{May 9, 2011}   Teaching Intonation

If you are interested in teaching intonation patterns to your students, it is a nice idea to look at this fantastic presentation!

{May 9, 2011}   Teaching English Sounds

Some years ago I came across this presentation in Slideshare, which I shared on my other blog. Today, I was looking for it and I couldn’t avoid sharing it with you.

Hope it’s useful!

{March 25, 2011}   Accent Reduction

After watching this video, I thought it would be nice to look for some material on accent reduction to share with you.

Accent reduction, also known as elocution or accent modification, is a systematic approach used to learn or adopt a new accent. It is the process of learning the sound system (or phonology) of a language or dialect. The methodology involves several steps, which include identifying deviations in the person’s current speech from the desired accent (such as pronunciation, speech patterns, and speech habits), changing the way one uses the mouth, teeth, and tongue to form vowel and consonant sounds, modifying one’s intonation and stress patterns, and changing one’s rhythm. Using this method, individuals such as those mastering a second language may alter their speech to more closely resemble the accent of a certain group of people, and thus enhance the clarity of their communication with those people. (From Wikipedia)

Improving your pronunciation will take a lot of patience and commitment, and with a little help of the resources available you will get great results.

A lesson on word stress

Some tips for accent reduction

Tongue Twisters to practice your English accent!

There are A LOT of materials on accent reduction available on the internet, you just have to look for them, use them, and practice! But remember that accent reduction DOES NOT MEAN accent elimination! Sometimes, it is better to work on reducing areas of our pronunciation that affect comprehensibility, that is, areas of our accents that make it difficult for native speakers to understand us.

{September 19, 2010}   The importance of pronunciation

I’ve been remembering a situation for a while, and I thought some of you would have also participated in a similar one, thus, the purpose of this post.

Once I was told by a partner that she used to teach final -ed pronunciation in a very particular way. She said her students did not need the “specifics” and that a very general rule would be enough.

And I disagreed.

I couldn’t believe her explanation (and the fact that she wanted me to work in that way!) and started looking for material on the topic for my students to work at home.

I came across a free English lesson on the pronunciation of -ed endings; A very nice theoretical explanation and some nice exercises together with simple explanations

More theory over here:
Teaching ESL to Adults

And some exercises right here:



How couldn’t I include it, people? There’s plenty of material out there in youtube!

Many students want to be native-like speakers. I think that is the goal most English learners have.

A focus on pronunciation and intonation is clearly needed with that purpose, but we should bear in mind that one is not a native speaker, and differences will appear sooner or later. (I’ve once heard a student with a really nice British accent using American English vocabulary and slang…)

First of all, every native speaker has an accent of his own, which shows not only where is he from, but also his background information, his educational level and other personal characteristics.

Living in a multilingual world, one may argue that second language speakers should retain their native accent, unless it interferes with correct pronunciation patterns, because one’s identity is highly represented by accent. Being able to convey meaning through clear and correct pronunciation and intonation is what we should really care about.

What I guess can be done, is to improve one’s pronunciation and intonation to what would be the standards of the target language, but without focusing on any particular accent (except, let’s say, that you are going to live in a certain community where you will be using language 24/7)

The best way to improve one’s accent and pronunciation, is, by far, being exposed to the language one wants to acquire. So, depending on the context you are living in, perhaps you can meet some native speakers of the language, you can watch films, or you just can listen to some songs in the target language. Don’t miss any opportunity to use the language. Classes with a focus on pronunciation are not really frequent, but they are really interesting and useful.

Be curious: The internet is full of material on pronunciation of different languages. (Some days ago I added a really long list of English Pronunciation teaching and learning websites).

Up to now, I’ve posed my opinion and thoughts.. but what about some theory?

According to Krashen,

The Monitor hypothesis explains the relationship between acquisition and learning and defines the influence of the latter on the former. The monitoring function is the practical result of the learned grammar. According to Krashen, the acquisition system is the utterance initiator, while the learning system performs the role of the ‘monitor’ or the ‘editor’. The ‘monitor’ acts in a planning, editing and correcting function when three specific conditions are met: that is, the second language learner has sufficient time at his/her disposal, he/she focuses on form or thinks about correctness, and he/she knows the rule.
It appears that the role of conscious learning is somewhat limited in second language performance. According to Krashen, the role of the monitor is – or should be – minor, being used only to correct deviations from ‘normal’ speech and to give speech a more ‘polished’ appearance.
Krashen also suggests that there is individual variation among language learners with regard to ‘monitor’ use. He distinguishes those learners that use the ‘monitor’ all the time (over-users); those learners who have not learned or who prefer not to use their conscious knowledge (under-users); and those learners that use the ‘monitor’ appropriately (optimal users). An evaluation of the person’s psychological profile can help to determine to what group they belong. Usually extroverts are under-users, while introverts and perfectionists are over-users. Lack of self-confidence is frequently related to the over-use of the ‘monitor’.

What does this mean? If we are obsessed with our pronunciation and we insist on getting a native-like pronunciation, frustration is really likely to appear, what may lead to not being able to communicate in the target language neither fluently or correctly.

So, go on practicing and get a nice and clear pronunciation. Check the meanings of the different intonation patterns. But don’t get obsessed with this. I am sure that if you are self-confident and proud of your identity, native speakers will understand you and congratulate you for your accent.

