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Teaching Pronunciation and Phonetics

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Phonemes for CELTA and DELTA

Phonetics and Phonetic Charts

The awareness of sounds or phonemes in spoken words and the ability to hear, identify and manipulate phonemes is called phonemic awareness.  A Phonemic Chart is a chart of symbols that represent the sounds of English.

These concepts are first presented in the Cambridge CELTA course and CELTA students need to have a basic knowledge of phonemics to complete their coursework. Later, in teaching practice, depending on the context, English language teachers make decisions about how they use phonemics.

Presenting and Teaching Phonetics in the Classroom

The problem with using phonetics in the English language classroom is that you also have to teach your students how to decode the symbols. This is on top of the work of reading the word or utternance the phonetics are describing. An excellent series of articles about teaching phonetics in the classroom is Jade Blue's post: Using Phonemes in the Classroom Series.

Brushing up on your Phonetic Knowledge is a Must for the Cambridge DELTA

Cambridge DELTA candidates need to know the phonetic chart as well as more in-depth knowledge of the parts of the mouth and sounds. They need phonetic knowledge to answer various parts of the DELTA Module One exam and they will need it for the following Module Two and Module Three.


So, whether you are preparing for the CELTA or doing some refreshing for the DELTA, phonetics is a core part of your teaching knowledge.  So where can you start?

YouTube, this is just an example from Cambridge English:



This video below is a comprehensive session dealing with the phonics chart and its sounds. Brilliant for DELTA preparation. Adrian Underhill covers all the individual sounds.

This video is getting technical and for CELTA candidates, you aren't required to know all this going into teaching, but it's good to refer to and consider how you can demonstrate sounds to people. How do they know what's happening in your nose, throat, and mouth? Where is the tongue? What is the air doing? Is there a vibration in the neck or is it just air?

Apps: Macmillan Publishing has an app called Sounds. It’s a free app for pronunciation with the phonemic chart.

Phonemic Typewriter: If you need to type out phonemics for a word but can't find the keys this website will help:

Reading: here you find Tony Penston’s book on teaching pronunciation.

Essential Phonetics, by Tony Penston

“Essential Phonetics is a great book. It is very comprehensive and concise at the same time. It deals with pronunciation problems we always face in multicultural classes, and gives us teachers easy, straightforward phonetic input, enabling us to help our students. The illustrations are very helpful, showing how to produce particularly difficult sounds. Essential Phonetics is a short guide that even busy teachers can manage to read.
I strongly recommend this book for both experienced teachers and trainees. Every English language teacher should have it.” – review

Emma’s interview with Tony Penston:

“The founder of TP Publications, author of “Essential Phonetics for English Language Teachers”, and of “A Concise Grammar for English Language Teachers”  gives us his views on embedding pronunciation correction successfully in a lesson.” … Continue reading

  • Language Clarification and Practice
  • Productive Skills: Speaking

How to Teach Pronunciation, by Gerald Kelly

From the “How to” series by Pearson Longman.

  • Language Clarification and Practice
  • Productive Skills: Speaking

Sound Foundations, by Adrian Underhill

Sound Foundations is another introduction to the English phonological system. It offers information on pronunciation systems and activities for the classroom. The discovery and experiential approach of the book (aha! - we talk about this approach in Module One: Learner Centredness of the TEFL Preparation Course)  means that you and your students learn through physically experiencing how pronunciation works. The latest edition includes an Audio CD which contains recorded examples of the sounds described in the book. You can also find lots of videos of Adrian leading sessions of pronunciation on Youtube.