Category Archives: Pronunciation

Found in Translation: Plurilingualism as Pedagogy for Teaching Post-Secondary Vocabulary

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L2 Vocabulary Teaching in a Multilingual Canada

Words are not isolated units of a language: they are components of a larger interconnected system that allow second language (L2) learners to access other components in that system (Nation, 2013). For example, knowing a word is systematically linked to knowing its spelling and pronunciation. Indeed, vocabulary proficiency has even been shown to predict post-secondary English as a Second Language (ESL) students’ reading ability, as well as their capacity to read on their own (Laufer & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, 2010). As such, the development of L2 learners’ vocabulary knowledge intuitively equates to the overall development of their L2 competencies.

While there are many different techniques that can be applied in the L2 classroom to raise students’ vocabulary competencies,  Continue Reading →


Engaging students in speaking assessment to increase their participation in speaking activities

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Teachers sometimes find it challenging to engage students in speaking activities. Some students shy away from the task because they do not have the confidence for public speaking especially in the second language, or they simply find the tasks inauthentic and thus find little value in participating. However, researchers claim that there is more to students’ poor participation in class speaking activities than the above. Juzwik, Borsheim-Black, Caughlan, and Heintz (2014) maintain that while student-led and student-centered talk should be the ultimate goal of any educational assignment, teacher talk tends to dominate. Teacher talk is necessary and often required as an organization tool, but when it dominates, it robs students of the opportunity to participate and to improve their speaking skills.  Continue Reading →


The effect of first language on intelligibility

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This study consists of two parts. The first part is the report of two experiments carried out to see the effect of a shared first language (L1) on second language (L2) intelligibility. The concern of the investigation was specifically pronunciation and phonological factors. The second part deals with pronunciation errors of Mandarin and Vietnamese speakers that are motivated by their respective phonological systems, thus providing help with designing pronunciation teaching materials.

The study was started with the following research question: Do English learners understand each other better in English when they share the same first language? This L1 effect is sometimes referred to as Interlanguage Speech Intelligibility Benefit (Bent & Bradlow 2003) and it is not a new question,  Continue Reading →


Perception, production, and perception–production: Research findings and implications for language pedagogy

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When we are born our perceptual systems are capable of discriminating sounds that occur in English, Spanish, Hindi, or any other language. During the first year, our perception begins to zero in on the particular set of sounds that are contrastive in our native language(s) (L1s) (Kuhl et al., 2006). For example, a child whose parents are L1 English speakers will pick up on the fact that /b/ and /p/ are contrastive in English (e.g., “bet” vs. “pet”) and that the major difference is in the burst of air that occurs when the stop is released (i.e., there is a stronger burst of air, or more aspiration, on /p/ than /b/). A child whose parents are L1 Hindi speakers will pick up on this contrast,  Continue Reading →


Why teaching Second Language listening is difficult and how to use bottom-up listening strategies to teach listening more effectively

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Listening is the skill that most of our students feel the least confident about and the least control over in terms of what they can do to improve. It is also the skill that is the most widely used, both in academic and non-academic contexts. For these reasons, we owe it to our students to show them how to become successful English language listeners.

Second-language listening is difficult for several reasons, most of which stem from the differences between oral and written channels (Brown, 2011). These include perception problems, issues of memory and attention, and strategy choice.

Perception problems arise because speech is fast and transient; utterances are spoken quickly, and they disappear. We don’t pause to separate speech into distinct words;  Continue Reading →


Shadowing for language teaching

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In the past decades, shadowing has become quite popular in Japan and in other Asian countries. Recently it has finally caught the attention of researchers and language teachers in North America. The overarching purpose of this paper is to introduce shadowing for the sake of effective teaching. First, the basic idea of what shadowing is is explained. Then, shadowing in terms of listening practice will be discussed with its theoretical background, examples, and teaching tips. Next, shadowing as speaking practice, mainly for pronunciation development, will be discussed.

What is Shadowing?

The basic definition of shadowing is “a paced, auditory tracking task which involves the immediate vocalization of auditorily presented stimuli” (Lambert, 1992, p. 266). The metaphor of shadowing is the shadow that follows you on a street late in the afternoon,  Continue Reading →


The teaching of suprasegmentals within a task-based or communicative ESL class


As reported in a survey of Canadian ESL teachers’ pronunciation practices, many ESL students appear to have problems with suprasegmental pronunciation, which is commonly interpreted to include word stress, rhythm and intonation (Foote, Holtby, & Derwing, 2011). Word stress refers to the length, loudness and pitch of syllables within a word, relative to one another (e.g., Ca∙na∙da). Rhythm refers to which syllables in an utterance are more prominent (e.g., I’m co∙ming on Sun∙day.). Intonation refers to the pitch patterns in utterances. For instance, I’m coming on Sunday would normally have a rise-fall pitch on Sunday while are you coming on Sunday could have a rising pitch on on Sunday. Such problems can lead to communication difficulties (Hahn, 2004). Fortunately,  Continue Reading →

Pronunciation, Teaching