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Top tips for improving your child’s pronunciation skills!

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Like it is in any language, pronunciation is an integral part of English too. A problem in pronunciation could lead to a complete communication break down at worst and a misunderstanding at best. Read on to know how you can help your child ace their pronunciation game. 

Did you know that the number of non-native English speakers in the world outweigh native speakers by 3:1? This has started a trend of an international accent to facilitate mutual understanding. The key is intelligibility – or the ability to be understood clearly. Therefore, it’s not important to imitate the native speaker accent but simply to apply certain strategies while communicating. Here are some ideas to get a head start:

1. Mimicking model language: We speak what we hear. If children grow up listening to bad models of English, then they imitate that. To improve pronunciation, ensure that your child listens to good models of pronunciation through videos, listening to songs, YouTube etc. Make the most of these age-appropriate videos for children and teens on the British Council website. You can also watch some of these exciting movies and make it a family movie night. Don’t forget the bucket of popcorn!

2. Sound it out:  Does this clip from the very popular sitcom I Love Lucy strike a chord? The English alphabet has 26 letters but 44 sounds, five vowels which can be pronounced in 12 different ways! Children are bound to get confused just like Lucy’s Cuban husband. In English, different letter combinations make the same sound. The trick is to ‘find’ these sounds in your mouth by being aware of the position of the tongue, teeth, jaw and lips.  Use this video series by BBC which demonstrates how to make these sounds. Feel free to pause, rewind and replay the video till you think you’ve got it right.

3. Spell it right: Has it ever happened with you that you have taught your child to phonetically spell C-A-T  and then you move on to spelling the word T-H-E but you are stuck! Some words in English are sight words – what we see is what we spell but the pronunciation is different. Here are some very useful sight word flashcards you can use. When reading together, ask your child to point to the sight words he knows. You can even ask him to count how many times a sight word appears in the book.

4. Use a dictionary: If you think physical dictionaries are passe, online dictionaries are perfect for you. Not only do they fit in your phones and pocket, but they also serve multiple purposes like breaking down of words, providing their phonetic transcription and an audio option to listen to their pronunciation.

Keep this British Council app handy to check the pronunciation of words whenever in doubt.

5. Pronunciation and play:  it’s never too early to start working on pronunciation. Younger children are very receptive to sounds since they learn how to listen before they speak. Repeating rhymes and singing songs develop the muscles of the mouth and makes children used to the rhythm of English. Plus, it’s a lot of fun when accompanied with actions. For older kids – tongue twisters are very popular. Organize a tongue twister challenge and involve everyone in the family for an evening full of fun.

There are some lovely pronunciation activities on our learnenglish britishcouncil kids website as well.

Want to play some games with phonics, PhonicsPlay has some great resources.

6. Reading aloud: Reading bedtime stories to your child every night is a great way not just to lull them to sleep but also to hone their pronunciation while they listen to their favourite tales. Here are some great stories to choose from for your daily night routine. You can watch the stories come to life by playing the video or print the story and read out to your child. Don’t forget to add your own versions of character voices for that extra effect!

Children feel confident to speak as soon as they realize that they can pronounce words just like grown-ups. With these easy strategies and fun games, you can give your child the tools to independently work on their own pronunciation so they won’t need an accent coach like Clouseau in Pink Panther.

                                                                                      - Ridhima Somaiya, Teacher British Council

                                 

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How to improve your pronunciation?

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One of the most important aspects of language learning is pronunciation. Learning to pronounce words in English is made more challenging by the fact that words are often spelt one way and pronounced another. For instance, how would you pronounce these words—enough, thorough, bought, though, cough?

To be a successful English speaker, one should also focus on other important features of pronunciation, such as intonation, stress, rhythm, and connected speech. Here are some tips to perfect your pronunciation.

1. Look up in a dictionary: Online dictionaries make your life easy by giving you an audio clip of the pronunciation. Forvo is a wonderful website that let’s you find the pronunciation of words in over 400 languages! While listening to the pronunciation, make a note of where the stress is and practice saying the word as often as you can.

