Home Forums iTDi TESOL Certificate Focus on sounds – pronunciation problems in my country Focus on sounds – pronunciation problems in my country

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    • #8323


      Choose a sound (or a pair of sounds) that your learners find difficult. How could you show how to make the sound? How could you use:

      • – demonstration?
      • – gestures?
      • – simple ‘hints’ or explanations?

      Reply below with your ideas and comment on other teachers’ posts.

    • #8410

      Steven Herder

      When the V/B problem arises, I have fun like this:

      Explain that the top teeth lightly touch the bottom lip for the V sound, and that the lips start together to make the B sound (in fact, I tell them that the B shows the lips touching).

      Then we practice volley until it is comfortable, then ball until it is clear.

      Then put them together as volleyball.

      For fun I begin to add words like this:


      A big volleyball
      A very big volleyball
      A very big blue volleyball
      A very big, very blue volleyball.

      There are usually very big smiles…

      • #8508

        This is a really nice one! Great to build up tongue-twisters using very familiar words! I’m borrowing this!

        Many of my teen+ students have also liked having team tongue-twister competitions so they don’t feel on the spot but also participate more than they might have done because they don’t want to let their team down 😉

    • #8498

      Barbara Bujtás

      /ð/ /θ/

      I try to make it funny. I explain that the ‘th’ letter combination usually means that their tongues want to leave their mouths.
      First I model the sound in words (think, this), then the individual sounds. Then I ask them to repeat, first, they are encouraged to exaggerate sticking out their tongues, later they can adjust.

      • #8509

        Great way to introduce the tongue movement! Quite a number of students get shy and embarrassed with ‘th’ if there are no sounds in their language that require the tongue to be visible, so I think your introduction can help here, too.

    • #8746

      Rhett Burton

      I was thinking of the same issues that Steve has between B and V sounds.

      I always explain it by putting my bottom lip behind my top teeth.
      I have done it like that for so long that Steven (top teeth lightly touch the bottom lip) explanation seems impossibility hard to do – even though it is the same.

      As for the b, to compare, I put lips together and blow air out. I almost always use the b for ball. I never push the b sounds because they can start to sound like p sounds. I always use my mouth and teeth to demonstrate because my classes are always small.

      I would like to note that I usually only address these types of situations when they arise. I do have them included in my curriculum. They are on my radar because they are very common.

      • #8754

        B for ball is a good, easy one to choose.  I also explain the difference with /v/ in the same way.

        With /p/ and /b/ is good to also point out that /p/ is unvoiced yet asperated (with that puff of air, as you pointed out), whereas /b/ is voiced and uses our vocal chords. For illustation: https://youtu.be/P7MVH1gEh4o

      • #11628

        scott gray

        I have used a bad drawing where the lips form the letter B in profile and explain it like a bomb going off there is an explosion of air out. V I draw a vampire with v incisors and tell them they have to show their vampire fangs when saying the v and ham it up while they bite their teeth.

    • #10540

      Masatoshi Shoji

      f and v sound
      Use demonstration and ask them to repeat.
      Ask them to have hand mirror to see movement of their mouth

      • #10546

        This is a good starting point.

        How can learners check if the sounds they are producing are correct, especially if you don’t have time to check individually in a large class?

        Besides practising the individual consonant sounds, what else is important to practice? (You can look and comment on some of the other posts if you need ideas.)

      • #11627

        scott gray

        Have you used a tissue to get it moving? For some kids I had them hold a tissue in front of their mouth and say the sounds that had aspirations. If the tissue moved they were doing it well.

    • #11586

      Jessica Sohn

      When it comes to R’s and L’s in my phonogram classes,
      I use gestures(motions) to explain the tongue movement.
      For R, I make a circle with my lips and hand to show the difference with L.
      Then, with Ls I explain with La, La, La. have them repeat and show the difference of the tongue.
      I normally tie it together with vocabulary words: for r-rabbit and for l- a leg.

      • #11588

        Good stuff, Jessica, especially with connecting sounds to familiar vocabulary. It was good to discuss and practice this in the last tutorial, too.

        How do you feel about tongue twisters, e.g. Red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry!

    • #11626

      scott gray

      L and R are not really separate sounds in their L1 so I like to take an outline of the mouth and use my hand to show the position and movement of the tongue while saying the words. I also will draw on the board in the most horrible drawing you can imagine but the kids do get it.

      I use some tongue twisters and try to give hints while they are doing it. Nice part is a tea company here a few years ago used them in some CMs so I was able to use that for a bit.

    • #11634

      One other thing that often breaks the ice is when I attempt a tongue-twister in my students’ L1 and we inevitably laugh a lot together.

      With some students in a private language school doing a 10-week pronunciation focus, some of the English tongue twisters we did included

      “Red lorry, yellow lorry, …”

      “The ragged rascal ran around the rugged rocks!”

      “She sells seashells on the seashore.”

      However, we noted that ‘lorry’ (BrE) is not really so useful in Japan where ‘truck’ (AmE) is prevalent but still good for them to understand, and none of these have much utility in terms of the vocabulary or phrases themselves. As such, they found it useful as well as fun to try making up their own.

      e.g. We like to collect correct English phrases!

    • #12908

      Rhett Burton

      This year I have increase the amount of exposure my students have to short vowel sounds by providing them with additional opportunities to hear the sounds. I am also trying to work on more pair work that gets students practicing/producing sounds together.

      Short a and e are always tricky for my students.

    • #14558

      Naoko Amano

      Vowel sound “u” and “a”. Japanese students tend to enunciate “a” sound as “oo” sound for example in the words they may say BAT or BOOT when they should be reading BUT.

      Students don’t recognize the “u” sound.

    • #14560

      Naoko Amano

      When I teach vowels, I show the alphabet – lower case, and show the shape of the mouth. They will imitate the mouth shape. They will practice “a” and “u”. I use chants like, “Big A little a – a a a , Big U little u – u u u ” and then I introduce some minimal pairs like hat/hut, bat/but, cat/cut. Then I play a game with the children. I put pics on the whiteboard. I say one word and they must touch the opic that matches what I said. After the game, I will shuffle all of the pics, then I show them to the Ss and they will try to pronounce them correctly.

      • #14799

        Great to demonstrate how the different sounds are made and I lead into a game.

        I also do minimal pair work using words and pictures and try to make sure the words are already familiar to reduce the learning load and make sure they don’t end up confusing meaning easily.

        What do you think about the benefits of playing the whiteboard game using short sentences/phrases (e.g. with common collocations) vs individual words?

    • #16382

      Rhett Burton

      I mentioned some sounds that my students have trouble saying accurately. I need to add the /th/ sound to the list as well. Some of my students connect the /th/ with the /d/ and say and write ‘dis’ instead of ‘this’.


      • #16393

        Yes. How could you show how to make the sound? How could you use:

        – demonstration?
        – gestures?
        – simple ‘hints’ or explanations?

        [You might also enjoy looking back up to Barbi’s post on this, too.]

      • #16395

        Rhett Burton

        I have been thinking of starting a lip reading recording so that kids can see my mouth while reading. I’ve been wearing a mask daily since March 2020.

      • #16422

        Interesting! I look forward to hearing more in our next tutorial 🙂

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