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Organizing lectures and seminars in developing pronunciation habits in secondary school pupils

It is very important to teach pronunciation as the basis of all languages is sound and words are just combinations of sounds where some ideas are contained. Listening is the first experience. The acquisition of good pronunciation depends on the learner’s ability of listening with care and discrimination. The hearing of a given word calls forth the acoustic image of that word. Writing (what is written) is a graphic representation of sound sequences. In reading the visual images become acoustic images. They are combined with kinesthetic images resulting in inner speech. Wrong pronunciation leads to misunderstanding – a speaker or a reader can replace once phoneme with another and in this way he alters the sense of what he wants to say (e.g. white – wide, it – eat). Taking into consideration all above the reason to teach pronunciation is quite transparent: -to be sure our students can be understood when they speak and be able to say what they want to say; to be sure the students can make the sounds that occur in English and to differentiate between them; -to be sure they can use certain sound rules (e.g. the different pronunciation of the –ed past tense endings); -to be sure they can use rhythm and stress correctly to be understood and to know where new words they use are stressed; -to show the students how stress can be used to change the meaning of questions, sentences and phrases; -to be sure they can recognize intonation (e.g. whether the tune of the voice shows uncertainty).

So, the aim of teaching pronunciation is, according to [1] not to make students sound like native speakers, or to have perfect British or American accents. This depends on their contact with native speakers – if students live in target language community they are very likely to acquire the accent of that community. The aim is to make sure that students can always be understood to say what they want to say. They will need good pronunciation, but they may not need to have perfect accents.

The difficulties in English pronunciation experienced by Russian-speaking pupils mostly concern sounds, stress and intonation. As for sounds there are many difficult ones in English for Russian learners – [ð], [w], [ə], [θ], [еә]. The combination of sounds [θs] – [ðz] at the end of a word (months, clothes). The sound [η] is seldom pronounced correctly when in the middle of a word (e.g. English). The actual lengths of short sounds, e.g. [æ], can vary: the vowel in the word bit is shorter than in bidwords like fit and feet are distinguished by vowel quality and not by its duration. Stress is very important to the assimilation of English pronunciation too as it is difficult to understand native speakers because in quick speech the accented syllables are so strong that they almost drown the others. Intonation includes English tone patterns (mostly rise and fall) which differ from Russian ones. Russian people sometimes use wrong intonation and it leads to misunderstanding and impoliteness.

So, the concept of pronunciation includes can be defined as the sounds of the language, stress and rhythm, and intonation.

The first component (sounds) seems the most obvious and clearly defined. But the other two are very important too – a learner may enunciate the sounds perfectly and still sound foreign because of unacceptable stress and intonation. It is useful to be able to list and define the sounds (phonemes) by phonetic transcription – vowels (symbols and examples) and consonants (symbols and examples). For schoolchildren English sounds are divided into three groups: 1) English sounds that are alike mother tongue sounds ([m], [b]) and so the first group of sounds is taught through imitation; 2) English sounds that are alike mother tongue sounds to some extent, but differentiate by something [2]. The second group is the most difficult for teaching, as mother tongue influences English pronunciation, so we teach such sounds through articulation; 3) English sounds that are not presented in mother tongue. This third group of sounds us taught through explaining the new material.

As for the second component (rhythm and stress), English rhythm is characterized by tone units: a word or group of words which carries one central stressed syllable. While children don’t know transcription stress can be indicated by writing the stressed syllable in capital letters.

Intonation is the rises and falls in tone that make the “tune” of an utterance. It makes a difference to meaning or implication and can be simply shown by the symbols (fall and rise). Stress is commonly indicated not by increased volume but by a slight rise in intonation.

There is one more component not mentioned above and this is flow of speech. Students should know of the way different sounds, stresses and intonations may effect one another within the flow of speech, e.g. about assimilation and reduction (as in the case with the -ed suffix which may be pronounced in three ways), or about words which can have different stress when they are different parts of speech (subject).

The content of teaching pronunciation is connected with the aims and objectives pupils must assimilate. They include, first of all, the sounds of the English languages, its vowels and consonants. Pupils should be able to articulate these sounds both separately and in different phonetic contexts. Then there are some peculiarities of the English language in comparison with Russia, such as: English vowels differ in quality and length, there are no palatal consonant (in Russian palatalization changes the meaning – был – быль). And the last but not the least is stress in a word and in a sentence, and melody (fall and rise). Pupils must be able to divide a sentence into a group and intone it properly.

