can simply tell your students that /th/ is pronounced with the tongue between the teeth and /s/ is pronounced with the tongue behind the teeth; /d/ is pronounced with the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge. This biological explanation of sound production will be especially helpful when teaching adults as they often like a clear and straightforward description when it comes to pronunciation. It may seem strange at first, but eventually you will think nothing of pointing out areas in your mouth where certain sounds should be made.

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    After imitating the sound and learning the correct biology for producing it, now is the time to practice the use of that sound or sound pattern. You can use minimal pairs (pairs of words which differ in only one sound like mop and pop or pop and pep) to highlight one sound or phoneme that you are teaching. If you want to add a little fun to pronunciation class, try tongue twisters. There is no end to the tongue twisters you can find or write, and not even native speakers are good at them, so the pressure is off your students to perform flawlessly. For a real challenge try reading Dr. Seuss’ Fox in Socks. You can also teach the natural rhythm of English through songs and poetry. Try reading a limerick with your class, or have them write their own.

There are many other sources you can use for pronunciation drills (try one of the many worksheets available on for ideas).

Whatever practice you decide to give your students, as long as it follows imitation and explanation, you will have given your students all they need to achieve successful pronunciation.

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