Tag Archives: pronunciation

Five Different Ways to Practise your Listening Skills.

I won’t spend much time introducing this post, mainly because today is one of these days when the muse has decided to leave me.

Perhaps you’re wondering what else you can do to pass your listening test with  flying colours apart from doing every single listening comprehension exercise in your student’s book and all the ones in the workbook. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, but here are a few things you might want to try.

1.Read a few tips and put them into practice. Students often complain that despite grasping the main information content of the recorded material, they sometimes seem to be unable to provide the right answer and this leads to frustration.

Getting a high mark in a listening comprehension exercise requires practice, lots, and also knowing a few tips. The most common types of listening exercises are Blank Filling and Multiple Choice and there are a few handy hints on how best to deal with them that you might want to read. The tips below aim at teaching students to listen effectively to enable them to select the information they require from what they hear.

 2.The obvious. Find a good listening site with plenty of listening exercises to choose from.

One of the sites I have been recommending my students lately to practise Listening is Ingles en Aviles, a fantastic blog aimed at B2 (upper-intermediate) and C1 (advanced students) where you’ll find lots of listening comprehension exercises to choose from.

Can I also suggest my own Listening section? 

3. Listening to Vaughan radio

Vaughan Radio is a live radio station broadcasting from Madrid, Spain that provides listeners the chance to improve English language skills. So while you’re at home, maybe cleaning or ironing and bored to death, you might want to give it a try. From time to time you’ll hear some Spanish words to help Spanish listeners, but most of the time the show is in English and really worth listening to.

Here’s the link to listen on the computer. Alternatively, you can download the app on your smart phone. Type Radio Vaughan in the search box to download the app. My favourite programme? “The show with no name”.

4. Watching series.

Here, I would recommend ororo.tv. What can ororo.tv do to help you improve your English? What will you find on this website? An amazing number of TV shows and films in their original versions and with subtitles in English. Right now, I am hooked on the Big Bang Theory, an American sitcom about four young scientists, but surely you’ll find attractive alternatives here to suit every taste and mood.

5. A new web tool: Youglish.

A very interesting tool to help you with your pronunciation and your listening is Youglish.  In the search box, type the word or expression you want to hear in context. Youglish provides you with videos, from You Tube, where the word/expression is spoken by real people and in context.


In case you’re wondering, this is not a sponsored post. It’s just a few recommendations from a humble teacher trying to help students by sharing some useful links.

Thanks for reading!

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Two Superb Sites to Practise Pronunciation by Reading Along

In this post, I want to share with you two superb sites that can help you improve pronunciation by reading along.

Aim:

By asking students to repeatedly read a selected text or story while simultaneously listening to a text or a story, you can help them

  • improve reading fluency
  • improve pronunciation
  • improve automatic word recognition

1. The first site Listen A Minute.com is one I have been using for years. Here you can find alphabetically-listed topic- based activities  from  Airports and Harry Potter to Zoos.You don’t even need to register. It’s completely free!! Choose a topic and read along. One minute a day… that’s all they are asking and in return… you’ll be passing your listening/speaking tests with flying colours.

2. The second site I want to share with you is a youtube channel called Learn English Through Story ,where short stories at various levels are read at a slow pace to further improve reading and listening skills in English. There are 7 levels. Choose the one that fits your level best. Visit youtube and write  Learn English through Story on the search box.

Procedure:

  • Pick a topic or a story
  • Set a  timer for one minute, and read the article/ story aloud until the timer goes off.
  • Read aloud the same passage  three times or until you feel confident.
  • Remember that the aim is to read along, not just to listen.
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Most Common Pronunciation Mistakes Heard in Oral Exams

Even for the most confident students  taking an oral exam can be quite stressful. Twice a year, in June and September,  I  assess students’ speaking abilities acting  as both an interlocutor asking questions and interacting with students, or an assessor listening to students’ performance.

It was while acting as an assessor that I  decided to write down the most common pronunciation  mistakes students make  with the intention of  going over them ,with my own students, at the very beginning of the course.

I  have created a quiz with, what I hope, will be the last I see of these pronunciation mistakes. I hope you find it useful!

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Phonetizer: an online free tool to help you improve pronunciation

One of the most difficult things about learning a language is its phonetics. Unlike other languages that have pronunciation rules, the English language has very few pronunciation rules and lots of exceptions. Knowing the International Phonetic Alphabet can help you pronounce words correctly.
Phonetizer is a little tool that transcribes English texts into the International Phonetic Alphabet. Phonetizer is very easy to use. It has two panels: in the first one, you write or paste the text and  then click “Transcribe” and in the second panel you will get the transcription. In this second panel you can also select a word or a phrase and click “Speak” for the software to read your selected words or phrases.

 

Wanna have a laugh? Try to guess the answers to these jokes. They are written with phonetic symbols using the International Phonetic Alphabet. (answers below)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Nothing. It just waved!