Taking consideration all above the teacher faces the following problems: the problem of discrimination which is hearing the differences between phonemes, between falling and rising; the problem of articulation which is learning to make the motor movements adequate to proper English pronunciation); the problem of intonation which is learning to make right stress; the problem of integration which is learning to assemble the phonemes of a connected talk; the problem of automaticy which is making correct production habitual. Consequently discrimination, articulation, intonation, integration, automaticy make the content of the teaching pronunciation

The question “how to teach pronunciation” starts with understanding that teaching a FL in schools begins with teaching pupils to hear and to speak it. So we start with the oral introductory course. The unit of teaching is the sentence because we speak with sentences. Therefore pupils hear a long chain of sounds. The following procedure in teaching pronunciation should be observed: pupils hear a sentence, then they hear a word or words in which a new sound or new sounds occur and, finally, they hear a sound and the teacher’s explanation of how to pronounce it

e.g. My name is.. name


At this point pupils are invited to find the correct position of the tip of the tongue for pronouncing n.

After they have found the position of the tongue for n they pronounce it as a single unit or as an isolated element. Then they pronounce the sound in the word name and in the sentence: My name is 

The sequence in the teacher’s work with the sound and in that of pupils’ differs (see table 1 и 2):

Table 1. For a teacher it is:

1.A sentence

My name is

The book is thick

2.A word



3.A sound



Table 2. And for a pupil it is different:

1.A sound



2.A word



3.A sentence

My name is

The book is thick

Pupils pronounce first in unison, then individually, then in unison again until the teacher sees that they can pronounce the sound, the word with the sound, and the whole sentence correctly. When asking individuals to pronounce a sound, a word, and a sentence the teacher first tells bright, then average, and finally slow pupils to pronounce what is required for the latter to have an opportunity to listen to the sound, the word, and the sentence pronounced again and again.

So, sequence of actions on the part of a teacher is a sample (a phrase) – a word – a sound – demonstration – explanation. Sequence of actions on the part of a learner is a sound (practice) – a word a phrase (a sample). Before a teacher starts explaining the sound, he (she) must pronounce a phrase, a word, a sound and then explain the articulation.

If a teacher uses a tongue twister (рифмовка) first he should think over the objectives – what he is going to teach – new words, intonation, difficult sounds and so on. The sequence of actions in this case will be like this: -a sound – words with this sound – a phrase – listening – translation – choral performing – individual performing in a low voice – performing out loud (first best pupils and others).

Exercises used for developing pronunciation habits may be of two kinds: recognition exercises and reproduction exercises. Recognition exercises are designed for developing pupils’ ability to discriminate sounds, stress and melody, e.g. the teacher pronounces a number of English words and asks his pupils to recognize the new sound æ can, pen, a bed, bad, or the teacher asks the pupils to say whether there is any difference in the words he pronounces (it – eat); or the teacher asks the pupils to say what words in the sentences he pronounces are stressed.

Reproduction exercises are designed for developing pupils’ pronunciation habits, their ability to articulate English sounds correctly, if the teacher is going to introduce the Present Continuous Tense, pupils should be taught how to pronounce η. If the pupils mispronounce words with ou, the teacher selects words with this sound and includes them in pronunciation drill – alone, go, no.

For exercises and activities the following also can be suggested: -imitating a teacher or a recorded model of sounds, words, sentences; -recording students’ speech contrasted with native model; -instruction and explanation (details of the structure and some movements of parts of the mouth); -choral repetition of drills; -varied repetition (varied) speed, volume and mood; -learning and performing dialogs, sentences, rhymes (again choral work, various speed, volume and mood); -jazz chants; -tongue twisters; -self-correction through listening to recordings of own speech;

-listen to a list of sounds and raise your hand when you hear w sound (or a question); -in the list of words underline ones you hear; -in the sentences underline the stressed words; -at school we mostly teach pronunciation using analytical imitative approach which is based on; -listening to a sample.

As English pronunciation causes definite problems for learners, they can make mistakes, e.g. a particular sound may not exist in the mother tongue and so students are likely to substitute its equivalent ([t], [d] instead of [ð]). Or in some languages there is no difference between short and long sounds. Or students may happen to use an intonation from their mother tongue which is inappropriate to the target language. According to [2] pronunciation errors can be of two kinds: 1) phonetic (wrong articulation, neglecting long sounds). Such errors don’t prevent understanding and are not paid attention to); 2) phonological (substitution [θ] with [s], wrong word stress). Such mistakes make a student’s speech difficult to understand and so should be corrected.

