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Listening to Pronunciation – A Virtuous Circle (Part II)

2006/12/11作者/Quentin Brand & Joe Lavallee
Introduction
 
    In the first part of this article we described the relationship between listening and pronunciation, showing how, by working on one skill, you can help improve the other skill. In this second part of the article, we would like to introduce some pedagogical activities we created using this insight based on published coursebooks. We have tried these activities on our students and found them useful in helping our students to improve their listening and pronunciation. These activities work on the principle of improving one skill by working on its opposite skill on the other side of the circle, and they can be done with any level. However, with higher levels, who might feel a bit self-conscious about some of these activities, it's worth explaining to them the thinking behind the activities to get them on board with your aims.
 
Activity 1: Final phonemes
 
    A great area of difficulty for Chinese speakers of English, both in reception and production, is the final phoneme 's'. Because this final phoneme shows whether the noun is plural or singular, and whether the verb is third person or first and second person in the present simple, it is very important. However, in tests such as TOEFL, GEPT and IELTS students frequently lose important marks because they cannot hear or clearly pronounce the final 's'. The following activity is designed to help you assist your students increase their productive and receptive awareness of this final phoneme.
 

Listening pronunciation task based on "People, Places and Things (Level 2)" Unit 8, p. 77 (SB CD track 25)
 

 

 
Target group: Introducing new vocabulary items to mid levels, or recycling language for higher levels.
 

 
Pronunciation focus: Problem phonemes.
 
Teaching procedures:
 
 
●Task 1:
This sorting task helps students become aware of the word pairs. Help them out with the meanings of words. Tell the students that words like 'underwears' and 'clothe' are not real words, but otherwise ignore them. Elicit their groupings. If no one comes up with the singular/plural pairs as a way of grouping them, present these two categories and have the students do the sorting into the categories again.
 
●Task 2:
Drill the words, focusing on the final phoneme clearly.
 
●Task 3:
Listening. Don't let them read the text as they listen. Get them to focus on listening only at this stage.
 
●Task 4:
Make sure they tick the words they are going to speak before they speak them, otherwise they won't remember which ones they spoke. Students can compare their answers quite quickly and easily by comparing their ticks. If there are some differences between the speakers' ticks, and the listeners' ticks, get them to do the problem words again. Ask them to distinguish whether the problem is the speaker's or the listener's.
 
●Task 5:
Reading aloud is very useful sometimes, as it puts the words they have been focusing on into a context.
 
●Task 6:
Oral summary. Only do this with high levels. When they are giving an oral summary, make sure they focus on pronouncing the 's' clearly. You can do this stage several times, getting them to change partners and reducing the time they have available to complete the summary each time they do it.


Note:
 
 
  •  
As a final follow up, you can get them talking about New Year's customs in their own family.
 
  • ● 
Think about how you could adapt this worksheet based on a book that you are using with your students.
 
Activity 2: Weak forms
 
    Among the hardest things for our students to hear and reproduce are the weak forms of auxiliary verbs, especially in questions. This activity focuses on helping students with this.
 

Listening pronunciation task based on "Person to Person (Level 1)" Unit 2, pp. 10-11 (SB CD track 4)




 

Target group: Introducing new language to very low levels, or recycling language for higher levels.
 

 
Pronunciation focus: Connected speech and intonation.
 
Teaching procedures:
 
 
●Task 1:
Don't give any warmer or let them know what the sounds mean. Just try to get the students to focus on the sound units themselves, without meaning. Change the order of the sounds as you read them, but remember what order you used! Make sure you use very fast connected speech.
 
●Task 2:
Do some choral drilling along the guidelines suggested in the article above. Then let the students do some individual drilling..
 
●Task 3:
Don't let them read the conversation in the book yet.
 
●Task 4:
Matching. This is the stage at which you add meaning to the sound units. Take care here that the students don't lapse back into disconnected speech once they know what the sound units mean.
 
●Task 5:
Once they have completed their questions, write a few Y/N questions on the board, and a few WH questions on the board.
 
●Task  6:


●Task  7:
 
As they listen, point out the rising intonation for Y/N questions, and the falling intonation for WH questions.

Make sure that they are using connected speech and correct intonation as they practice asking each other questions.


Note:
 
 
This activity is useful for introducing new language to very low levels, or recycling language for higher levels.
 
For a follow up, you could find a recorded interview where the language is a much higher level, and get the students to listen to the interview, focusing on the questions the interviewer asks the guest.
 
Think about how you could adapt this worksheet based on a book that you are using with your students.
 
