Pronunciation: Is or Is not

musgoHey all.

Allow me a rhetorical convention here: I can not overemphasize the importance of pronunciation as a basic part of your ESL teaching. However, let me be clear just what pronunciation is and is not in the ESL classroom. How about some is nots:


  • Pronunciation is not teaching your local accent or dialect
  • It is not spending hours practicing the well-known “minimal pairs” (read: “sheep vs ship“)
  • It is not an attempt to eradicate the accent a student may have due to their native language
  • It is not meant to make students speak with perfect –add your type– English (English, North American, Texan, Canadian, South African etc….)

Here is a list of what I consider to be real pronunciation in ESL:

  • Physical exercise of the vocal apparatus (lips, tongue, teeth, vocal chords, breath, diaphragm, etc) to strengthen and make more agile
  • Understanding of potential “visual interference between English and languages that share our alphabet
  • Comprehension that English is not a phonetic language: it is not written as it is spoken, nor spoken as it is written
  • Facilitation of stringing sounds together into meaningful utterances
  • Basis for recognition of transmitted language (especially from native speakers) through proximity to their manner of pronouncing
  • Recognition that millions of people speak English in millions of manners and that no one pronunciation is the correct one

If you are unable to accept any of the second list above, then I ask you to reconsider reading through these posts. Steer away from using pronunciation in your classes beyond the occasional correction of really poorly pronounced words. You will find it much easier to simply teach grammar rules and test “irregular” verbs. That will be your contribution to the learning process for your students. Hopefully they will, in another class, find a motivated teacher who has done his homework and developed the knowledge and skills necessary to make pronunciation integral to the class, instead of an additional aspect to teach.

I’m not trying to be hard on those of you who don’t have time for pronunciation. I am trying to indicate that, when it is used as a basis, it integrates into all aspects of the class, becomes natural and even, dare I say it?¿?, fun!

Further reading: English pronunciation for the ESL learner



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