Winter Pronunciation Camp Reflections Week 4 (Part 2)

This post is the latest in a long series. The usual disclaimers about not being a real camp and rambling apply.


I wanted to keep working with the poem that we had started on Wednesday, but get students speaking and listening much more. I’d been concentrating hard on unstressed syllables and rhythm the previous day, and I wanted to see if the students were capable of hearing, and reproducing these features. Having read an interesting article on using speaking speed as a measure of natural pronunciation (the thinking being that unstressed syllables and assimilation and elision should lead to utterances being delivered faster), I wondered if it would be possible to do the same with the poem.

Shadowing is the method of trying to reproduce a piece of spoken text as accurately as possible. You can read Arizio Sweeting’s description of it here. In the old days this would have just been a case of listen and repeat, but technology makes this process a lot easier and a lot more autonomous. The idea is that students can record a piece of speech, listen back to it and figure out where it differs, and then have another go at recording any difficult sections.

One problem I faced with this was it took an awful long time to set up. We don’t have a language lab here, so I had the students bring their computers to class. I tend to prefer this anyway as students then have the software on their computers. However, this means factoring in time for lateness, forgetting and setting it all up (answers on a postcard as to why you’d pay a load of money for an “intensive” English camp, and then spend the entire time moaning, shirking and generally doing anything to avoid speaking English). This then led to having less time to do what I really wanted, which was to step them through a process of listening, recording and editing, and largely resulting in them doing a series of one shot recordings and not doing that much in the way of comparison. Still, there were one or two really excellent attempts, and again this is something that I’d really like to incorporate into the course more next time, especially with shorter pieces of language like the chunks I have been teaching. I’m also wishing for a simple way to show pitch change in Audacity.


One of the students final projects in my colleague’s class is to make a short film in English. By Friday the scripts had been written and the students were ready to start filming. Ever on the lookout for ways in which I can apply what we do in class to other things, Friday’s class was a read through of the script from each movie. The class started with each student reading their lines to themself, with me helping with questions and modelling. We then moved on to a full reading. This was a really enjoyable class to teach, but it would have been nice to make it a bit more student centered, and to find a way of having them figure things out for themselves. This is something that I can definitely improve in general I think. Anyhow, probably the best part for me was trying to teach my students to swear. Whenever we do anything like plays or films, the students are always keen to include some effing and blinding, which would be fine if they could do it properly, but it usually just ends up sounding awkward and forced. When it came up in the script then, I spent a good deal of time trying to coach them into getting it a bit more natural (and more committed). I am someone who is generally fairly reserved and serious in class, so my students were rather shocked to hear it. I don’t generally use it in class, as you never really know who might be offended by bad language, but the students brought it up, and if you’re going to do something, you may as well do it properly.

This brings me to the end of this post, and probably the end of the weekly updates. This final week has been more about testing and feedback, so expect two or three posts looking at that process. I’d like to thank everyone who has been reading these posts, and especially those whose comments have kept me interested in writing them (I think I’m over 8,000 words now!). Expect more soon.




4 responses to “Winter Pronunciation Camp Reflections Week 4 (Part 2)

  1. Hi Alex,

    Have enjoyed following the pronunciation camp. I particularly impressed with your attention to detail and wishing there was a video of the swearing coaching. I can imagine how swearing would be a great way to explore suprasegmentals. Combining sentences with explitives and cuisenaire rods seems like such a bust out laughing activity. Wonder what color and size you’d use for such and such a word?

    I’m very interested in the follow up posts on assessment as that’s something that’s weighing on me recently. Some ideas on pron assessment will be much appreciated.


    • Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for the feedback. I wish I had a video of the students faces! And perhaps a conference presentation on the role of swearing in pronunciation teaching would be a hit? If I did it I’d definitely include your cuisenaire rods activity – sounds ideal for ensuring correct swear placement.

      I will try to knock out a post on pronunciation assessment this week, but if you’re interested you’re welcome to read the paper I’m writing on it at the moment once it’s written, also around the end of this week (I hope).

      Cheers for all the support,


  2. Many thanks for this post. This series is extremely inteesting, and is giving me a great deal to think about for my own classes.

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