Mark’s Blog - What's Happening Now
My friend, Steve, at Single Step English has generously wrote this informative post for us here at MarkKulek.com. I want to thank Steve for his insight and for his time. I know that you will benefit from these 5 ways to improve your pronunciation.
Many English language learners are eager to find ways to improve their pronunciation.
Below is a brief list of methods and materials I have used to successfully help university students in Japan.
- Practice Minimal Pairs. As second language learners, there are many sounds and words that cause us trouble. The sooner we can identify those sounds, the better. After you determine which sounds or words are difficult, make a plan to turn those weaknesses into strengths. Minimal pairs are a wonderful way to help overcome pronunciation weaknesses. You can check out these two videos to practice minimal pairs.
L v R Sound https://youtu.be/kXqWFaDZm10
B v. V Sound https://youtu.be/-ScJ-EnrvrE
- Sing Songs. Using music to learn English not only helps increase vocabulary, it can especially improve pronunciation. Songs make us better listeners, create more awareness of intonation, and force learners to increase speaking speed to keep up with the song lyrics. Find a music artist you like and learn the words to their songs. Make this an enjoyable aspect of your pronunciation practice.
- Watch Movies on DVD. Very similar to music, watching movies can help increase vocabulary and improve pronunciation. When using movies, choose one of the characters in a 3-5 minute scene. Then, while using the movie subtitles try to shadow the lines being spoken by that character. In other words, you play the role of the person in that movie scene. This will greatly improve both your speaking speed and accent.
- Compare Your Accent. Use the voice memo function on a smart phone to make a short recording of approximately one minute. Then, ask a native speaker to record the same spoken dialogue. After that, listen to your voice file compared to the native speaker. Notice the differences by writing down the words or expressions which you want to improve upon. Make your recording again and try to sound more like the native speaker.
- Use Tongue Twisters. This is a fun way to help you overcome making difficult sounds. Tongue Twisters are a sequence of words or sounds that are difficult to pronounce quickly and correctly. For example, Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper. You can do a search on YouTube for tongue twisters and practice using this technique. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Tongue Twisters are difficult for everyone! Most importantly, smile and learn.
I hope these techniques will make your English language learning experience more fun and fulfilling.
If you have any questions, feel free to write comments on my YouTube channel:
Single Step English https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ6726dvjNEX1hVUO7t9b1Q
Colors: brown, white, orange, green, red, purple, yellow.
Food: a hamburger, rice, a carrot, broccoli, an apple, grapes, corn, a sandwich.
Language patterns: What color is it? It’s … | What is it? It’s … . | What are they? They are … . | What color is …? It’s … What color are … ? They are … .
Activity Goals: engage our students by having them tell the teacher what colors belong to which foods. Make this is a student-centered activity.
Procedure: first ask students to name the color cards by placing a card on the floor, one at a time. Then proceed with the food cards in the same way as you did for the color cards. Now that you have reviewed all the cards, challenge the student’s recall of these vocabulary items.
All cards should be out of sight for the students.
Ask your students what color a hamburger is, without letting them see the hamburger card (I hold the card against my chest so that they cannot see the card). The students will learn colors and the food that is being discussed.
In Conclusion: This is a simple activity that can be challenging and is fun for both the students and for the teacher. It also creates a nice safe environment where everyone is on the floor close to each other. I hope that you will give it a go and please tell me how it went for you.
Teaching teenagers can be the best and can be the worst.
I have a few groups of teenagers that I teach at my English conversation school in Japan. They show up for class at 7:00pm for an hour. They are almost always tired and not motivated to study.
Here in Japan, junior high school students are extremely busy. They are at school all day and attend their school 7 days a week because of school activity clubs.
My challenge is to get them to participate and have fun speaking English. I use the whiteboard a lot to demonstrate to them patterns and vocabulary. I also require them to write on the board. This gets them up and out of their seat.
We watch YouTube and do worksheets that I have made for the videos. In the worksheets, there are always pair work activities and discussion topics. It’s important that they feel a sense of community and accomplishment that they can speak English together. Pair work activities and discussion foster this feeling. They also enjoy YouTube because it gives them another way to learn.
For all of us who teach teenagers, good luck!
For enjoyment: my students enjoy watching videos in class. Videos help illustrate a topic being discussed in class. As a teacher, YouTube has given me another tool to use in the classroom.
Watch the video before showing it to the class: make sure to screen videos before class. Perhaps, you have heard the stories of unexpected things that pop up in the middle of a video.
Be short and sweet: videos can be difficult for many learners. There’s a lot happening in a video and the students may not be able to understand. This will cause them to tune out. Don’t choose a video that is too long for your students.
Make a worksheet for the video: having a worksheet on hand will help bridge any confusion and lack of understanding. It will also present the video in a more professional manner and give your students a purpose for watching the video.
In conclusion: take the time to research videos that will work in your classroom. Give it a try and ask your students if they would like to see more videos in the future.