How to improve my pronunciation

 

How can I improve my pronunciation?
pronounce

How many times have we heard this question! Native speakers of French for instance seem to suffer from a complex so deep-rooted that no amount of pep talk can change that!

So, here are a few things to think about when you are convinced that your pronunciation sucks.

There is no ONE English. Contemporary literature calls for the rampant use of the term “Englishes” instead of “English”.

English is spoken in different parts of the world and each part of the world brings its own uniqueness into the language. How can you then decide which English is real English? Is American-English real English or British-English, is Australian-English correct or the English spoken in New Zealand? And did you know that the way English is spoken in one state of the US can differ from how it is spoken in another? The same holds true for the UK. An Irishman will speak English in his own way. Does it mean his English isn’t “real”?

How about English spoken in the various ex-colonised countries? India, Philippines, Nigeria to name a few. And what’s more, tons of words adopted by English language speakers originally come from the ex-colonies. ‘Bungalow’, ‘jungle’, ‘bangle’, ‘thug’, ‘pyjamas’ for instance find their origin from Indian languages.

This is not to say that you can speak English anyway you wish, or that “zank you” will make perfect sense to an English speaker. My point is that you should not stop yourself from speaking English because you feel that your pronunciation isn’t correct! After all /təˈmɑːtəʊ/ or /təˈmeɪtoʊ/ will still refer to a tomato, right? It is the communication that matters.

Having said that, here are a few ways you can work to sounding a little more like a native speaker:

  1. Understand how phonemes work. ‘Thin’ and ‘Thing’ won’t be pronounced in the same way for instance and thus understanding the difference between /n/ and /ŋ/ will help you sound better. What’s more, once you’ve figured out the various phonemic symbols, you will be able to ‘read’ the pronunciation when you see them in a dictionary. Here’s a link you can use to get to know your phonemes.
  2. Create your own pronunciation dictionary. You may not know how phonemes work or you may be in class and don’t remember them by heart, but when your teacher pronounces a word, and you realise that you have been mispronouncing it all the while, take note of it. Write the pronunciation down by creating your very own pronunciation style. This will obviously be personal but at least you will understand it.
  3. Listen and repeat. The classic ‘listen and repeat’ method carried forth from the early days of the audio-visual era may not necessarily be a bad method. It is very effective especially in correcting somewhat-fossilised pronunciations. To take this one step further, try listening to long sentences (using one of the websites here for instance) and aping the pronunciation. You could also sing songs (take a look here). Mime them, ape the singer and have fun in the process.
  4. Use an online dictionary. There are tons on online dictionaries that pronounce words for you orally. Don’t take the pronunciation of a word for granted. Instead, look up a dictionary to make sure you are pronouncing the word correctly. Try Forvo for instance. You type in a word and get the word pronounced by various native speakers of the language. You will thus be able to identify between various accents from different parts of the world.
  5. Passive listening. Watch films in English, listen to the radio, watch TV programs in English without feeling the need to understand everything. Just allow the voices, the accents, the sound of the language to get absorbed by your brain. Whenever and wherever you need to speak in a certain way, the right pronunciation will come to you. That’s a promise!

Advertisements

Easy, free clipart

Whether it is to animate powerpoint presentations or to add colour to worksheets, aren’t you always on the lookout for images that will add that zest to your work?

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 9.22.25 am Open clipart allows you to download royalty-free clipart images that you can use for anything. And… they don’t pay me to write about them! I’ve used some of the images and I do think they’re really good. You may not always find the exact image you have in mind but you would most definitely find something that would work out just fine.

If you’re more interested in finding out about open culture, click on the link here.

Growing organic food

PUBLICadolescents, young adults, adults

LEVEL: intermediate, upper-intermediate, advanced

OBJECTIVES: comprehension, speaking, writing

hear  LISTENING

Introduce the students (SS) to the song ‘pure imagination’ without the video. If you wish, you could first get them to listen to the music that precedes the song (the first 25 seconds) and elicit answers on what they think the tone of the song suggests.

Next, SS listen to the entire song (as many times as required) and fill in the blanks (lyrics of the song in document below).

Answers to the song: world; imagination; begin; creation; paradise; change; nothing; know; wish

 

speak_2DISCUSSION

Once all the answers have been correctly identified, get SS to read the song and use the following guiding questions to encourage discussion and elicit vocabulary:

  • What is the song is about? imagination/ a world of imagination
  • What does imagination do?  it changes the world
  • How can/ has human imagination changed the world? Can you give examples? human imagination has made a lot of things possible, from fire to computers, different means of transport etc…
  • These are ways that human imagination has changed the world positively. What about the negative changes that imagination has created? wars, nuclear weapons, atom bombs…

 

watch  VIEWING

You should pause the video at various intervals to check comprehension and elicit vocabulary. You could simply ask SS to describe everything they have seen in between the pauses. The risk factor however is that you may be faced with some very speechless SS or a few talkative ones who eclipse the rest of the class.

The following plan suggests the time intervals and the questions you could use to guide their thought processes.

[Pause after 2 min 05 seconds]

Guiding questions with expected answers

  • Who is the hero of the film?  a scarecrow
  • What does a scarecrow normally do? it is generally used by farmers to scare away birds that ruin crops
  • Where does the scarecrow work? in a food factory
  • What is his job at the factory? he’s a repairman
  • Which incidents does he witness at the factory?  cow being pumped for milk and chicken injected to make it plumper
  • How do these incidents make him feel? sad/ upset/ depressed…
  • What do you think he will do next?