Activity 3: Topic Vocabulary
 
    With the new integrated skills iBT TOEFL test making its impact felt in Taiwan, listening to topic vocabulary and then reproducing it in speech or writing has become an important skill that students will need to develop. The insight gained from our listening/pronunciation hypothesis might be one way of helping to train students to hear key topic vocabulary. This following task helps higher level students hear topic vocabulary by focusing on pronunciation. At the same time it teaches topic vocabulary. the basic procedure can be adapted for use with any level. In our classification, this book is suitable for (1) high school/ university students; (2) private language school – high level students; (3) self-study learners.
 

Listening pronunciation task based on "NorthStar: Building Skills for the TOEFL iBT Intermediate" Unit 9, pp. 154-156 (SB CD track 24)

 

 
Target group: Introducing new topic vocabulary to intermediate or high level students, and then using this vocabulary to have a discussion or debate.
 

 
Pronunciation focus: Connected speech of word partnerships.
 
Teaching procedures:
 
 
●Task 1:
Read the passage as warmer.
 
●Task 2:
Matching.
 
●Task 3:
Drill. Model the word partnerships very carefully here, using the features of connected speech such as elision, intrusion, catenation and so on. Don’t describe what you’re doing, just get the students to copy you as exactly as they can. Give them some time to work on the pronunciation on their own. You can build in a test here. One student gives their partner one word from the partnership, and the other student has to repeat the whole partnership from memory.
 
●Task 4:
Listening. This activity focuses the students on the key vocabulary.
 
●Task 5:
In the TOEFL test, students can take notes. If your students are not test takers, skip this task and go on to the next ones.
 
●Task 6
   and 7:
You can get the students to change partners every few minutes and repeat their summary again. Every few times, stop the summary and get them to work on the pronunciation of the vocabulary again.


Note:
 
 
Obviously, in the TOEFL test, the students will not have previous exposure to the topic vocabulary, but that’s why task 6 is important for test takers. After they have taken notes on the listening, they have 30 minutes to prepare their response. During this preparation time, they should focus on silently practicing the pronunciation of the word partnerhips.
 
  • ● 
Think about how you could adapt this worksheet based on a book that you are using with your students, whether they are test takers or not.
 
Conclusion
 
    In this article, we have tried to show how listening can be improved by working on pronunciation, and how pronunciation can be improved by working on listening. We hope that some of the ideas will help you assist your students in these two tricky areas of language learning. So, next time your students ask you how to improve their listening, tell them to work on their pronunciation. If they ask you to how to improve their pronunciation, tell them to work on their listening!

 

Suggested further reading

  • 1.
Headway Pronunciation Series (Oxford University Press)
The best pronunciation course that we know of. It goes hand in hand with the Headway series, but can be very useful on its own for dealing with all areas of connected speech, intonation and tricky phonemes. Lots of listening development tasks too. Fun activities and totally comprehen-sive.

  • 2.
Focus on Pronunciation Series (Longman)
This is very good for listening practice, as the listening texts are interest-ing and quite challenging.
 
  • 3.
English Pronunciation Made Simple (Longman)
Another useful pronunciation course with lots of listening practice.
 
  • 4.
Clear Speech from the Start (Cambridge University Press)
Useful for many of the specific problems mentioned above, such as the final 's'. Good for improving students' North American accent.

  • 5.
English Pronunciation in Use: Intermediate (Cambridge University Press)
One of the few books to use the virtuous circle of listening and pronunciation.
 
  • 6.
Pronunciation chart.
While here we are not advocating the use of phonetics for developing reading skills, some sort of phonetic symbols are often useful for focusing students on the sounds of a word or MWI in a visual way without the cognitive interference caused by the spelling of a word (See activity 2 above.). For cases where phonetic symbols are found to be necessary, teachers are strongly encouraged to use IPA symbols with their students. These are mostly the same as KK symbols, but where differences exist, students should learn the IPA symbols as these are used in all good international dictionaries. The British Council has a very good pronunciation chart that you can download, with lots of fun activities based on the chart. The IPA symbols are very easy to teach and can be learnt in about 30 minutes.

Answers to task in Activity 1
 
Task 3
Words mentioned in the text are:


 

Answers to tasks in Activity 2
 


 

Answers to task in Activity 3
 
Task 2


 

Introduction
 
    In the first part of this article we described the relationship between listening and pronunciation, showing how, by working on one skill, you can help improve the other skill. In this second part of the article, we would like to introduce some pedagogical activities we created using this insight based on published coursebooks. We have tried these activities on our students and found them useful in helping our students to improve their listening and pronunciation. These activities work on the principle of improving one skill by working on its opposite skill on the other side of the circle, and they can be done with any level. However, with higher levels, who might feel a bit self-conscious about some of these activities, it's worth explaining to them the thinking behind the activities to get them on board with your aims.
 
