Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Using Phonetics in teaching ESL

pho·net·ics (f-ntks)n.
The branch of linguistics that deals with the sounds
of speech and their production, combination, description, and representation by
written symbols.

Today, I did quite a bit of research, since I'm currently on this kick to focus more on phonetics, speech and pronounciation in my classes. I picked up a book on teaching Speech and Phonetics at the local bookstore (KYOPO) downtown, trying to find new ways to get correct pronounciation from my students.

I took this picture with my camera phone today to show you an example of how I'm using phonetics in the classroom.

Now, if only the visual contrast between Fat and Thin weren't such a bad representation of using phonetics! The mouths look great~the letters F (ex. Face), V (ex. Vase), and TH (ex. the word 'this' verses 'think'), go well with the common Korean-native difficulty in pronouncing these letter combinations, respectively. Notice how I used the music notes to represent where the sound is coming from: either in the mouth region, with no voice (the "F" or the soft "Th" as in think), or combined with the mouth and the voicebox (as in the "V" or the more harsh "Th" sound as in this).

This is just one example set of letters that I've assembled, based upon my experiences with the kids and their often incorrect pronounciation or misunderstanding of pronounciation.

You could also use the following letter sets:
(Sound of letter originates from the pallet, first; the more harsh, voice induced sound of letter comes next.)

1. "s" (sea) vs. "z" (zoo)
2. "t" (tea) vs. "d" (do)
3. "l" (lace) vs. "r" (race) (note: both letter sounds originate from voicebox; the tongue placement and mouth (articulation/localization--just fancy words for how the sound is made)

Lesson Idea
Example for use in the classroom: You write up between 3 and 5 easy words (depending on class level) whose first letter begins with the specific letter sets to be distinguished and explained. Like I used in the above picture: face for F and vase for V --very similar words, easy to understand, but depending on how the first letters are pronounced, these may become problem words. So you then ask the kids which word you just pronounced. Explain where the sound came from in the F letter, and likewise, with the V letter. Make sure to emphasize with your hand over your voicebox when you pronounce the V: this gives a visual for the students to follow when you explain the differences between these letters. The kids will totally dig the sound coming out of their voicebox with the V especially if you jiggle your adam's apple/voicebox with your fingers.

Another idea is to write up a known set of words on the whiteboard, emphasizing the correct spelling of the words, and making sure the kids are very familiar with the words. Once that's done, erase the words, and re-write the set of words, each using for example the S and V letters, making sure to spell the word using BOTH letters: as in, "Face" and "Vace." Ask again which letter beginning is correct with what you just pronounced.

This is not only interesting but informative as well. I've noticed a change in my student's pronounciations because I've introduced this manner of introducing phonetics, and I'm sure your students will be more aware of their pronounciation as well!

If you have anything to add, please feel free. I welcome call omments! ~ Chelsea
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