Going to university to study languages was a transformative experience for me and was instrumental in making me the professional I am today. I have even written here on RichmondShare (click here) about the possible dilemma many are faced with when trying to decide whether to take a Letras course or a CELTA. One of the highlights of my Letras degree was studying phonology. I had the pleasure of being taught by Aurora Neiva, a very important professional in the field of Phonology. At the time, I had two jobs and,...

Power To The Music              It is funny how people (students) may instantly think of CCR’s ‘Have you ever seen the rain?’ when you start off a conversation with the chunk ‘Have you ever Blahed?’. Have you ever (seen the rain? - lol) stopped and thought how powerful music can be in terms of learning opportunities? I bet you have, though. As I see it, music is what comes through my ears and touches my heart. In that sense here lies a powerful tool through which mankind has evolved with. Not only...

Do you have students that complain they can’t understand the listening tracks until you let them read the transcripts? The solution could be in Richard Cauldwell’s work, which has been brought to my attention by my dearest Higor Cavalcante. The author of Phonology for Listening and of the forthcoming A Syllabus for Listening, Cauldwell did an EVO webinar on Sunday and reminded us that it’s a jungle out there. In a very fitting metaphor, he explained we usually teach pronunciation of isolated words as if words were potted plants in...

Late in February a BrELTer asked what she could do with songs in ELT lessons. My comment there was huge (sorry!) because I simply love using songs in language learning, both as a teacher and as a student. In fact, I have forgotten most of the French I've been taught except for the French in songs (and may I add, "Non, rien de rien, je ne regrette rien"). There's so much we can do with songs other than randomly choosing gaps for students to fill in. Here are a few...

After a year or more, I'm back to blogging.  This time I have decided to study and write a little about a subject that is not really comfortable for me to teach and I guess that for lots of my colleagues, it is not easy as well. Let's then talk about pronunciation  regarding the regular  -ED Endings, a particular area of difficulty for Brazilian students, and for students in general. Some years ago I was conducting a workshop for the state sector teachers in Recife, Brazil  (where I live) when...

“A teacher who loves learning earns the right and the ability to help others learn.” ― Ruth Beechick, An Easy Start in Arithmetic, Grades K-3 In my last post, I talked about writing. The reason why I wrote about it is because I write, and writing is my journey into the core of the English language. The more I write, the more I learn about collocations, spelling, and how words are combined to form sentences. I also learn how words can impact one’s understanding and how they can persuade, motivate, inspire, and...

Teaching pronunciation is often overlooked in our field and the main reason I find is that it can be a bit daunting, not only for teachers to master it (in order to teach it), but also for students to grasp it, especially students who are beginners. However, is it really, daunting? Alternatively, the question would be: does it have to be this way? I oftentimes find myself teaching the correct pronunciation of “basic” or “well-known” words to advanced students (who have been in contact with the language for at least...

In the past few years, I’ve seen a few teachers in Brazil make a point of differentiating accent traits from pronunciation errors. You can listen to Daniel Bonatti explain it here for CanalRh or Vania Below from ManagedEnglish tackle it here. The implication, as I understand, is that diversity in accents should be celebrated, but pronunciation errors should be corrected. While I totally agree with the sentiment (yay, diversity!), I find the practicalities of it a little difficult to wrap my head around. My main question is – and this...

It seems to me that my posts here have, unintentionally, turned into a pronunciation series. I've been keeping my eyes /aɪz/ and ears /ɪərz/ open to things to write about. Last week, I worked with the pronunciation of different suffixes in different places. Because of that, I thought this would be an appropriate topic and I've chosen three that I think are particularly mispronounced. -ful Adjectives that take the suffix -ful are sometimes pronounced by Brazilians the same way the word 'full' is pronounced: /fʊl/. However, the vowel sound here should be...

After receiving some positive feedback on my previous post about pronunciation, I started thinking about other pronunciation areas that I thought were problematic. These are mistakes your students will certainly make, but that you may be making yourself too. The two sounds I have chosen have a couple of similarities to the /s/ and /z/ I mentioned last time. First of all, these are common mistakes made by Brazilian speakers of English. The final /m/ is a bilabial consonant, which means your lips touch to stop the air coming...

For a very long time, I thought my pronunciation was very good. Teachers and colleagues had told me so, and because of that I rarely ever gave it much attention. I was more worried about learning vocabulary or grammar. Naturally, my pronunciation was (and still is) far from perfect, but it took me time to realise that. There is an Aristotle quote that I think rings true for teachers. He said that "the more you know, the more you know you don't know." Little by little I started to...

A teacher who is worried about his or her language development has many avenues to pursue, pronunciation being only one of them. On that matter, though, here is a tip: don’t snub pronunciation dictionaries! I know what you are thinking, “Why on earth would people need pronunciation dictionaries if regular dictionaries (even those online!) have the audio and/or the phonetic transcription?” First, let me say why the audio is not good enough: our ears deceive us sometimes. I had been studying English for 15 years and teaching it for 8...

Recently, I was asked to lead an in-service session on Pronunciation. I was given about an hour and a half to cover sentence stress, intonation, features of connected speech, word stress and phonemes. Not an easy task considering how much is involved in articulating speech. Maybe we under-estimate it? For 'teaching' pronunciation encompasses much more than just modelling and getting the students to repeat. I  started off by telling the participants that I have lost count of the number of times, when observing teachers in action, that I have...