[Pause after 3 min 05 seconds]

Guiding questions with expected answers:

  • Where does the scarecrow reach? home
  • What is his state of mind at the time? sad/ upset/ depressed…
  • What does he see? a red chilli
  • What does he do? he starts cultivating his own food, and makes open sandwiches from fresh produce
  • Does he have many clients?  no, just one at first
  • Do you think his clientele will grow? yes
  • Why?
  • What is the message of the film? “cultivate a better world”
speak_2  DISCUSSION

These questions are meant to guide the discussion. You could use either use them or adapt them to suit your needs.

  • How can we cultivate a better world? What is sustainable food? Why is it important?
  • What do you think is the relationship between the song and the video? Why do you think the makers of the video chose this particular song?
  • Why do you think this video was made?

Explain at this point that the document is actually just an advertisement for Chipotle Mexican Grill. It was made to raise awareness of the importance of cultivating sustainable food but is also effective advertising for its own chain of fast food restaurants.

 

group_project  GROUP PROJECT

You could get SS to create posters (in groups) that raise public awareness about this particular issue or about sustainable development in general.

 

lyrics  LYRICS “PURE IMAGINATION”

Come with me

And you’ll be

In a world of

Pure imagination

Take a look

And you’ll see

Into your imagination

 

We’ll begin with a spin

Traveling in a world of my creation

What we’ll see will defy explanation

 

If you want to view paradise

Simply look around and view it

Anything you want to, do it

Want to change the world?

There’s nothing to it

 

There is no life I know

To compare with pure imagination

Living there, you’ll be free

If you truly wish to be

 

If you want to view paradise

Simply look around and view it

Anything you want to, do it

Want to change the world?

There’s nothing to it

Food

Public: adolescents, young adults

Level: elementary, intermediate

Objectives: watching a video, speaking and writing

 

BEFORE VIEWING

Ask students [SS] what types of food they like to eat and why.

Inform them that they are about to watch a short film and that they must pay attention to everything that they watch. They should be able to identify the hero of the film and everything he does.

watch  VIEWING

You should pause the video at various intervals to check comprehension and elicit vocabulary. You could simply ask SS to describe everything they have seen in between the pauses. The risk factor however is that you may be faced with some very speechless SS or a few talkative ones who eclipse the rest of the class.

 The following plan suggests the time intervals and the questions you could use to guide their thought processes.

[Pause after 1min] 

Guiding questions with examples of expected answers:

  • What is the title of the film? ‘Feast’
  • What does it mean?
  • Who is the hero? a little puppy
  • What is his name? Winston
  • Where does he initially live? in the street
  • What is his condition? he is hungry/ starving/ deprived/ sad/ ravenous/ sad…
  • Does he finally find food to eat? yes, someone gives him food/ someone adopts him
  • Where does he finally live? in a house
  • What does he eat there? dog food

[Pause after 1 minute 46 seconds]

Guiding question:

  • What food do you see Winston eating? spaghetti with meatballs, fried eggs and bacon …

[Pause after 2 minutes 59 seconds]

Guiding questions:

  • What happens next?
  • What food does Winston get to eat now? vegetables (Brussels sprouts, parsley…)
  • How does Winston feel?

[Pause after 4 minutes]

Guiding questions:

  • What happens next?
  • What food does Winston eat now? Why? Is he now happy?
  • Is his master happy?
  • What do you think he will do next?

[Pause after 5 minutes 38 seconds]

Guiding questions:

  • What happens next?
  • What food does Winston get to eat now?
  • Is he happy? happy vs. contented
  • What do you think will happen next?

[Pause after 6 minutes 30 seconds]

Guiding questions:

  • What does Winston see?
  • Who is this new person?
  • How does Winston feel now?
 speak_2   DISCUSSION

These questions are meant to guide the discussion. You could use either use them or adapt them to suit your needs.

[Intermediate/ Upper-Intermediate] What if Winston were a human being instead of a dog? How would he react to the various ‘new’ situations in his life?

[Intermediate] How different are eating habits in different countries? What food is considered healthy? Why?

[Upper-Intermediate] Do you think that the type of food we eat or that we crave for has anything to do with our state of mind?

write   WRITING

[Pre-intermediate] Imagine that you are Winston. Describe your normal day.

[Intermediate] Imagine that you are Winston’s master. Retell Winston’s story in your own words.

[Intermediate] Imagine that you are Winston. Tell your own story in your own words. You could modify the end of the story if you wish.

 

Lesson plans [Teachers]

The lesson plans you will find in this section belong to me. I’ve created them, modified them time and again and re-used them with different batches of students. More often than not, I have had similar results: an increased level of student motivation and the willingness to engage themselves in class.

You may or may not have similar results. A lesson plan that might work with one teacher might not with another. After all, every teacher is unique in her/his own way.

Do feel free to go through the lesson plans in this section, to download them for offline use, to adapt them to suit your individual needs. And if something works or doesn’t work for you, do leave me a line to let me know. I would appreciate it very much.

Cheers!

 

Useful websites

 

Useful for students and useful for teachers.

Here are lists of websites that you can use to brush up your language skills. Whether it is listening, speaking, reading or writing, you can be sure of finding something that will appeal to you.