Teaching pronunciation and using repetition to help learning.

Teaching pronunciation and using repetition to help learning.


A theory used in most foreign language teaching is called ‘Drilling.’ This is where learners have no or very little choice over what is said so drills are a form of very controlled practice. There is one correct answer and the main focus is on getting it right. I have taken a similar approach when perfecting pronunciation with teaching both individual lessons and groups of children. I agree with the idea of listening and repeating but I don’t agree with a perfect pronunciation, or sounding of a word.

One adult student of mine speaks English every day at her telephony marketing/ sales job. Her colleagues are mostly non-native English speakers and therefore communication in her workplace consists of understanding the concept of English rather than perfect pronunciation. English is now an international language spoken by approximately 375 million people around the world. According to www.5minuteenglish.com/english-around-world.html
There are 50 English speaking countries, where English is either the official or primary language, behind Spanish and Chinese Mandarin it is the third most common primary language. (more info here on wikipedia: click here).

A slight adaptation of drilling I have been using is something similar to how I was taught English at school. I use similar sounding words to highlight the rule and pronunciation of certain letters and words. Eg: high, sigh, light, fight, might.

This can help identify a pattern and the repetition of the sound. In 1885 Hermann Ebbinghaus carried out an experiment to develop a formula for how long things stay in our memory, and results showed repetition was one of the ways we retain information. Repeating a sound helps the students correct their pronunciation and not read the word how it looks in their mother tongue pronunciation. By asking students to pronounce and use words they aren’t comfortable with in sentences they have invented, throughout the lesson (roughly 5 times) enables that word to be stored in their memory. I try to do this in all lessons, to help with both new vocabulary and also correct pronunciation of words.

A common error I have found in non native speakers is the pronunciation of ed endings, in both teaching english and having conversations with non english speakers from all around the world. English is known for its emphasis in using t and d compared to many languages, so teaching the correct way to pronounce ed is always very important because the sound changes which tense is being perceived.
“I washed my face.”
This phrase pronounced correctly, with an emphasis on the ed, tells me that the subject washed their face in the past. If a student pronounces I wash my face without emphasising the d/t sound but they mean in the past it can create all types of confusion. This is just one example highlighting the necessity to pronounce english in a certain way, however I don’t think sound for sound is required due to English being such an international and diverse language.


The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve – And How To Overcome It


‘Memory’ by Hermann Ebbinghaus