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The Importance of Pronunciation in TEFL: Practical Techniques

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is indeed a dynamic field, requiring educators to be flexible, adaptable, and innovative. One of the most challenging areas in this field is undoubtedly the teaching of pronunciation.

The difficulty often lies in the fact that many sounds in the English language do not exist in the students’ native languages. This makes it hard for them to distinguish between certain sounds, leading to the common lament among teachers: “They just can’t hear the difference!”

Moreover, the English language is not phonetic, meaning that words are not always pronounced the way they are spelt. This can be particularly confusing for students who are used to phonetic languages where each letter corresponds to a specific sound.

Another challenge is the regional variations in English pronunciation. From the rhotic ‘r’ sound in American English to the glottal stops common in British English, these variations can be bewildering for learners.

Furthermore, the intonation and stress patterns in English can be complex. The meaning of a sentence can change dramatically based on which word is stressed. For instance, the sentence “I didn’t say he stole the money” can have seven different meanings depending on which word is stressed.

Despite these challenges, various strategies can be employed to teach English pronunciation effectively. These include using phonetic transcriptions, employing listening exercises, teaching students to use the physical positions of their lips, tongue, and vocal cords to produce sounds, and providing regular and constructive feedback.

The Challenge

The task becomes even more daunting for teachers whose first language is not English. They often shy away from teaching pronunciation, claiming they are not good models. However, pronunciation teaching does not have to be based on the teacher modelling correct pronunciation at sound, word, or sentence level.

The Importance of Pronunciation

Pronunciation is as important as grammar or vocabulary in language learning. Ensuring that it becomes an integral part of teaching a foreign language is crucial. This involves shifting the focus of pronunciation teaching from one based on auditory stimuli to visual stimuli, enabling us to move away from the teacher modelling good pronunciation.

Practical Techniques

Ania Kolbuszewska is a seasoned Teacher Trainer, Mediator and Former Eaquals Board Member. With her extensive experience as a language teacher, trainer, manager, and consultant, Ania Kolbuszewska provides valuable insights into pronunciation teaching in the TEFL industry.

In the webinar Who’s Afraid of Pronunciation?, that she has produced for GTEFL, she discusses practical techniques for this shift. Our teacher trainer emphasizes the importance of visual stimuli in pronunciation teaching, which can be a game-changer in the TEFL industry.

SOURCES

  • “Teaching English as a second or foreign language” – Wikipedia
  • “What Is TEFL? The Purpose of TEFL Certification” – The TEFL Org
  • “The Ultimate Guide to TEFL” – CIEE
  • “Who’s Afraid of Pronunciation?” – Gallery Teachers
  • “English pronunciation teaching and learning for the world that speaks it” – ELT Journal | Oxford Academic

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