Teaching Listening and Speaking through Phonology ( (Traditional listening…
Teaching Listening and Speaking through Phonology
Spoken English is not easy to understand. Not because English has particularly
unusual sounds (though the two ‘th’ sounds in this thumb are not overly common in
other languages), but because of the way we connect words together by dropping
and adding sounds. Therefore, learners need a great deal of practice in both of the
skill areas involved in oral communication: listening and speaking. This is where the
teacher’s knowledge of phonology is very helpful.
The term phonology breaks down into two word-elements from Greek, meaning
‘sound’ (think of microphone, telephone) and ‘study’ (for instance: astrology,
geology). Phonology is the study of the sounds of language and what happens to
them in natural speech.
Phonology inputs, the following areas are addressed:
Phonemes – the individual sounds.
Word and sentence stress – emphasis.
Intonation – emphasis in combination with rising and falling
Connected speech – changing, adding or dropping sounds in the boundaries between words.
Intonation is another important area of phonology since many learners struggle to
vary the pitch of their voices the right amount, and this can make them sound
bored, dinisterested or rude. English is a relatively sing-song language, and we use
pitch variation for a number of different purposes: not only to show our attitude to
what we’re saying, or to the person we’re talking to. We often indicate that we’ve
not yet finished speaking, for instance, by making the pitch of our voice rise, rise
again, rise perhaps yet a third time and then finally fall (e.g. I ate a sandwich, a
pancake, some soup and a banana.). This is a signal to the other party that it’s
their turn to speak, because falling intonation usually means finality, whereas rising indicates incompleteness, or a questioning attitude.
Traditional listening lessons in most course books are usually based around the
three stages of
In the pre-listening stage, there is usually preparation related to challenging lexis
that will come up in the recording and drawing out what learners know about the
topic. While-listening tasks generally focus on first listening for the general idea,
and then answering more detailed comprehension questions. In the post-listening
stage, answers are checked and language discussed.
A striking feature of English is the very lightly pronounced sound you hear in the
unstressed syllables of about, or mother. The /ə/ sound is far and away the most
common vowel sound in English, so even it’s a really important sound to focus on
with your learners.
The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols are a very useful aid to teaching
and learning, especially when the way a word is spelt doesn’t fit logically with how
it’s spelt (rough/know). The IPA can be useful to show, for instance, that the words
write and right are pronounced in exactly the same way: /rɑɪt/.
YULIYA TODORIUK 314 group