Activity 1: Final phonemes
 
    A great area of difficulty for Chinese speakers of English, both in reception and production, is the final phoneme 's'. Because this final phoneme shows whether the noun is plural or singular, and whether the verb is third person or first and second person in the present simple, it is very important. However, in tests such as TOEFL, GEPT and IELTS students frequently lose important marks because they cannot hear or clearly pronounce the final 's'. The following activity is designed to help you assist your students increase their productive and receptive awareness of this final phoneme.
 

Listening pronunciation task based on "People, Places and Things (Level 2)" Unit 8, p. 77 (SB CD track 25)
 

 

 
Target group: Introducing new vocabulary items to mid levels, or recycling language for higher levels.
 

 
Pronunciation focus: Problem phonemes.
 
Teaching procedures:
 
 
●Task 1:
This sorting task helps students become aware of the word pairs. Help them out with the meanings of words. Tell the students that words like 'underwears' and 'clothe' are not real words, but otherwise ignore them. Elicit their groupings. If no one comes up with the singular/plural pairs as a way of grouping them, present these two categories and have the students do the sorting into the categories again.
 
●Task 2:
Drill the words, focusing on the final phoneme clearly.
 
●Task 3:
Listening. Don't let them read the text as they listen. Get them to focus on listening only at this stage.
 
●Task 4:
Make sure they tick the words they are going to speak before they speak them, otherwise they won't remember which ones they spoke. Students can compare their answers quite quickly and easily by comparing their ticks. If there are some differences between the speakers' ticks, and the listeners' ticks, get them to do the problem words again. Ask them to distinguish whether the problem is the speaker's or the listener's.
 
●Task 5:
Reading aloud is very useful sometimes, as it puts the words they have been focusing on into a context.
 
●Task 6:
Oral summary. Only do this with high levels. When they are giving an oral summary, make sure they focus on pronouncing the 's' clearly. You can do this stage several times, getting them to change partners and reducing the time they have available to complete the summary each time they do it.


Note:
 
 
  •  
As a final follow up, you can get them talking about New Year's customs in their own family.
 
  • ● 
Think about how you could adapt this worksheet based on a book that you are using with your students.
 
Activity 2: Weak forms
 
    Among the hardest things for our students to hear and reproduce are the weak forms of auxiliary verbs, especially in questions. This activity focuses on helping students with this.
 

Listening pronunciation task based on "Person to Person (Level 1)" Unit 2, pp. 10-11 (SB CD track 4)




 

Target group: Introducing new language to very low levels, or recycling language for higher levels.
 

 
Pronunciation focus: Connected speech and intonation.
 
Teaching procedures:
 
 
●Task 1:
Don't give any warmer or let them know what the sounds mean. Just try to get the students to focus on the sound units themselves, without meaning. Change the order of the sounds as you read them, but remember what order you used! Make sure you use very fast connected speech.
 
●Task 2:
Do some choral drilling along the guidelines suggested in the article above. Then let the students do some individual drilling..
 
●Task 3:
Don't let them read the conversation in the book yet.
 
●Task 4:
Matching. This is the stage at which you add meaning to the sound units. Take care here that the students don't lapse back into disconnected speech once they know what the sound units mean.
 
●Task 5:
Once they have completed their questions, write a few Y/N questions on the board, and a few WH questions on the board.
 
●Task  6:


●Task  7:
 
As they listen, point out the rising intonation for Y/N questions, and the falling intonation for WH questions.

Make sure that they are using connected speech and correct intonation as they practice asking each other questions.


Note:
 
 
This activity is useful for introducing new language to very low levels, or recycling language for higher levels.
 
For a follow up, you could find a recorded interview where the language is a much higher level, and get the students to listen to the interview, focusing on the questions the interviewer asks the guest.
 
Think about how you could adapt this worksheet based on a book that you are using with your students.
 
Activity 3: Topic Vocabulary
 
    With the new integrated skills iBT TOEFL test making its impact felt in Taiwan, listening to topic vocabulary and then reproducing it in speech or writing has become an important skill that students will need to develop. The insight gained from our listening/pronunciation hypothesis might be one way of helping to train students to hear key topic vocabulary. This following task helps higher level students hear topic vocabulary by focusing on pronunciation. At the same time it teaches topic vocabulary. the basic procedure can be adapted for use with any level. In our classification, this book is suitable for (1) high school/ university students; (2) private language school – high level students; (3) self-study learners.
 