2. Because he had no body to go with.

3. Because it had a virus.

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Did you Know….Aged?

Did you know that the word “aged” has two different pronunciations?

 

1.It’s pronounced /eidʒd/ when it means “years old” or when it is the verb in its past or past participle form

♥a woman aged 40

♥she has a son aged eleven

2. It’s pronounced /ˈeɪdʒɪd/ when it is the adjective (formal)

♥an aged professor

♥ my aged computer is very slow

Also : The aged in this country need more services. /ˈeɪdʒɪd/ = very old people

Hope it helps! Keep posted!

Common Errors 3: Pronunciation and Grammar Errors

This is a quick post written on a Friday afternoon!

I promised I ‘d be with you every step of the way and here I am again, with a new post on common errors I have been hearing these days during tests.

The thing is I am totally sure  most of the students I interview, don’t normally have these mistakes and though I am well aware oral exams can be  really intimidating for some students the truth is that, unfortunately, there are some mistakes you cannot make when trying to get a  degree for a certain level and being nervous is a poor excuse.

Please, make sure, but really sure 🙂 you don’t have these mistakes because they are really important. For example, make sure you know how to pronounce “man”  ( I’ve been hearing ” a men” ) or the word “nervous” that you use so often at the beginning of the exam.

Check their pronunciations here

Everybody makes mistakes  and it is OK to correct them. So, if you feel you have made a mistake, don’t be afraid to correct it. Native speakers do it all the time.

But please, double check you do not make these mistakes .(grammar input below the image)

1.”People ” is plural and  takes a plural verb

2.Here and here (exercise here)

3. After an adjective , you need to use the verb in the infinitive form

It is easier to make mistakes

It is important to learn English

4. ” news” is uncountable , you need the partitive “a piece of”  or “some”

Some good news / a piece of good news

5. “hair” is uncountable , therefore you cannot say “a hair” ( unless it is in the soup 🙂

6. Difference between used to and usually  here (exercise here)

7. Other/Another . Grammar here, Exercise here

Also, check the difference between fun and funny 

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Six Wonderful Sites to Help you Write, Speak and Sound Better

I’m not a native speaker. Even though I read, write, work and I would almost dare say live  and dream in  English, I haven’t learned the language from birth and sometimes have moments of self-doubt. These websites I am going to share in this post have been an invaluable help.

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Howjsay  and Forvo: The world’s largest dictionaries of English Pronunciation

How often have you come across a proper name you had no clue how to pronounce and you desperately needed to know the  correct standard  pronunciation of or perhaps  a variant pronunciation of this word?  Let’s say you want to know the pronunciation of the word “selion”. You go to the most important online dictionaries offering pronunciation, but the word you’re looking up is not there and you suddenly begin to panic. At this stage you can do three things: panic, pretend you know how to pronounce it ( you just know how to sound British, no problem there) or look up the word in any of these two amazing sites that have saved my skin countless times.

Linguee

We all know how difficult it is to write, even more in a foreign language. More often than not we look up words in dictionaries only to find that it offers so many possibilities for the translation of the word that  we don’t know which one to choose for the context we need. In fact, sometimes it doesn’t help us at all but makes things more complicated as we don’t know which word to use to mean what we want to express and we end up completely frustrated. Here, Linguee can help us as it is a bilingual dictionary but  in context

Phraseup

Sometimes we know what we want to write, the sentence is phrased in our mind, but we can’t figure out some of the words we need. This is where phraseup*comes in. It assists you with writing, by suggesting possible combinations to fill-in the words you can’t remember. Each suggestion is accompanied by definitions, synonyms and translations to other languages.
Imagine you know there is an expression containing the words ” take” and “granted” but you have forgotten what goes in the middle, PhraseUp can help you here, too. Just type the words that you remember and put an asterisk * where you want the application to insert something. Very useful, isn’t it?

Or maybe  you want to use the verb+preposition combination “cope with” but you are just not sure which words it collocates with, just type it in PhraseUp and options will be provided.

Ozdic.com

I have been using ozdic.com for years and this is a dictionary I cannot live without. It is not any dictionary, it also help you to sound more natural when speaking or writing in English. Let’s  say you don’t know the preposition that collocates with the verb “insist”, or which adverbs sound  more natural with this verb; let’s imagine you need to use the word “idea” but you have no clue what adjective to use  apart from the overused “good “. Go to the dictionary now, this is just a sample of what you’ll find : bright, brilliant, clever, excellent,, marvellous | valuable, worthwhile | exciting, inspirational, interesting, stimulating | constructive, positive | absurd, bad, mistaken, ridiculous | , crazy, mad, outlandish, wild | half-baked | ambitious, big, grand.

The dictionary contains over 150,000 collocations for nearly 9,000 headwords and it is based on the 100 million word British National Corpus.

