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Effective Techniques of Pronunciation Teaching

Minimal Pair

Pronunciation techniques assist students to overcome problems associated with pronunciation. Pronunciation teaching is necessary since English teaching has shifted to language function and communicative competencies. A minimal pair is an important pronunciation teaching technique where two words that have different meanings are paired when only one sound is varied (Celci-Murcia, 1987). The teacher provides students with activities that assist them to differentiate between sounds in minimal pairs. All the activities must be ensured to have a stage of pair work. At this stage, the teacher should encourage his or her students to discuss wrong answers. This enables the identification of whether the problem lies in the hearing of one student or the pronunciation of the other. Once the problem has been identified, the teacher must make correct; and request students to repeat after him or her if necessary (Brown, 1991).

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The Description of how Sounds are made

Sounds can be made by way of either stricter involvement of at least one lip, that is, labial sounds or involvement of a stricture made by raising the front part of the tongue or tongue tip. The initial speech sample that a student gets to know when he commences the study of pronunciation, makes him or she realize that the new language is composed of words or phrases but not sounds that are isolated (Hall, 2003).

As learning continues, the student after listening to segments of comprehension may be able to memorize conversations, internalize sentence sequences, respond to simple queries, repeat film scripts, and others. At all this time, the student learns to control new sound systems within the framework of sentences and phrases.

Using a Mirror

In this technique, students imitate the teacher by looking into the mirror and compare their lips and the teacher’s. The teacher requests learners to carry pocket mirrors to class, so that as he pronounces a difficult sound, learners imitate him by looking into the mirror and compare their lips with the teachers (Grauberg, 1997). This method of pronunciation assists in removing diphthongize vowels at the end of words. The teacher instructs learners to halt their mouth position and not to alter it until they have stopped talking (Dalton, 2003).

Mother Tongue

Mother tongue can be an effective technique for teaching pronunciation. English teachers who understand the student’s mother tongue can assist them communicate better. According to Gilbert (1994) mother tongue can help teachers in guiding learners to understand better precise messages, tones, explanations, and so on (Gilbert, 1994). This is certainly important when English fails to prove its efficient role. Mother tongue technique is especially important for students who are beginners in learning English as their new language. Mother tongue technique facilitates direct contact between the teacher and the student to a certain extent, as learners can be sure that they let the teacher their pronunciation difficulties, by explaining to them in mother tongue (Carter, 2001).

Moreover, mother tongue technique enables teachers to share the general culture with students. Therefore, they are able to adjust the learning materials to be culturally appropriate for students. Also, if teachers teach the English culture as a language to students, they will still be able to understand the specific parts requiring more focus (Smith, 2003). Furthermore, mother tongue or native language enhances the teacher’s ability to understand the student’s learning styles better. For instance, some students may shy a way from asking questions or participating in speaking activities. With mother tongue technique, teachers can think of teaching activities to gradually promote effective pronunciation learning habits, such as group work (Gilbert, 1994).

In sum, mother tongue technique assists teachers to understand better the difficulties faced by students when learning English as a new language. This is because these teachers also faced similar situations at some point. Thus, they have empathy and understanding for students. In learning pronunciation, teachers tend to know the kind of mistakes students they often have. Therefore, they will have solutions for pronunciation teaching. For instance, in teaching writing teachers will detect when students write by thinking in English and when they write while translating in their mother tongue (Carter, 2001).

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Tongue Twisters

Teachers can use tongue twisters as an effective tool to improve students’ pronunciation abilities. By encouraging them in embracing the challenge of tongue twisting, they become self motivated to achieve excellence. Tongue twisters are perfect warm up techniques for both individual and choral groups in practice (Lee, 2005). This technique is an interesting way of making students to practice and differentiate similar words and enjoy at the same time. Nevertheless, tongue twisting can be challenging to both the teacher and student to succeed. At first, teachers should prepare students not to be ashamed at erring, because even native speakers make mistakes (Broughton, 1980).

Tongue twisters have short single sentences with equal short and easy melodic patterns. Each of these patterns is repeated several times while increasing gradually higher to expand vocal range. Tongue twisters help students to improve diction and pronunciation while the melodic exercise improves the ability of the singer to sing tune and improve vocal agility (Brown, 1983). The use of tongue twisters in pronunciation teaching is fast, fun and effective vocal rehearsal that challenges students to improve their pronunciation and technique. Examples of interesting tongue twisters are: Apes Ate All Eight Apple, tongue twister appropriate children; Betty Better Butter Brad’s Bread which ensures that students carefully learn to pronounce letters D and T; and others.


Teachers can use songs effectively as a technique that aids student’s pronunciation. The technique offers the student considerable experience of repetition of sounds. Songs also help students fix words and patterns in their minds. For instance, students should be allowed to practice final consonants by reading aloud song lyrics (Broughton, 1980). In most cases, students mispronounce or leave out altogether final consonants, for instance; instead of pronouncing student, they end up saying student (Graham, 1992).

Songs assist in a greater effort in learning pronunciation. This is especially easier with tunes that are familiar to students. According to Graham (1992), students are allowed to read aloud a song lyric on which the final consonants in each sentence is underlined, and then the teacher listens to the song to find out how the singer makes the final consonants.


