Pronunciation involves far more than individual sounds. Word stress, sentence stress, intonation, and word linking all influence the sound of spoken English, not to mention the way we often slur words and phrases together in casual speech.
There has been some controversy over the role of pronunciation work in a communicative, interactive course of study (Levis, 2005; Setter & Jenkins, 20O5; Tarone, 2005). Because the overwhelming majority of adult learners will never acquire an accent-free command of a foreign language, should a language program that emphasizes whole language, meaningful contexts, and automaticity of production focus on these tiny phonological details of language? The answer is yes, but in a different way from what was perceived to be essential a couple of decades ago.
One way of helping learners produce speech correctly is to use a cross-sectional diagram of a head showing
the position of the tongue, teeth, and lips for different sounds. These illustrations are called Sammy
diagrams and can be found in many pronunciation reference books (e.g., Teaching American English Pronunciation).
The most prominent teaching method today is Communicative Language Teaching. It emphasizes that the main purpose of language teaching is to help students learn to communicate. To do this, they need intelligible pronunciation. “The goal of teaching pronunciation for learners is not to make them sound like native speakers of English. With the exception of a few highly gifted and motivated individuals, such a goal is unrealistic. A more modest and realistic goal is to enable learners to surpass the threshold level so that their pronunciation will not detract from their ability to communicate.” (p. 9)
In teaching pronunciation, we shouldn’t think only about individual sounds. Intonation, rhythm, and changes in connected speech are also important. Voice quality—the overall characteristics of a speaker’s voice, such as average pitch, tenseness of
the muscles of the throat and vocal tract—or whether the speaker’s voice sounds breathy, nasal,
etc.—also have a strong influence on how a speaker’s pronunciation sounds.
English becomes an international language, the emphasis of pronunciation teaching will
probably move away from trying to make learners sound like native speakers and toward helping
them become more intelligible in speaking with both native and nonnative speakers of English.
Effective communication requires not just the mastery of individual sounds and the accompanying aspects of pronunciation such as stress, rhythm, and intonation. It also depends on speaking habits such as gestures, posture, and eye contact. The following is a list of global aspects of speech to consider when helping learners to understand and to be understood. Point out these features to learners and ask questions to encourage awareness of cultural differences.
Pronunciation refers to how we produce the sounds that we use to make meaning when we speak. It includes the particular consonants and vowels of a language (segments), aspects of speech beyond the level of the individual segments, such as stress, timing, rhythm, intonation, phrasing, (suprasegmental aspects), and how the voice is projected (voice quality). Although we often talk about these as if they were separate, they all work together in combination when we speak, so that difficulties in one area may impact on another, and it is the combined result that makes someone’s pronunciation easy or difficult to understand.
The way we say something can be very different from the way it is written down. This makes it useful to have a way of representing how speech sounds that does not rely on conventional spelling. In Part 2, Chapter 1, we introduce different ways of representing stress patterns and in Part 2, Chapters 2 and 3, we introduce a set of symbols that are used to represent consonants and vowels.
Pronunciation is important because it does not matter how good a learner’s vocabulary or grammar is if no one can understand them when they speak! And to be understood, a learner needs a practical mastery of the sounds, rhythms and cadences of English and how they fit together in connected speech. Learners with good pronunciation will be understood even if they make errors in other areas, while those with unintelligible pronunciation will remain unintelligible, even if they have expressed themselves using an extensive vocabulary and perfect grammar. What is more, people are likely to assume that they don’t know much English, and – worse – that they are incompetent or even stupid.
However, many adult learners find that pronunciation is one of the most difficult aspects of English to master, and feel the benefit of explicit help right from the beginning of their language learning. In the project that was the inspiration for this book, we followed learners for a whole year as they moved from their classes in the AMEP into the community, and we found a strong need for help with pronunciation (Yates, in press). This book is our response to that need.
 http://click.infospace.com/ClickHandler.ashx?du=www.cambridge.org%2f…%2fesl%2fbooklets%2fGilbert-Teaching-Pronunciation.Accessed on May, 20th 2012
2 Avery and Ehrlich, 1992.
3 Adapted from Kathryn Brillinger, Pronunciation Rules: The Accompanying Pragmatics workshop (Mississauga, ON, June 2001).
Lynda Yates & Beth Zielisnki, Go To Teaching pronunciation to adult, (hal.11© Commonwealth of Australia 2009)
2 Avery and Ehrlich, 1992.
 Adapted from Kathryn Brillinger, Pronunciation Rules: The Accompanying Pragmatics workshop (Mississauga, ON, June 2001).