Going the Distance: Intonation in long sentences

  When I began to create my video series on intonation patterns, I knew it would take more than two lessons. I wanted to go well beyond basic rising and falling intonation. I find that students pick up quite well on these two patterns – at least in short sentences. The confusion grows, however, as…

Pronouncing C and G: Tips and Tricks

One of my private students reminded me that the challenges of English pronunciation go beyond knowing how to say sounds. It’s also important to know when a particular sound is used. In other words, how can one look at a word and know how to say it correctly because some of the letters have more than…

English Activities with an Autumn Theme

  1. Autumn in New York as performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong will expose students to a good number of -ing sounds, including gleaming, shimmering, and inviting. (See lyrics.) The use of a hard /g/ in “mingled” is a nice contrast. The song is sung at a slow pace, which makes it even…

7 Poems That Build Proficiency

Every so often I work poetry into my instruction. Since poems are meant to be read aloud, they lend themselves to listening and pronunciation practice. They can help students grow accustomed to reduced sounds in the flow of speech, and they can help students improve linking and rhythm. Although we don’t speak like poets in everyday…

Teaching Intonation: Rising to the Challenge

Like many of you, I’ve begun to give some thought to 2017. I’d like to continue my practice of starting each new year with a special video challenge on YouTube. A 20-day Fast Speech Challenge marked the start of 2016. I kicked off 2015 with a similar 20-day Phrasal Verb Challenge. Presently, I’m toying with the idea of…

TESOL 2016 Highlights: Part 5

TESOL academic sessions sponsored by the Interest Sections can be a test of stamina, since they last one hour and forty-five minutes, but with only three days for the whole convention it’s necessary to make the most of our time. I try to attend a couple of these sessions each year because I value the…

Skillful Skipping: Words with Dropped Syllables

In my 20-day Fast Speech Challenge, I address words that can lose a syllable. On Day 15, I present words like actually and history. Would you like to give your advanced students some exposure to words with disappearing syllables? Take a look at my Skillful Skipping_handout. The focus of my video series on YT is…

Dropping the T in a Game of Twen(t)y Questions

In my 20-day Fast Speech Challenge, I ended up spending the most editing time on Day 17: Dropping the T. In fact, I pulled the original video and reloaded it after adding some clarification and new examples. Can you easily explain why we lose the T in center and Internet in fast speech? I  noted the…

Confusion over ‘U’

During a private lesson I was asked about the different ways we pronounce the letter ‘U.’ There are a number of resources that shed light on the different pronunciations. One I found helpful was Teflpedia.com. It can serve as a reference when you need to offer an explanation, create a lesson plan, or design an…

Precious Practice: Learning to Say Consonant Blends with R

A private student called my attention to a tricky aspect of pronunciation. We were focusing on linking sounds from one word to another to produce connected speech, but then she asked about connecting two sounds within a word, namely the “tr” in truth. Slowing pronunciation down too much had its dangers. Truth could end up…

Either One: Words with More than One Pronunciation

I was asked recently to explain the pronunciation of “comfortable.” It took a moment of reflection to decide which pronunciation to teach. I actually taught both the 3- and the 4-syllable variation. I’ve heard and used both myself, and I was able to find dictionary entries acknowledging both. Why not prepare learners by presenting two common ways…

Wrong Angle: An activity to practice /ŋ/ in different positions

Often a student’s question prompts me to create an activity. I see the need for a certain kind of practice, and I try to offer that practice through a sequence of steps that helps learners not only practice a language point, but also internalize the underlying rules or patterns. A student asked me why “singer”…