Teaching Pronunciation the Adrian Underhill Way

“Take pronunciation out of the head and into the body” – Adrian Underhill

For me, the best thing about teaching is that we as teachers can spend all our professional careers improving and getting better at what we do. The advance of technology has made this even more exciting as now more than ever before, there are so many ways of teaching English creatively. Pronunciation is an important aspect in verbal communication, because of this, learners of English may struggle to grasp English pronunciation due to fear of speaking with a ‘foreign accent’. Many teachers also find it difficult to teach pronunciation in engaging ways that will motivate learners. I for one, find it hard to make pronunciation interesting for students. One of the ways to teach pronunciation differently is to teach it practically – that is to adopt Adrian Underhill’s approach of making pronunciation physical, audible and visible!

I first came across Underhill’s ‘Introduction to Teaching Pronunciation’ workshop whilst studying on my CELTA course and found it really useful. In this workshop Underhill uses the English phonemic chart to show 44 different English sounds and how they relate to each other. He gets teachers to produce various sounds using their lips, teeth, tongue and voice. This workshop can be used in the classroom to aid language learning, students can produce the sounds whilst watching the video – this is a great way for students to discover how different and new sounds are produced. Another potentially great resource in the classroom is the Interactive Phonemic Chart which can be used as part of a phonemic game (see below).

OneStopEnglish Phonemic Chart

To create some competitiveness in the classroom, get students to work in teams and write down which English phoneme set is being repeated – the team with the most correct phonemes wins! Depending on the level of students, teachers can also use the Interactive Phonemic Chart to produce single sounds, words and sentences. However, some learners may find connected speech difficult to identify in sentences, so be sure to teach at a steady pace and answer any confusing questions along the way to maximise student understanding. In my opinion, both resources are creative ways of bringing pronunciation to life. Be prepared to see some silly faces and make some funny sounds (and I don’t just mean the students!). Below are some useful links for teaching pronunciation:

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7 thoughts on “Teaching Pronunciation the Adrian Underhill Way

  1. I agree that pronunciation is an important aspect for communication and that technology helps to teach and improve it.I think that watching a video is a helpful way for students to get see how words are pronounced and hearing new words.

    • Sometimes learners struggle with recognising connect speech or find it difficult to identify unknown words. Teaching pronunciation in this way (physically) may be a way to overcome this.

  2. I remember I saw one of his videos when I’m doing Amy’s assignment! Pronunciation is one of the important areas in a language learning/ teaching. And I think it’s a good idea to introduce a target language videos/ audios and teaching pronunciation alongside each other. This approach would definitely enhances students’ productive skills. Thai education systems do need to give more attention in this aspect!

    • Definitely because most Thai learners struggle with the problematic /r/ and /l/ phonemes this would be a good way for them to make the sounds physically and hear the differences!

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