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Pronunciation - the poor relation? Pronunciation teaching has been neglected.

In spite of the development of interesting teaching materials by various people it remains the poor relation of language teaching, poorly related to the rest of what happens in the language classroom. In this article, there are two corresponding ways of overcoming this and moving forward. The need for physicality The first problem is that we do not sufficiently embrace in our teaching the physicality of pronunciation. While grammar and vocabulary can somehow take place in the cognitive realm, pronunciation needs teaching as a physical discipline involving the muscles of articulation especially in throat and mouth. We give models but students cant locate the muscles they need to change the sound they are making. In short, they cant find the internal buttons to press to get a different sound. When we pronunciation, we must help students to reconnect with the muscles that make the difference. So, the first task to do with new learners is to help them to (re-)discover the main muscles that make the pronunciation difference, to locate the internal buttons that trigger the muscle movements. At the beginning, learners can identify four such buttons (physically, not just cognitively) which enable them to get around the mouth and consciously find new positions of articulation. These are: 1. 2. 3. 4. Tongue (forward and back) Lips (spread/back and rounded/forward) Jaw + tongue (up and down) Voice (on or off)

This is the basic kit for discovering vowels and diphthongs, and it transfers well to consonant sounds with the addition of relatively easy landmarks such as teeth, lip and palate. Learners experience a liberation once they develop conscious contact with these four movements and can start to move themselves. And there is a bonus, which is that muscles work by moving and much of that movement is visible. So if we start to teach to this visibility of pronunciation we can enrich and support the physicality still further. Its like learning to dance by watching it: the eyes can inform the muscles direct, without a need for cognitive explanation. The need for a mental map The second problem is that many students lack a mental map to guide them through this unknown pronunciation territory and to complement and help conceptualize the physicality. Adrian Underhill uses a different phonetic chart which provides a map, mental scaffolding and more:

Characteristics of the chart: It is a map with geography, containing embedded information on WHERE & HOW sounds are made. And it is a MAP not a LIST of phonemes. The arrangement of sounds on this chart tells you about how to make them. The chart itself becomes a worktable, a place to enquire, diagnose and experiment, and where sounds connect into words, where mistakes can initiate successes. The whole pronunciation syllabus is there in one single gestalt. The chart is always visible, and it is finite. How does it work? Look at the chart and you can see the twelve vowels in the vowel box in the top left quadrant. The left side of that box represents the front of the mouth. The right side represents the back. The top of the mouth is the top of that quadrant and the bottom is the bottom. So straight away you can see the high and low vowels, and the back and front ones, and the central pair. And the neighbours in the chart are more or less neighbours in the mouth too. Now look at the first two rows of consonants just below, and again the front consonants are at the left, and the back ones are at the right. And generally, front sounds are the ones that are more visible.