Listening pronunciation task based on "NorthStar: Building Skills for the TOEFL iBT Intermediate" Unit 9, pp. 154-156 (SB CD track 24)

 

 
Target group: Introducing new topic vocabulary to intermediate or high level students, and then using this vocabulary to have a discussion or debate.
 

 
Pronunciation focus: Connected speech of word partnerships.
 
Teaching procedures:
 
 
●Task 1:
Read the passage as warmer.
 
●Task 2:
Matching.
 
●Task 3:
Drill. Model the word partnerships very carefully here, using the features of connected speech such as elision, intrusion, catenation and so on. Don’t describe what you’re doing, just get the students to copy you as exactly as they can. Give them some time to work on the pronunciation on their own. You can build in a test here. One student gives their partner one word from the partnership, and the other student has to repeat the whole partnership from memory.
 
●Task 4:
Listening. This activity focuses the students on the key vocabulary.
 
●Task 5:
In the TOEFL test, students can take notes. If your students are not test takers, skip this task and go on to the next ones.
 
●Task 6
   and 7:
You can get the students to change partners every few minutes and repeat their summary again. Every few times, stop the summary and get them to work on the pronunciation of the vocabulary again.


Note:
 
 
Obviously, in the TOEFL test, the students will not have previous exposure to the topic vocabulary, but that’s why task 6 is important for test takers. After they have taken notes on the listening, they have 30 minutes to prepare their response. During this preparation time, they should focus on silently practicing the pronunciation of the word partnerhips.
 
  • ● 
Think about how you could adapt this worksheet based on a book that you are using with your students, whether they are test takers or not.
 
Conclusion
 
    In this article, we have tried to show how listening can be improved by working on pronunciation, and how pronunciation can be improved by working on listening. We hope that some of the ideas will help you assist your students in these two tricky areas of language learning. So, next time your students ask you how to improve their listening, tell them to work on their pronunciation. If they ask you to how to improve their pronunciation, tell them to work on their listening!

 

Suggested further reading

  • 1.
Headway Pronunciation Series (Oxford University Press)
The best pronunciation course that we know of. It goes hand in hand with the Headway series, but can be very useful on its own for dealing with all areas of connected speech, intonation and tricky phonemes. Lots of listening development tasks too. Fun activities and totally comprehen-sive.

  • 2.
Focus on Pronunciation Series (Longman)
This is very good for listening practice, as the listening texts are interest-ing and quite challenging.
 
  • 3.
English Pronunciation Made Simple (Longman)
Another useful pronunciation course with lots of listening practice.
 
  • 4.
Clear Speech from the Start (Cambridge University Press)
Useful for many of the specific problems mentioned above, such as the final 's'. Good for improving students' North American accent.

  • 5.
English Pronunciation in Use: Intermediate (Cambridge University Press)
One of the few books to use the virtuous circle of listening and pronunciation.
 
  • 6.
Pronunciation chart.
While here we are not advocating the use of phonetics for developing reading skills, some sort of phonetic symbols are often useful for focusing students on the sounds of a word or MWI in a visual way without the cognitive interference caused by the spelling of a word (See activity 2 above.). For cases where phonetic symbols are found to be necessary, teachers are strongly encouraged to use IPA symbols with their students. These are mostly the same as KK symbols, but where differences exist, students should learn the IPA symbols as these are used in all good international dictionaries. The British Council has a very good pronunciation chart that you can download, with lots of fun activities based on the chart. The IPA symbols are very easy to teach and can be learnt in about 30 minutes.

Answers to task in Activity 1
 
Task 3
Words mentioned in the text are:


 

Answers to tasks in Activity 2
 


 

Answers to task in Activity 3
 
Task 2


 

作者簡介

Quentin Brand & Joe Lavallee
  • Quentin Brand is a teacher, author and consultantof some 15 yearsexperience, with 6 years experience teaching business English in Taiwan.His current interests include the teaching of writing using a lexical approach and corpus linguistics. His e-mail: quentin.brand@msa.hinet.net

  • Joseph Lavallee has been teaching English in China and Taiwan for more than 7 years and is currently afaculty member at Ming Chuan University here in Taipei. His interests include reading in the EFL classroom, corpus linguistics and the lexical approach. His e-mail: lavallee@mcu.edu.tw