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TEACHING PRONUNCIATION

TEACHING PRONUNCIATION
Names and surnames:
-

Carla Valeria Ortiz Cipriano


Suleny Lisbet Vera Reyes

Region: La Libertad
E-mail:

valeriaoc@hotmail.com
gosth_s@hotmail.com

Telephone number:
Carla Ortiz: 987852339
Suleny Vera : 980677012

____________________________
_________________________
Carla Valeria Ortiz Cipriano
Suleny Lisbet Vera Reyes

TEACHING PRONUNCIATION

Introduction
Good communication depends on proper pronunciation.
Generally, pronunciation plays an important role in helping the learner
become an intelligible speaker (Morley, 1998). Learners with good
English pronunciation are likely to be understood even if they make
errors in other areas, whereas learners with poor pronunciation will not
be understood, even if their grammar is accurate. Besides being able to
speak English with appropriate pronunciation not only makes our speech
comprehensible, but also builds up proper rapport with the listeners.
One of the most difficult problems facing non-native speakers of
English is pronunciation. It is usually the biggest obstacle to overcome
when trying to achieve fluency. In this paper we will refer to Spanish
speakers with English as the target language. There are many problems
of transfer since the features of English pronunciation differ from the
Spanish pronunciation. Frequently, language learners make errors by
borrowing patterns from their mother tongue in this case Spanish.
We will choose two problems of transfer between Spanish and
English that we consider to be obstacles to efficient communication and
we will analyze them from two points of view.
Firstly we will explain the causes of the problems as regards phonetic
and phonological aspects.
Secondly, we will explain how we think the problems can be solved.

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Problems of transfer between Spanish and English


We think it is important to point out what features of pronunciation
are considered crucial for mutual understanding. What needs to be
learned,

however,

is

not

English

as

native

language

but

communicative effectiveness in English.


Pronunciation refers to the production of sounds that we use to
make meaning. It includes attention to the particular sounds of a
language (segments), aspects of speech beyond the level of the
individual sound, such as intonation, phrasing, stress, timing, rhythm
(suprasegmental aspects), how the voice is projected (voice quality) and,
in its broadest definition, attention to gestures and expressions that are
closely related to the way we speak a language. A broad definition of
pronunciation includes both suprasegmental and segmental features.
Although these different aspects of pronunciation are treated in isolation,
it is important to remember that they all work in combination when we
speak, and are therefore usually best learned as an integral part of
spoken language.
In this paper, we are going to analyze pronunciation at the
segmental and suprasegmental level in two distinct problems, explain
the causes or problems in phonetic or phonological terms taking into
consideration the three E variables and Brintons five variables.

TEACHING PRONUNCIATION

In the first place I will focus on one segmental feature that is the dental
fricatives // and //. These sounds are usually written th in English and
it appears in such words as three, think // , this and then //. Spanish
native speakers especially from Latin American countries tend to
substitute the // with either /f/, /s/ or /t/ and /d/ instead of //. These are
serious mistakes, because these sounds distinguish many pairs of words,
e.g. thinker and tinker / sinker. we have noticed that these problems
happen so often. we have listened to some of our students saying
phrases like I sink, or thats what I sought instead of I think and
thats what I thought. it can actually be confusing since the meaning
changes.
For Spanish native speakers, these sounds are problematic
because when we first listen to them we tend to find a similarity with our
language and that is when the error occurs. Sometimes it is necessary to
know how to produce these sounds. It is interesting to be aware of the
process of articulation of these phonemes, then little by little students
can distinguish and pronounce them properly. The process of articulation
of fricatives can be described as it follows: the vocal cords do not
vibrate, and the velum is raised. The tip of the tongue is raised very
close to the upper front teeth. The sides of the tongue touch the upper
side teeth. Friction is produced as the air passes through the narrowing
at the tongue-tip. Fricatives are smooth sounds that we can hold for a
few seconds. In few words fricative sounds are created by forcing air out
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our mouth through a small opening. The difference between // and // is


normally described as a voiceless-voiced contrast; however, the two
phonemes are also distinguished by a difference of energy, the Fortis //
being pronounced with more muscular tension than the lenis //. Also, //
is more strongly aspirated than //.
The use of // for Spaniards is common and they dont have much
trouble with it because they use this sound. It is written c (when followed
by e,i) as in cima , and z as in zapatos. But for us, Latin Americans, we
use /s/. Therefore it is kind of difficult to articulate it, since we barely use
the phoneme // .This difference between sounds represented by c
affects our pronunciation because we tend to transfer the sounds of our
mother tongue.
The other feature I will focus on is a suprasegmental one, and that
is Intonation. Particularly we are going to refer to the rising and falling
intonation which is frequently used in English intonation is about how we
say things, rather than what we say. That is why I think it is essential to
be aware of the English intonational patterns because sometimes the
message can be misunderstood. The phonological system of Spanish is
significantly different from that of English; these differences are very
serious barriers to Spanish learners being able to acquire a nativeEnglish-speaker accent. Even though English and Spanish are
intonational languages. In Spanish each phrase, corresponds to one of a

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variety of intonation patterns. A phrase can be affirmative, interrogative


or exclamative depending on the intonation pattern that the speaker
uses.
David Crystal (2010) states that English makes use of the stressed
syllables produced at roughly regular intervals of time (influent speech)
and separated by unstressed syllables a stress-timed rhythm. In
Spanish the syllables are produced in a steady flow a syllable-timed
rhythm. When Spanish speakers transfer their rhythm patterns into
English, the result can be unintelligible to other speakers of English.
Wrong word stressing makes difficult to understand a word or may
change its meaning. The causes of this wrong use of stress are:
- Students transfer

Spanish word stress regularity to English, as result

they stress the word in the wrong syllable.


