This post contains a 5-minute video with song excerpts highlighting some of the ways in which vowels, semi-vowels and consonant sounds are linked in English.
Elsewhere on this blog I have argued that pronunciation does matter and deserves far more attention than it’s been getting from mainstream ELT. I have tried to go beyond the old “what matters is intelligibility” paradigm and argued that we can’t ignore, for example, how annoyance potential might impact communication. I have also made a distinction between teaching pronunciation for production (i.e., enabling students to sound better) and teaching pronunciation for comprehension (i.e., highlighting features of linking, weak forms, sound discrimination etc.) and argued that perhaps we should place increased emphasis on the latter.
As I was feeling particularly musical last week (!), I decided to put together a short, self-contained video with five song excerpts, as well as on-screen questions, to help you raise students’ (B1 and above) awareness of sound linking in English. Before you click play, bear with me for a few more seconds:
1. I originally intended to devise a comprehension-based activity (identifying sounds, filling in the blanks etc), but the songs are so well-known that most students would probably recognize the words and maybe even feel like humming / singing along anyway. This means that I wound up creating something a little more output-oriented than the original plan.
2. As I wrote the activity, I kept going back to Michael Swan’s six criteria for good rules (truth, demarcation, clarity, simplicity, conceptual parsimony and relevance) and I must confess that, in hindsight, I fear I ended up sacrificing truth and demarcation for the sake of simplicity and conceptual parsimony. But they’re probably good enough for the average student, I think.
3. The pink rectangles on the video are meant to show students how the highlighted sounds blend. I’ve focused on the last letter of each word, rather than on the syllable itself. For example: all eyes o n us. Otherwise, “all eyes”, for example, would be boxed together, which students would probably find confusing.
If you do decide to use this video – or part of it – in class, let me know how it goes. I’ve never used it with real students, so any sort of feedback is welcome.
Thanks for reading. And watching.