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4 Tips from BridgeUniverse on How to Correct Pronunciation Errors in the Classroom

January 23, 2023

Have you heard of Bridge Education Group?

Bridge provides accessible and affordable English language teacher training, certification, and continuing professional development.

They offer…

Bridge also publishes relevant and helpful ELT news and resources on BridgeUniverse.

Here are four tips from BridgeUniverse’s panel on the best practices for correcting pronunciation errors in the ESL/EFL classroom that you can incorporate into your teaching.

1. Set realistic pronunciation goals with your students

At the beginning of a new class, have a conversation with your students to find out what they hope to accomplish by the end of the course. Often, students will say they want to sound like someone whose first language is English. This gives you an opportunity to outline your vision for the class and set a more realistic goal with your students.

Here are some resources you may find helpful for setting realistic goals with your students:

"You don’t need to be a native speaker to be a competent speaker in English."

—DJ Kaiser, professor and director of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Webster University

2. Show different English speakers to your students

Your students may find it inspirational to see and hear from people with the same language background as them speaking English.

For example, if your student’s first language is Portuguese, have them watch a video of a well-known person or celebrity speaking English whose first language is also Portuguese. This will help your student realize that they don’t need to sound like someone whose first language is English in order to be a good English speaker. 

3. Avoid correcting every pronunciation error

When it comes to correcting pronunciation errors, the panelists agreed that there are a few factors to consider, such as...

  • the level of your students
  • the focus of your class
  • what you’ve already taught

Ricardo Cezar, an English teacher and a teacher trainer based in Brazil, also considers his students’ language backgrounds.

“I teach monolingual students most of the time,” he said. “So I have to know what problems Portuguese speakers will normally have when trying to speak English.”

Karen Taylor de Caballero, an educational consultant and trainer, believes rhythm and stress are important errors to focus on.

“What I find is, when learners want to feel confident, the lack of confidence shows up in the rhythm, first and foremost, and the lack of comprehensibility shows up in misplaced or unperformed stress,” she said. “So I really promote starting with stress and rhythm at the heart of that.”

DJ Kaiser, professor and director of TESOL at Webster University, on the other hand, weighs comprehensibility with pronunciation.

“I know a lot of people, they want to master that ‘th’ sound,” he said. “And while I’ve got great approaches for teaching that, I also have to consider is that time worth spending to correct the pronunciation of ‘th.’ The ‘th’ sound typically does not lead to miscommunication. If you’re being understood and if certain sounds really don’t make a difference in people being able to understand you, I wouldn’t spend time focused on it.”

At the end of the day, remember that students can’t implement every pronunciation correction all at once. They can only comprehend so much at one time. With that in mind, it’s important to be thoughtful about the feedback you give your students. Try not to overwhelm them with so much information that they get discouraged. Consider the items that are most important and focus on those errors first.

4. Make a list of pronunciation errors

When your students are working on a speaking exercise in groups, walk around the classroom and listen to them talk. Instead of interrupting them every time a pronunciation error is made, write down all the errors on the board as you hear them.

At the end of class, you can discuss the list of pronunciation errors that were made with the whole class without interrupting the flow of the exercise or singling out individual students.

New! Use Ellii to teach pronunciation

Did you hear? We recently launched our new Pronunciation videos! In each how-to video, Lise, our social engagement manager, provides a step-by-step tutorial for how to make the sound at hand (e.g., /th/, /r/, /s/). Students are encouraged to repeat after Lise and practice pronouncing the sound out loud for themselves.

Additional practice videos are also available, and each video links to its associated lesson.

We hope you enjoy these new videos and stay tuned as we’ll be adding more in the near future!

Share your thoughts

Teachers, how do you teach pronunciation? What errors do you focus on? Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments (2)

Renato A.(Teacher)

Congrats on the great article.

What I always do when teaching new vocabulary is ask two questions:
1) How many syllables are there in this word?
2) What is the stressed syllable?

That simple.
I would loove to have phonetic transcriptions options in the vocab preview/review tasks.

Reply to Comment

Melissa B.(Author)

Hi Renato! Glad you enjoyed the article. And thanks for sharing what you do with your students! I'll pass on your suggestion to our Publishing team.

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