To improve learners’ pronunciation a teacher should get them to perceive check up if his students can identify and differentiate the sounds, stress and intonation he wants to teach. For this he must request imitation (“Repeat after me”) or make students distinguish between minimal pairs (ship/sheep, man/men, thick/tick), acceptable or unacceptable pronunciation on the tape. Also a teacher should tell the learner what to do – show them what the target thing should be and what it is in students’ performance. For this case it is possible to use a sketch of the mouth, describe the pronunciation in terms of lips, tongue, teeth, then demonstrate it himself and invite the students to imitate and practice.

After listening the above lectures students can be offered the following questions for self-control:

  1. The importance of teaching pronunciation. Sound as the basis of all languages in writing, reading and pronunciation.
  2. The difficulties in English pronunciation experienced by Russian-speaking pupils: sounds, stress, intonation.
  3. The content of teaching pronunciation. Aims and objectives pupils must assimilate while learning. The problems a teacher faces while teaching English sounds, stress and peculiarities of English.
  4. How to teach pronunciation. The procedure to be observed in teaching pronunciation.
  5. Recognition and reproduction exercises for developing pronunciation habits.

As for the seminar tasks they can be as follows:

Working with a partner discuss the following questions:

  1. Does pronunciation need to be deliberately taught? Won’t it just be “picked up”? If it does need to be deliberately taught, then should this be in the shape of specific pronunciation exercises, or casually, in the course of other oral activities?
  2. What accent of the target language should serve as a model? Decide, for English, for example, if we should use British, American or other. Is it permissible to present mixed accents (e.g. a teacher who has a “midAtlantic” (a mixed British and American accent)?
  3. Can a non-native teacher serve as a model for target language pronunciation?
  4. What difference does the learner’s age make in learning pronunciation?
  5. How important is to teach intonation, rhythm and stress?

At the end of studying the topic “Developing pronunciation skills” students are given the test tasks below:

  1. In reading the images become images. They are combined with images resulting in inner speech
  2. kinesthetic, visual, acoustic,
  3. visual, acoustic, acoustic
  4. visual, acoustic, kinesthetic.
  5. English vowels differ in , there are no consonants
  6. quality and length, palatal
  7. quantity and length, palatal
  8. quietly and length, palatal.
  9. The problem of integration is
  10. making correct production habitual
  11. learning to assemble the phonemes of a connected talk
  12. learning to make right stress.
  13. The following procedure in teaching pronunciation should be observed: pupils hear a , then they hear a and, finally, they hear a and the teacher’s of how to pronounce it
  14. sentence, word, sound, explanation
  15. sound, word, sentence, explanation
  16. word, sound, sentence, explanation.
  17. The teacher first asks , then , and finally pupils
  18. slow, bright, average,
  19. bright, average, slow
  20. average, slow, bright.
  21. Recognition exercises are designed
  22. for developing pupils’ pronunciation habits, their ability to pronounce sounds automatically and differently
  23. for developing pupils’ pronunciation habits, their ability to articulate English sounds correctly
  24. for developing pupils’ ability to discriminate sounds, stress and melody.
  25. What mistakes should be corrected?
  26. phonetic mistakes
  27. phonological mistakes
  28. recognition mistakes
  29. Reproduction exercises are designed
  30. for developing pupils’ pronunciation habits, their ability to articulate English sounds correctly;
  31. for developing pupils’ ability to discriminate sounds
  32. for developing pupils’ ability to discriminate stress and melody.
  33. If a teacher uses a tongue twister (рифмовка), the sequence of actions in this case will be like this:
  34. a sound – words with this sound – a phrase – listening – translation – choral performing – individual performing in a low voice – performing out loud (first best pupils and others);
  35. new words – intonation difficult sounds;
  36. a sound (practice) – a word a phrase (a sample).
  37. Before a teacher starts explaining the sound, he (she) must:
  38. develop pupils’ ability to discriminate stress and melody;
  39. pronounce a phrase, a word, a sound and then explain the articulation;
  40. show the pupils any new words, their intonation and difficult sounds.



  1. Penny Ur. A Course in Language Teaching. Practice and theory. Cambridge, University Press. 2001. 375 p.46-47 pp.
  2. Рогова Г.В. Методика обучения английскому языку (на англ.яз.) Учеб. пособие для пед. ин-тов и фак. иностр. яз. Л., «Просвещение», 1975. – 312 с. – С. 105-116.

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