- Students do not differentiate from stressed to unstressed syllables in
an English word.
The use of the correct intonation in asking yes-no question and
questions introduced by interrogative, is sometimes confusing for
students , they do not differentiate rising from falling intonation and they
do not recognize the importance of expressing questions properly.
Traditionally, in pedagogically oriented text books on English
intonation, it has been argued that, particularly in RP English (Received
Pronunciation), the fall-rise tone signals up , reservation, or focus within
a given set. Basically, the tone is associated with reservations,
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TEACHING PRONUNCIATION

implications and doubts. It can also be argued that the fall-rise conveys
uncertainty or in-completion but the fall-rise is apparently associated
with especially delimiting open meanings; it has sometimes, and quite
rightly, been referred to as the contingency tone in English intonation.
That is, the fall-rise is often an indication that the proposition or
argument is correct only under certain circumstances.
Spanish speakers have different intonation depending on the country
or region. This makes it difficult because they transfer their own Spanish
intonation to English. We

have students who are from different cities

and their intonation is not the same in Spanish even though intelligibility
is not a problem, a person who is not accustomed to it, might
misinterpret the message. This is a special characteristic of my country
Peru where

every region have a specific intonation therefore their

pronunciation is different.
Taking into consideration the five variables Brinton proposes, we will be
discussing how we can approach these problems.
Activities to approach these features.
The three E variables
Exposure
Exposure to the language is essential for the learners to be able to
improve in the problems mentioned above. In my context, our students

TEACHING PRONUNCIATION

who are children have the opportunity to learn and practice English
merely at school therefore they have little exposure since they are not
immersed in an English environment .
Exercise
The students have the possibility to practice the target sounds in
small groups. They feel better and relax when they do choral repetition.
Students can also exercise the language by listening to CDs and
repeating sounds and chants. Tongue twisters are also of great help.
Explanation
Explanation is key for the comprehension and communication in the
language. Explanation

is

necessary

because

students

need

to

understand that there are certain rules they can apply to improve their
pronunciation. I think the explanation has to be quite simple

to be

understandable.
Brintons five variables
The learners variables
Our students are in third, fourth and fifth grades at primary school in
Trujillo- Peru. Their ages range from 8 to 11 years old . They are
elementary students who have studied English since they were in first
grade.

TEACHING PRONUNCIATION

Setting Variables
Most of my students practice English merely at school therefore they
have little exposure since they are not immersed in an English
environment.
Institutional variables
These students have classes three times a week. Each class lasts one
hour and a half. The curriculum focus on the four skills and all the
classes are mostly in English especially with fifth grade. The course book
provides a wide range of activities for students and perfectly fits mixedabilities groups. They also use readers to reinforce reading skills.
Linguistic and methodological variables
The segmental and suprasegmental levels are both of great importance.
In Spanish we do not have or use some phonemes and some prosodic
features that are determining in English. I think with children it is
required to start with the latter since they tend to lengthen word and
phrases, something that they do in Spanish and transfer to English.
The communicative approach is the method used at the school and it is
the one used in most schools of my city.
CONCLUSION

TEACHING PRONUNCIATION

We presented two very common problems that Spanish speaking


students face when learning English. In recent years, there has been a
greater emphasis on teaching competent pronunciation, especially in
ESL/EFLclassrooms. This is due to the increasing realization that poor
pronunciation can cause serious problems for learners yet English
pronunciation is neglected in classrooms due to many factors. In our
experience we can say that the problems with the curriculum do not
allow spending too much time in pronunciation because there are many
contents that should be covered. Another reason is because not many
English pronunciation teaching methods or strategies are available.
Moreover teachers of English pronunciation do not receive relevant
professional training in the use of phonetic symbols.

Consequently

learners pronunciation is one of the most difficult areas for learners as


well as teachers.
To sum up, teaching pronunciation is a very important subject and
teachers should also pay special attention to their lesson plans when
teaching English as a foreign language. We are models for our students
and have to provide them with all the information they need to succeed
in the target language learning respecting their goals towards the
language. Pronunciation has to be taught taking into consideration all
the variables discussed in this paper. The problems presented here are
more likely to happen at regular school or institutes. So, we as teachers
should be ready to help the students at any time.
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Bibliography

Bowen, T. & Marks, J. (1992): The Pronunciation Book.


London:
Longman.

Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D. & Goodwin, J. (1996): Teaching


Pronunciation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, D. (1969): Prosodic Systems and Intonation in English.


Cambridge
Cambridge University Press.

Cook, V. (1979): Using Intonation. London: Longman.

Dalton, C. & Seidlhofer, B. (1994): Pronunciation. Oxford:


Oxford
University Press.

Knowles, G. (1987): Patterns of Spoken English. London:


Longman..

Kreidler, C. (1990): The Pronunciation of English. Oxford:


Blackwell.

Morley, J (1998), Trippingly on the tongue: Putting serious


speech/pronunciation instruction back in the TESOL
equation, ESL

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