More information on Krashen’s Five Hypothesis

A Critique on krashen’s Monitor Hypothesis

* Taken from here

Krashen, Stephen D. Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition.  Prentice-Hall International, 1987.
Krashen, Stephen D. Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning.  Prentice-Hall International, 1988.

All of us know that speaking a language is not easy when you come to the pronunciation of sounds that are not part of your native language’s sound system.

Students – and teachers too – need to practice each sound in isolation, in different contexts, until they understand its articulation and its use. (I still remember going to Susan’s lab classes to have extra practice with her because I loved her pronounciation!)

I love to work with the Pronunciation Power sofware for personal practice, but when it comes to students, I usually give them some activities in class and some websites to practice at home. In any case, teachers should bear in mind that it’s really difficult to acquire every single sound correctly, so don’t make your students hate the English language. Teach them wisely and they’ll acquire a pronounciation of English that will be accepted as very good.

Here are some interesting sites:

HowJSay is an excellent site to clear out doubts on the spot;

Phonemic Chart (presented here in earlier posts) is excellent to introduce the different sounds in isolation:

Research and practice websites on pronunciation

Online Phonetic Resources


Practicing Pronunciation with Sandpaper Letters is ideal to help children acquire the right pronunciation:



Ship or Sheep (yes, like the book!) provides practice through minimal pairs:

English Media Lab provides lots of exercises for pronunciation and intonation practice:

Dictations online is a great help for the student teacher if he/she is asked to write phonemic transcriptions in his phonetics and phonology exams (I can’t forget my mates’ faces when in Laura’s first classes):

The Tongue Twister Data Base is really nice to practice particular sounds:

Vowels in American Englishl

Vowels in British English

Vowels Linguistics Courses Resource

Phonetic Symbols and their Corresponding Pronunciation

Demonstration of How Phonetic Symbols are Pronounced (Audio)

More Exercises on Vowels

Guide to English Phonetic Symbols

Transcription Exercises


Using Transcription Symbols from Written Input

Articulation Exercise

Manner of Articulation Exercise

American Phonetic Notation

Phonetic Transcription Exercise (without audio)

Problems with some Symbols

Garatu Links offers a link collection with lots and lots of material to practice

Phonetics: The Sounds of English and Spanish presents flash animations with the sounds of both languages.

Phonetic Flash

Phonetics  – The sounds of American English

American Vowels

American Vowel Chart

BBC English Vowels

The ASCII Phonetic Alphabet

Introduction of Phonetic Transcription

Demonstration of Phonetic Transcription

Oxford Guide to English Phonetic Symbols

Place of Articulation – Excercises


Australian English Phonetics

Translating Symbols

Varieties of American English

Reading and Producing Phonemic Transcription

Web Resources – Phonetics

Resources for Teaching Pronunciation

More Speaking Resources

Ted Power’s choice of Resources

The Speech Accent Archive

Phonemic Transcription Exercises

Words for Transcription

Names of Phonetic Symbols

Name of Symbols

Reading and Producing English Phonemic Transcriptions

Phonics and Phonetics Worksheets for kids in English-4-Kids – don’t miss the videos and the online extra practice sites, they’re wonderful!

*The choice of the title is a phrase from one of my practices at the phonetics lab in UNMDP – the original pronunciation was SO funny  (“so” is here pronounced like Stewie Griffin’s “so”) I will never forget it. (If I found my cassettes –yeah, we are oldies haha– I´ll upload the sound!)

-Sorry if I repeated some links, they were all in my bookmarks and it’s really difficult to remember all links I pasted here!

I love using flashcards to introduce vocabulary, to play with words from songs and to recycle vocabulary. They are really useful not only for helping children learn the spelling and pronunciation of new words but also to reinforce grammatical aspects of the language.

Some of my students really like when I show them flashcards to give directions or to describe houses and people. And I really like their productions since its their first year of English.

As many teachers of young children, I love preparing my own vocabulary flashcards – with similar sets for my students, because young learners love when their teachers do things for them.

Why? In Joanna Budden‘s words:

“Flashcards are a really handy resource to have and can be useful at every stage of the class. They are a great way to present, practise and recycle vocabulary and when students become familiar with the activities used in class, they can be given out to early-finishers to use in small groups. I sometimes get the students to make their own sets of mini flash cards that can be taken home for them to play with, with parents and siblings.”

More on flashcards for young learners just clicking here

Great sites with free flashcards:

esl flashcards

flashcard exchange

abc teach

teaching children esl

Picture Dictionary

And for those Students and Teachers of Spanish:

Spanish flashcards

It’s a pitty I don’t know how to embed a flash video here!

As I can’t embed this fabulous phonemic chart for you, click here and enjoy!


{September 14, 2008}   English Pronunciation

{September 10, 2008}   The Funny English Language

No wonder the English language is so very difficult to learn.

I sometimes wonder how we manage to communicate at all!

We’ll begin with a box and the plural is boxes.

But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.

The one fowl is a goose but two are called geese,

Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

You may found a lone mouse or a whole set of mice,

Yet the plural of house is houses not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,

Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?

If I speak of a foot and you show me your feet,

And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,

Why should not the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that and three would be those,

Yet hat in the plural wouldn’t be hose.

And the plural of cat is cats and not cose.

We speak of a brother and also of brethren,

But though we say Mother, we never say Methren,

Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,

But imagine the feminine she, shis and shim,

So English, I fancy you will all agree,

Is the funniest language you ever did see.

et cetera