When learning to speak a new language, a good accent is not an optional extra. It's essential. It not only allows learners to communicate effectively, it gives them the confidence to develop their skills. If the accent in the foreign language is not at least understandable, performance will be poor and the student discouraged.
But practising pronunciation can be a challenging activity for teenagers who can even see it as a threat to their own identity. So using puppets or drama techniques such as role-play can help them cope, and see it as fun. But what other solutions are there?
- Teach basic pronunciation rules through example and regularly revisit key sounds through starter activities. Use mirrors, for example, to discuss with students which sounds are made through the nose or throat. Focus on how foreign language speakers stress certain words and do not pronounce some letters.
- Provide opportunities for students to practise individually, in pairs or in small groups. Tongue twisters and rhymes are great for starters.
- Turn pronunciation into a game. Play vocabulary games like noughts and crosses with two teams or in pairs and make accurate pronunciation a criteria for scoring points.
- Use poetry, riddles and rhymes to make students more sensitive to pronunciation patterns. A simple exercise where students have to match rhyming words can get them to reflect on pronunciation patterns.
- Music is a wonderful tool, too, to get students to look at language in terms of sounds and rhythms. Get your students to sing difficult words - they will slow down and their pronunciation will improve immediately.
- Use technology. Voki, the speaking avatar site, can provide a good model in the target language through its text-to-speech facility.
- Get students to practise at home by recording a speech using Audacity, the free audio-recording software.
Isabelle Jones is head of modern languages at the Radclyffe School, Oldham. http:isabellejones.blogspot.com
Isabelle Jones recommends these sites to complement lessons in language and pronunciation:
Try Rebusautomatic to create riddles: www.rebus-o-matic.com
Use Voki to create speaking avatars: www.voki.com
For free audio-recording software try Audacity: http:audacity.sourceforge.netdownload
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