Guidelines for effective pronunciation

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To begin with, we encourage you to reflect on your oral skills and to share your experience in listening and speaking English.

2.1. Using the prompts below, explain your difficulties when you listen to a message in English and when you speak in English.
Your listening skills

· How good are your listening skills?

· Do you find listening difficult?

· In what situations do you find it more difficult to understand a spoken message?

· How can listening be made easier?

· What elements does the listener pay attention to when listening to a message?

Speaking English

· Do you find speaking difficult?

· Can you think of any specific difficulties or problems that you have when speaking in English?

· As a foreign language speaker, what are your objectives as far as speaking is concerned?

· What do you think you can do to communicate more effectively?
Now, you are going to watch a short video

( where Emilio Botín, Chairman of Banco de Santander, gives a talk during the Euromoney Awards Dinner.

A. Watch it and reflect on the following. Then, write a short answer explaining reasons.

1. What was your first reaction as Mr Botín started to speak? Did you find it funny? Why?

2. Do you think his speech is effective? Why?

3. Do you think your English sounds like Mr Botín’s? What is different in your accent?

B. Try to recognize some pronunciation features. Make a list of some of the features of English pronunciation that, in your opinion, Mr Botín should improve. What sounds “foreign” in his accent? Pay attention to how he pronounces vowels, consonants and list any other characteristics
Do you remember some of the weaknesses of Mr Botin’s pronunciation in English?

Now you will have the chance to look at some aspects of pronunciation that can help you improve some features of your pronunciation in English.

2.2 The importance of pronunciation for intelligibility

“Intelligibility may be broadly defined as the extent to which a speaker’s message is actually understood by a listener” (Munro & Derwing 1999, p. 289)

This broad definition implies at least two different types of understanding

      • Successfully identifying words

      • Understanding a speaker’s intended meaning

Intelligibility (technical definition)

    • The ability of listeners to accurately decode individual words in the stream of speech

    • or, The ability of a speaker to say words in such a way that listeners can decode them

Intelligibility assumes that native-like pronunciation is not an important goal; rather, it’s important to be understandable even if accented. Why not a native accent?

    • It doesn’t seem to be possible for most learners

    • It’s not necessary (unless you’re a spy)

    • Language proficiency does not depend upon having a native-like accent

    • Everyone, even native speakers, has an accent. “Being native-like” usually means privileging one accent above other appropriate accents.

Improving pronunciation means improving Intelligibility:

You can understand others.

Others can understand you.

In order to understand others, you need listening skills.

In order for others to understand you, you need speaking skills.

Now you will have the chance to look at some aspects of pronunciation and phonetics that can help you improve some features of your pronunciation in English and avoid some of the common weaknesses of Spanish speakers. We will focus on phonetics for two main purposes:

• To help you become aware of the sounds of English and how pronunciation may affect comprehension of

a message in English

• To use phonetic transcription to check the correct pronunciation of words in the dictionary
As you probably know, phonetic symbols are a great help when it comes to learning to pronounce English words correctly. Any time you open a dictionary, you can find the correct pronunciation of words you don’t know by looking at the phonetic pronunciation that follows the word. English phonetic symbols are useful to practice the pronunciation of words.

Many words in English can have the same pronunciation but be written differently with different meanings. For example, “to, two, and too” all have the phonetic transcription /tu:/

Sometimes, words can be written similarly but have different pronunciation as in the “ough” combinations in thought, though, bough and through.

Another factor in pronunciation is how the word is stressed. See, for instance, the stress in these words:

Concept (noun) Conception (noun)

Electron (noun) Electronic (adj.)

To perform the different tasks, remember you can visit the following webpages:

Link to the phonetic chart with sound

Minimum pairs


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