18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 12. Pronunciation

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Naomi’s Photos

This is part twelve of my blogging challenge.

As a veteran teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way just because I’ve done them that way for years, without remembering the reason why. 

I’ve decided to set myself a blogging challenge – reflect on one tip from each of the 18 sections that compose Penny Ur’s latest book: “100 Teaching Tips”, so as to dust off old practices that may have remained unexamined for too long.

Tip Number 64: “Contrast with mother-tongue sounds”

Actually, with my deaf and hard of hearing students, comparing to mother-tongue sounds is needed too.

Since many of my students with a hearing loss don’t speak clearly in their mother tongue (some don’t speak with their mouths at all, but that’s another story) it is helpful to compare to the sounds they can say well in their mother tongue. And then, as the author does say, choose to work on the sounds which will most impede comprehension by a listener.


It’s great fun (but not always particularly useful) to practice the word “the” with the funny sound in the beginning that calls for sticking your tongue out.

mispronouncing “International words”, as the author calls them (words that are the same in many languages, such as radio and telephone) can lead to reading issues. When I taught elementary school, I always had to deal with children who worked according to the “don’t confuse me with the facts” principle.  Since they were positive that hamburgers are called “a-bu-geh”, they refused to accept that “hamburger” had anything to do with the food.

Nonetheless, pronunciation seems to aid retention of vocabulary, even for some deaf students. Spending some time on it may help retain the vocabulary, even if the clarity of speech doesn’t approve…



2 thoughts on “18/100: Reflecting on Penny Ur’s Teaching Tips – 12. Pronunciation”

  1. A very interesting post once again, Naomi, and thank you for offering us insight into your class environment. In the case of my students working on pronunciation is important mostly because they’re influenced by their mother tongue which is mainly Greek. This is because in Greek all words are mostly pronounced the way they’re spelt and it’s often challenging for my kids to get both the correct pronunciation and intonation. Surprisingly studying and reading English words on their own letter by letter as if they were Greek ones helps them retain them, but doesnt help them use them in Speaking. So, pronunciation practice helps them mostly to better understand how words sound rather than how they’re spelt.

    1. Maria!
      That’s exactly an issue Penny Ur discusses in the book, though I didn’t relate to it – retaining vocab vs. pronunciation.
      Thanks for your excellent comments, as always!

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