How often do students have the misconception that good pronunciation is a matter of mastering individual sounds? In my experience, this is a common occurrence. Sometimes what really makes speech sound foreign is not a lack of articulate sounds but rather irregular rhythm or unnatural intonation.
I’ve recently been faced with the challenge of helping an advanced ELL achieve more fluid speech. By giving too much conscious attention to the articulation of individual sounds, the learner tends to lose proper phrasing. Pauses no longer fall in natural places and the lack of linked words and thought groups leads to choppy speech.
It’s been helpful to do a variation of the backwards build-up strategy. (See below.) The basic idea is to break a long sentence down and then build it up in increasingly longer phrases. Using a listen-repeat format, we build thought groups. First, we work backwards to the midpoint of the sentence. Then we work forwards from the beginning of the sentence. The five full sentences eventually create one large statement. A slower rate of speech allows the learner to articulate more comfortably problematic sounds and still give attention to pausing and linking.
Listen and repeat.
- In number.
- Are growing.
- Are growing in number.
- Virtual offices.
- Virtual offices / are growing in number.
- In cyberspace.
- Conducted in cyberspace.
- Is conducted in cyberspace.
- A lot of business.
- A lot of business / is conducted in cyberspace.
- The independent businessman.
- This is not.
- Just the trend.
- This is not just the trend.
- This is not just the trend / of the independent businessman.
- Around the globe.
- Employees around the globe.
- Have employees around the globe.
- Some companies.
- Some companies and organizations.
- Some companies and organizations / have employees around the globe.
- A scattered workforce.
- Unites a scattered workforce.
- The Internet.
- The Internet / unites a scattered workforce.
Read the whole text:
Virtual offices / are growing in number.// A lot of business / is conducted in cyberspace.// This is not just the trend / of the independent businessman.// Some companies and organizations / have employees around the globe.// The Internet / unites a scattered workforce.
I should note that the content of this exercise is based on the preceding activity so as to make it more meaningful and create a higher degree of continuity within a lesson. In this particular lesson, we made use of a short video about the emergence of virtual offices. The learner watched the video before our lesson. At the start of our lesson, we moved right into a vocabulary review, a comprehension check, and some free discussion on the topic. We then completed the above pronunciation exercise.