Mostly True Memoirs

Teaching Pronunciation

Rant time.

Some of my ESL students have been taught pronunciation poorly.

It’s a lot of work to correct the resultant problems.

It’s better to teach it correctly from the start.

When teaching pronunciation, you have to isolate the target sound.

In other words, this sound must occur only once in the word.

And it has to occur in the stressed syllable.

The student will naturally stress the target sound.

When the sound is in an unstressed syllable, the word will be pronounced incorrectly.

As an example, if you are teaching the /l/ sound, do NOT use the word “apple.”


The student, emphasizing the /l/ target sound, will pronounce the word a-PULL.

The /l/ sound was said correctly, but the proper stress of the word has been confused.

It started as a pronunciation lesson, but it’s now a stress lesson.

The student is confused.

Also, you don’t want the sound to occur twice.

If you use the word “lovely” to teach the /l/ sound, the student will say, “LOVE-LEE.”

They will emphasize the first syllable because that is where the word is properly stressed, but they will also emphasize the second syllable because it has another /l/ which is the target sound.

In this scenario, you are teaching your students to speak with a robot accent.

This is a very poor technique, and an awful lot of work to correct.

Create your pronunciation lessons with only one variable.

Teach pronunciation on the accented syllable of the word.

OK, I’m done ranting.


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