 2. Imitation: Listening to English in real-life contexts and in a variety of accents are two wonderful ways in which you can master pronunciation. Choose interesting words, phrases, or short bits of the video you are watching. Imitate the speaker in the video by repeating the words or sentences exactly the way they are spoken. Pay attention to the stress and the tone of these phrases. Check out these podcasts and videos to practice pronunciation:

 3. Record yourself: Recording yourself speaking in English can help you notice your errors and work on self-correction. You could use it while you are learning new words or to practise longer conversations. Most phones these days have a voice recorder in them. You could also use https://vocaroo.com/ to record yourself as often as you like.

4. Befriend a mirror: The position of your tongue and the way you move your mouth affect the sound you make. For example, the difference in the pronunciation of the words ‘late’ and ‘rate’ comes from the position of your tongue. Watch pronunciation videos that explain these differences. BBC has a great playlist of videos showing different sounds in English and their pronunciation. Watch them here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/pronunciation

You could also use our app ‘Sounds Right’ to practise these sounds: https://www.britishcouncil.org/english/business/apps/sounds-right

5. Tongue twisters: If everything else we said here feels like too much work, try tongue twisters! They are great for pronunciation training and most of all, they are fun to do! Try these tongue twisters:

Lastly, be kind to yourself. It is okay to make mistakes. You will get better with practice!

-Reshmi V M, English Teacher 

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Keep calm and carry on learning!

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As home schooling continues to be the norm for thousands of families across the globe, many parents are slowly losing the steam they had at the beginning of the lockdown. Here are five ways to get you back on track.

WFH meetings, household chores and keeping the kids busy can be quite the task even for the most efficient multitaskers!  We often have parents asking how they can ensure their child is learning English even when their online lesson is over.

It’s important to remember that learning need not be restricted to books and online lessons alone. English can be seamlessly incorporated into everyday life to make learning a more hands-on experience. Here are some tried and tested ways in which you can blend English with routine tasks at home while also having fun with your child.

Everyday English: Mundane chores can turn into mini-language sessions especially while vocalizing the tasks. Expressions like ‘make the bed’, ‘do the dishes’, ‘set the table’ when used appropriately and frequently get ingrained in children’s minds as language chunks. While seemingly simple, these phrases are often used inaccurately and therefore learning it in context becomes important in order to learn them correctly. Similarly, activities like gardening and cooking are great ways of picking up vocabulary.  Here’s a delicious pasta recipe for you to try out with the kids.

And when things get a tad slow, here’s a poem to pep you up!

Be a virtual tourist: So what if all our travel plans are on hold for the near foreseeable future? We can still travel virtually! Museums around the world have thrown open their virtual doors for the world and all you really need is a screen. The Louvre has some fascinating tours like this one of the Egyptian Antiquities . And then there is The Vatican Museum offering a 360 degree tour of the Sistine Chapel. No better time than now to be an armchair tourist.

Getting crafty: Art and crafts have manifold benefits as learning techniques and even to build personality. They create a sense of calmness, foster creativity, and help to develop higher order thinking. Activities could be as basic as cut and paste posters to the more complex ones such as papier mache and origami crafts. Allow your child and their creativity to take the lead while you only assist them in the process. Don’t let the lack of access to craft stores dampen your artistic drive—find materials around the house like newspaper, old wrapping paper, buttons, card paper, fabric, pasta shells, leaves to help your child with their masterpiece.  Try to read/say the instructions out loud and if possible have the children repeat them so that they can associate the language with the actions.

Here are a ton of craft activities to help bring out the artist in your child.

Gamify learning – That saying about all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy? Completely true! Gamification is a technique used in several classrooms to create a buzz and it can easily be adapted for the home too. Classics like Scrabble, charades, Pictionary, and taboo work across age groups and make for great family games. You could also invite friends and family online and make it one grand game night.

To up the challenge, get the children to create their own board game. Here’s a basic template which they can further add to and design their own challenges. Make sure they also jot down the rules so that everyone plays by the book!

Lyrical learning: There is considerable research that shows that music can be used as a tool for language acquisition.  Repeating refrains in songs, predicting the story around a song or just good old sing-alongs have found to help children with becoming fluent speakers.

Hip-hop artist Akala’s TED talk on connections between Shakespeare and hip-hop is wildly popular among teens. Here are members of GMCBeats with their incredible rap song on internet safety.

Remember that children are very intuitive and can easily pick up on their parents’ emotions. So make sure you enjoy the process of learning and they’re sure to follow suit. Do try out the activities we’ve listed for you and let us know how they worked for you. Happy learning!  

Ananya Banerjee, Teacher British Council

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