A new trend that can help in teaching and learning pronunciation
All language teachers know that pronunciation is vital while learning a new language. Nevertheless, many of them do not teach it because they consider vocabulary and grammar more important. It can be assumed that when a learner knows basic grammar and vocabulary, they do not have any problems in communication, even if the pronunciation is poor. On the one hand, it is true but, on the other, ignoring the basic rules of pronunciation can cause a lot of problems. It is very easy to confuse two words that are very similar in articulation but the mistake changes completely what we want to say and, sometimes, we can unintentionally insult somebody or cause problems for ourselves. It proves that pronunciation does matter. The question is “How to do it?” For a group of teenage learners, the best way to grab their attention is to link learning with their interests. What is the trend mentioned before? And why it can be successful also with adults?
Nowadays, there is a worldwide trend of watching TV series. Some time ago, it was a shame to admit to watching a TV series but now everybody is doing it! There is a bewildering variety to choose from because producers offer more and more new series in every genre. Why we do not use it in learning? It does not matter which variation of English we teach. There are series with perfect British English pronunciation and American English as well. Other, less popular variations, also could be found.
What to do with a TV series in class?
In the beginning, we assume that every student in our group knows the phonemic alphabet and some basics of English pronunciation. If not, we should introduce it and practise on the vocabulary they know.
Firstly, we can let students watch the episode and, depending on students’ level, we can choose the version with subtitles (maybe even English subtitles) or without them. The teacher has to be aware and chose the series that is not extremely popular, as spoilers can be really irritating for students. We can encourage them to listen to the characters and the way they speak. They also practise listening skills and there is a chance that when they realize they understand a lot when they stick to the original language version even when watching in their free time. It would be good if they rose to the bait and took an interest in it. However, this way of using TV series is rather for highlymotivated students who are interested in pronunciation and want to learn it later on their own.
Secondly, we can play a video and stop (or even replay) the scene in particular moments, adding or explaining why they say it in that way. It is better than the first one, especially while working with a bigger group of students with different motivation levels. That way, they all have a chance to remember some pronunciation rules.
Thirdly, we can make a compilation of different scenes from different series (again, no important scenes, no spoilers!) and use them to explain particular rules. For example, when we would like to show that while saying the /th/ sound, the tongue’s tip is in between the teeth, we can show a mix of scenes when characters say the /th/ sound and the way they pronounce it is visible. Or when we want to show the difference between /i:/ and /ɪ/, we compile materials with vocabulary containing particular sounds. It can be a very interesting lesson for students but looking for materials can be timeconsuming so not every teacher is willing to do it. However, there is even a YouTube channel where you can find similar films. Use it or not?
Taking everything into consideration, using TV series while teaching pronunciation can be very beneficial since students not only get to know the vocabulary but also the rhythm and intonation of the real spoken English which, according to Jeremy Harmer, is “the key to successful pronunciation teaching”. Moreover, by making lessons more attractive by using TV series, we can also gain our students’ interest and respect because they can see that we know what is going on and what is currently trendy. The teacher can always remain stuck in the oldfashioned ways of teaching pronunciation but I suppose their students will not be satisfied.