Esta semana, surfando na internet, me deparei com um meme bastante bem humorado que me chamou a atenção, arrancando aquele sorriso típico de quem admite para si mesmo: ‘genial!’ Eis aqui o dito cujo: Não obstante o riso quase que inevitável, por de trás do bom humor (através de um símile que faz alusão ao estereótipo da fala de um caipira texano para dar a dimensão da dificuldade da vida), o meme também nos coloca diante de alguns questionamentos bem relevantes, especialmente para quem ensina línguas em um contexto de EFL/ELF,...

Modeling language is, among a number of other teaching techniques, one of the first things the novice teacher needs to put a lot of effort and energy into in order to have a hand on, to say the least. In most pre-service teacher training courses I have taught several times at different institutions along many years, I have often been able to spot some aspects of the teaching of pronunciation that are frequently underplayed by teachers and need to be addressed, even with more experienced teachers and those...

British or American? Learners all over the globe have for long asked their teachers and peers which English they speak. Nevertheless, much more importantly than having a major focus on one of the main dominant varieties of English, it is crucial to raise learners’ awareness to the importance of being more and more used to being exposed to as many varieties of spoken English as possible in today’s world. ELF – English as a Lingua Franca – is a worldwide phenomenon (exactly – not a variety of English) that...

While technology has become a powerful tool to share information, talking to people face-to-face still remains unrivalled. Enjoying a meal together or connecting with others through a handshake --- or even a few words, creates a synergy that promotes feelings of trust and collaboration;  it helps us build stronger relationships and a feeling of belonging. Conferences are mostly about all this energy flow that creates a unique learning environment by bringing people closer together. Highlight #1: Pronunciation: A cool activity that you can do with your students is ask them...

Olá, pessoal! Depois de uma pausa meio que forçada, estamos de volta para mais um post envolvendo, de certa forma, tecnologia. Desta vez, vou falar de podcasts. Sabem o que é um podcast? É uma espécie de programa de rádio, geralmente editado, e disponibilizado em sites, blogs e assemelhados, sobre os mais variados assuntos, que podem ser ouvidos online ou baixados em formatos como .mp3 para smartphones e outros reprodutores de música. Eu, por exemplo, sou um podcaster, participo junto com meus amigos do ArgCast, sobre quadrinhos, games, cinema,...

I've recently come across Deena Boraie's  2013 post on the TESOL webpage in which she lists the latest trends in EFL. Two of these trends immediately caught my eye: Change in the Goal of Teaching English: Our goals are no longer to transform our students into imitations of native speakers, but into "competent English-knowing bilinguals," since we assume our students are already proficient in their native languages; Changing view of an English teacher: The quality and effectiveness of English language teachers are no longer determined by their being native speakers,...

The following post was inspired by a session I attended at this years’ BrazTESOL conference in João Pessoa. The session was called “Pronunciation for Teachers” and we discussed about some technical aspects of teaching and learning pronunciation and also what a good course syllabus would be like. This session had a huge impact on me and I'm going to tell you all about it. But first let me tell you my story with pronunciation: at 13 I was diagnosed with a severe case of stuttering. It usually happens when...

Here’s one more post with ideas and suggestions for helping our learners become aware of pronunciation areas which are essential for their intelligibility, and overcome their difficulties. This time let’s focus on a very common Brazilian pronunciation problem which fortunately teachers and more recent course books (like Richmond's new English ID series) have been giving more attention to lately than they used to do a few years ago. That’s the mispronunciation of initial R’s as H’s because of the way the letter R is pronounced in that position in...

Cecilia Lemos’s today’s post about the importance of intelligibility when teaching pronunciation made me think it is time I went beyond my two previous posts – where I talked about investigating Brazilian learners’ specific pronunciation needs and tackling their intelligibility problems – and move on to something more specific and practical. What do we know about what makes Brazilians more or less intelligible when communicating in an international context – i.e., using English as a lingua franca? According to a small-scale investigation I conducted (da Silva, 1999) using Jenkins’s common core...

For quite some time now, I have been trying to lower my adult students’ affective filters about their pronunciation difficulties. These affective filters (proposed by Stephen Krashen) “(…) acts to control the amount and quality of input learners receive.” (Thornbury, 2006 p.8). Affective filters can include motivation, self-confidence and anxiety. Anyone who has taught or teaches adults (especially in beginner levels) knows adults usually have higher affective filters than teens do. In my experience, these filters are usually high for adults because they were “conditioned” (by traditional teaching and...

I was wondering what I was going to write about for this month’s post, when a conversation with a friend last Saturday made me think about my previous post, so here is a bit more about pronunciation and intelligibility. I hope you find it useful. My friend was talking about his experience as an EFL student in New York City. As he put it, he has a “degree in beginners’ course first week”, and the course in New York had been no different – he’d quit soon after the...

The teaching of English pronunciation is such a challenge. Maybe because there is so much to accomplish that we often feel overwhelmed, and perhaps even insecure of our own abilities to give learners what they need. Most of us will let the course books tell us what to do and when to do it, as they highlight phonemes and other segmental and suprasegmental features here and there, and provide exercises and phonemic charts. Many of us will use these when they come up, as suggested in the books....

I bet you might be trying to make sense of the phonics above. I wonder how you think this might impair one’s understanding. Of the many factors which contribute to how well a person speaks English, pronunciation seems to be really salient. Consequently, I believe that having a sound knowledge of pronunciation is important for a number of reasons. Such knowledge makes you aware of the sounds/features non-existent in L1 – Brazilian Portuguese (BP). Secondly, by dealing appropriately with pronunciation, one can spot their weaknesses and self correct them. Finally, good pronunciation is instrumental in...