Teaching Pronunciation

Topics: English language, Phonology, Stress Pages: 12 (4384 words) Published: April 20, 2012

In order to understand better English on both spoken and written, the most valuable gifts offered the pupils is pronunciation. However, as a teacher, sometimes it is a bit difficult in contributing this particular gift. It can be a challenge to the teachers when they face the problems such as the pupils’ pronunciation habits are not easy to change and it is also hard to understand and make a correction of the wrong pronunciation made by the pupils themselves. A consideration of learners’ pronunciation errors and of how can this be successful communication is a useful basis on which to assess why it is important to deal with pronunciation in the classroom. When a learner says, for example, soap in a situation, such as a restaraunt where they should have said soup, the inaccurate production of a phoneme can lead to misunderstanding (at least on the part of the waitress). A learner who consistently mispronounces a range of phonemes can be extremely difficult for a speaker from another language community to understand. This can be very frustrating for the learner who may have a good command of grammar and lexis but have difficulty in understanding and being understood by native speaker. Another example of mispronunciation: when a speaker or a reader replaces one phoneme with another he unintentionally uses quite a different word , in this way altering the sense of what he wanted to say. For instance, white instead of wide, it instead of eat, pot instead of port, etc. The inaccurate use of suprasegmental elements, such as stress and intonation, can also cause problems. For example the following request was made by a Turkish leraner in a classroom. Do you mind if I open the window?

Here we notice how the sentence stress is on the [əʊ] of open. As it was a first request, one might have expected the first syllable of window to have been the most prominent, rather then the first syllable of open. Had the teacher not known better the utterance could have been interpreted as being a second request (the first request perhaps not having been heard) and possibly being uttered with some impatience. In short, it could appear rude.

The intonation pattern used in the following question caused the listener to misunderstand it. How long have you been in London? ( \ )
This example was spoken by an Italian leraner as a ‘getting to know you’ question to a friend. The unexpected fall of her voice on been led to the friend not understanding the question (one should expect the voice to fall on the first syllable of London). She had to repeat the question before making herself understood. Intonation and stress can also indicate the function of un utterance. The function of an utterance is what it is being used for. For example, the following sentence has the function of ‘request’. Can you help me, please?

Now, let’s consider this sentence.
a) Why don’t you come to PARty? ( \ )
As a first ‘suggestion’ or ‘invitation’ we must expect the first syllable of party to be stressed as indicated by capitals and we might expect the voice to go down at the end. Now let’s look at this variation. b) WHY don’t you come to my party? ( / )

Speaking in this way the question is no longer a simple invitation. It suggests instead that someone has refused the invitation and that the speaker is upset by this and needs to know why it has happened. If a pupil uses this stress and intonation for a straightforward invitation rather then speaking in the example (a), it is possible that there will be misunderstanding. The above examples all show problems caused by pronunciation errors which led to a problem of reception, or comprehension of the meaning or function of an utterance. Aspects of a pupil’s first language can interfere with the pronunciation of a second language not only in terms of accent but also in terms of mood. For example features of certain German accents may...
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