The most fundamental way to make our students aware of pronunciation is by getting them to repeat all new words as they are being taught. This can actually be a fun and dynamic process that is incorporated into the lesson.
The process is that the teacher says the word and the students copy. We normally start with choral drilling, this is where we say the word and the class repeats. It’s important to try and listen out for any incorrect pronunciation. You can help yourself by moving around the classroom a little. Be aware of the ‘mimer’, you may have one or two students who are lip-syncing but not actually saying anything. This is either through laziness or they are unsure of the pronunciation.
Individual drilling is where the teacher moves around the classroom, saying the target word, and points to a student for that student to repeat the word back. It must be completed at speed and, to keep everybody attentive, make the order in which you pick the students random. For added energy, you can get the students to stand.
Listening vs Speaking
When teaching pronunciation there is a tendency to practise only the production of the sound. This is great, yet sometimes the actual issue is not the student’s ability to produce the word, but rather the student’s ability to hear and register the correct pronunciation. Think about it: as we mentioned above, normally, we drill new words and their pronunciation. So, we produce the new word, the student listens and then repeats. You can clearly see that the thing the student is required to do is listen. If the student can’t hear correctly, then they are certainly not going to be about to reproduce it. Science has shown us that what happens is that the brain converts the sound into the closest sound the student has in their native language.
For example, Japanese students find it very hard to hear the difference between /r/ and /l/ and also /v/ and /b/. So love can easily be pronounced rub.
To be able to pronounce words correctly it is clear to see that listening skills play an important role, especially if your student’s native language doesn’t have Germanic and Latin roots (Asian students really have a tough time). One option is to try and develop listening skills early in a student’s development. Another option is to take advantage of minimal pairs.