Teachers can use poems as pronunciation teaching technique, as they make students understand the role of lexical and sentential stress and how they can be approached on a variety of ways (Celce-Murcia, 1987). Poems posses’ patterns of those syllables that are stressed and unstressed that assists students to get English rhythm (Richards, 2002). Poems were designed to show and reinforce some of the basic spelling rules in English. English spelling presentations are complicated; therefore, teachers use poems as they display examples where pronunciation and spelling are predictable. This enables students to start to internalize these associations. When students internalize poems they achieve desire for the music of the language (Hewings, 2004).


Teachers can use drama techniques in teaching students’ pronunciation. They will require students to practice selected scenes from plays or perhaps to perform entire short act plays. Teachers may also decide to assign roles and have students to perform the passage without actual memorization of the text (Wessel, 1987). Other teachers may find it necessary for students to memorize their lead roles (Almond, 2005). In either case, teachers should ensure adequate class time to allow for students to practice. as they practice, the teacher can circulate and act as a drama coach, supervising students’ pronunciation of unknown words, suggestion intonation contours, directing their volumes, and pace of delivery, and others (Dauer, 1993).

Using Hand Signals and Gestures

In teaching pronunciation, the teacher can employ hand signals and arm gestures to enable students understand patterns of intonations. They will also be able to raise their hands when the intonation rises and vice versa. This technique aids teachers in emphasizing stressed and unstressed syllables. This technique is particularly important when teaching English language where students encounter difficulties accentuating appropriate syllables. Therefore, the teacher may adopt a hand signal to emphasize stressed syllable; this hand signal may involve a teacher demonstrating a forward movement of his or her wrist to learners. For instance, a teacher can practically demonstrate this technique while conducting music; conducting means a teacher moving his arms in tandem with the rhythm, stress and intonation (Gilbert, 1994).

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Visual Aids

Visual techniques are vital tools in pronunciation teaching. For effective teaching of pronunciation, teachers use visual aids to emphasize on stressed syllables, such as; capitalization, underlining, thickening, coloring, thickening and others (Celcia-Murcia, 1987). Dots for syllables which are not stressed and lines under the words can also be used by teachers to show that the stressed syllable needs to be lengthened. Celcia-Murcia (1987) adds that, other teachers place small dots for syllables not stressed and big dots under the word to show that the stressed syllable has a stronger beat. Visual aids enables student understand the position of stress in every word and avoid word stress misuse (Chun, 2002).

Using a Rubber band

Smith (2005) contends that the teacher should allow students to experience how sounds can be produced using a rubber band. This enables students to differentiate the length of vowels and determine the differences between words. For instance, allow learners to use a rubber band in /i/ sound (Celce-Murcia, 1987). Alternatively, while practicing /I/, students should be allowed to pull both sides of the rubber bands slightly apart (Gilbert, 1994). This enables them differentiate the length of the two vowels and internalize the real difference between both sounds. Gilbert (1994) further stresses that, students should also be allowed to practice using rubber bands other vowels as well. Therefore, vowel sounds are pronounced a little bit longer than when followed by a voiceless consonant (Smith, 2005).

Reading Aloud

Reading is an important means of teaching pronunciation which targets suprasegmental features. Reading aloud pronunciation teaching technique offers students exposure and practice with stress placement, linking and other processes of phonology that naturally occur in speech and contribute to the overall rhythm of the language (Smith, 2005). This technique reinforces the relationship between sounds and spelling for students; it also provides them with a way of proofreading orally; and encourages autonomous learning as students engage on their own (Manzo, 1995). Reading aloud technique fosters communicative competence and enhances empathy and self esteem as well as raising expressiveness and fluency. Careful and sensitive use of reading aloud pronunciation teaching technique can have a positive impact in student teaching (Smith, 2005).

Role Plays

Role play pronunciation teaching technique involves the teacher allowing students to dramatize a real life situation in which they assume some roles. The offers students with a vocabulary list in the context of the assigned circumstance to be applied during role dramatization (Wessel, 1987). For instance: if one student is assigned the role of a medical physician, and the other student would be a patient. The list of the vocabulary would be as follows; prescribe medication, feels tired, drink a lot of drinks, sore throat and others (Richard, 2002).


Almond, M. (2005). Teaching English with Drama. London: Modern English Publishing.

Broughton, G. (1980). Teaching English as a Foreign Language. New York: Routledge.

Brown, A. (1991). Teaching English Pronunciation. New York: Routledge.

Brown, G., & Yule, G (1983). Teaching the Spoken Language. Ambridge University Press.

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Carter, R., & Nunan, D. (2001). The Cambridge Guide to Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Celce- Murcia, M. (1987). Teaching Pronunciation as Communication. Washington, D.C: TESOL.

Chun, D. (2002). Discourse Intonation. London: John Benjamin.

Dalton, C., & Seidholfer, B. (2003). Pronunciation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dauer, R. (1993). Accurate English. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Gilbert, J. (1994). Intonation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gilbert, J. (1993). Clear Speech. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Graham, C. (1992). Singing, Chanting, Telling Tales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Grauberg, W. (1997). The Elements of Foreign Language. New York: Multilingual Matters Press.

Hall, C. (2003). Modern Germany Pronunciation. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Hewings, M. (2004). Pronunciation Practice Activities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lee, G. (2005). English students from China. Wales: NUS Press.

Manzo, A., & Manzo, U. (1995). Teaching Children to be Literate. New York: Literary Leaders.

Richards, J., & Renandya, W. (2002). Methodology in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, R. (2003). Teaching English as a Foreign Language. California: California University Press.

Wessels, C. (1987). Drama. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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