Text2Phonetics 

It is a wonderful tool that can save a lot of time if you need to transcribe something. I have tried it with small texts (two or three lines) and it’s incredible! You will be able to  pronounce a whole text perfectly .
Just paste the text you want to transcribe and click the Transcribe Button to get the transcription.

Teaching Diphthongs

It’s never easy to teach phonetics and even though I love teaching this skill, I don’t think my students share my feelings on this subject. Anyway, in case you find it interesting or useful this is how I’m planning  to teach diphthongs.

diphthong is a sound made up of two vowels, or in other words, a vowel sound that starts near the articulatory position for one vowel and moves toward the position for another. In RP (the approved pronunciation of British English), there are eight diphthongs.

An easy way for them to remember the diphthongs is by drawing a face such as this one and then eliciting the diphthongs in the head.

You’ll get seven out of the eight diphthongs as you can see from the picture. To get the last sound you can always ask students:” Which Diphthong is missing ?” and set this task as homework.

face |eɪ| |  boy /ɔɪ/  ear / ɪə/ eye /aɪ/ nose /əʊ/  mouth /aʊ/  hair  /eə /

What diphthong is missing ?  /ʊə/ as in tourist | ˈtʊərɪst |

Click here if you want to listen to the pronunciation of these diphthongs.

 ACTIVITY FOR TEACHING DIPHTHONGS 

♥ Ask students to work in pairs and give each pair a different diphthong. Tell students they have two minutes to write down words containing this diphthong. Encourage students to write different parts of speech: nouns,adjectives, verbs…etc. Divide the board into 8 columns, label each of them with a different  diphthong and list students’ words  correcting  any mistakes.

Tell students, still working in pairs,  to choose any  column from the ones on the board. Give students 3 minutes to write a sentence using as many words in their chosen column as possible. Ask students to read their sentences and tick off the ones they have used. The winner will be the pair who has used more words from their column.

Get ready for some funny sentences! 🙂

Improving your Pronunciation by Reading Along

I am one of those teachers who thinks pronunciation can be easily improved if you are
really determined to work on it. Contrary to what most people think, improving your pronunciation takes little  time and little effort although  it needs some  motivation. If you really want to improve, there are some sites that can help you if you just dedicate a little time and effort to this task. And the good news is that you can do it at home, without a teacher guiding you.

Reading along is an exercise I frequently practise with my students.
I normally choose texts from Listen a Minute .com because they are short ( 1 minute) and not too difficult. I like to do this practice at the beginning of the lesson because I think it is a good exercise to get them into English  quickly and without much effort.

We always follow the same steps.

♥Students listen to the text three times. The first time they  silently follow the text. The second time students read along  but in a low voice because at this stage they still need to hear the audio. Before playing the audio a third time  I point out some difficult words and make sure they pronounce them in the correct way.

♥ I split the text into two and ask students in pairs to read their part to their partner. I encourage them to correct their partner’s mistakes.

♥ Finally, I ask students to read aloud  one sentence each.

All in all it shouldn’t take more than 10  minutes.

Today, looking for something completely different on youtube I came accross this channel  which is also very good practice for the students to do at home to improve their pronunciation, though I would suggest it is for more intermediate or advanced students

The channel on youtube is called WaysandHow and it also has its own website where you can see and read  hundreds of  tutorials and tips on various aspects of life, including education. What is good about this site is that it is  beautifully subtitled and read at a good pace, so students can follow and read along. A nice way to improve pronunciation and also your vocabulary.

Have a look at this video -there are plenty to choose from and on a variety of issues- and see if it works for you! Hope it does!!

Lesson Plan : Money

Level: Intermediate

Step 1.  Warm up

A: Students watch the video. Unless they beg for more, I would just play  the first  15 seconds, enough for students to focus on the pronunciation of the word “money”  which  they tend to mispronounce, and on the  chorus  Money makes the World Go Round, which students will later need to discuss.

B: This second warm up is a great one. I got it straight from George Chilton‘s blog Designer Lessons  I copy/paste from him- , which I highly recommend.

Ask your students how they would spend a day in their city/town/village without spending any money. What activities could they do? They’re not allowed to stay at home, they have to be out of the house for the whole day.

Put them in small groups and get them to come up with a plan of the day – from 10am until 8pm. Conditions – They are allowed to drink water from city water fountains and any food that they find. They should present their plans at the end of this activity.

Step 2. A Bit of Fun with Translation.

Previous to this exercise students have  studied  Vocabulary related  to money, so now it’s their time to show what they have learned.

Students work in  pairs or in threes. To make things easier for me, I’ll provide them with slips of paper so that when the time’s up they can raise it up and I can have a quick check. Sentences with mistakes will be automatically discarded and the correct translations will get one point. Time limit: 90 seconds.

 

Step 3. Speaking. Speed Dating Technique.

♥Photo and explanation of the  here 

♥Money Questions here

 

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