Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Practice Pronunciation Online

The course I'm taking this semester at Alliant International University has been stimulating as I have been exposed to several online sites that can be used to help students improve their English outside of class. For pronunciation, most educators would agree that online sites and software are pretty good these days, but that students will still greatly benefit with class or a tutor's help with problematic sounds or combinations of sounds. Most non-native speakers of English want to be able to produce novel sentences without fear of being misunderstood or being laughed at.

Below are some sites worth checking out. The first one is a demo of two software programs (for different levels of students) which can be purchased online (I'm not a marketer of this software, and watching the demo doesn't cost you anything, which is as far as I got). The great thing about this software is that the user can get visual and aural feedback of his/her own pronunciation, using software that produces a sound wave of the model speaker as well as the student's sample and allows the student to compare his/her sound wave file with that of the model. For low level learners, I like the minimal pairs practice at Many Things, but this site does not have video images so that a student can actually see someone saying the words or sounds. For free online viewing of English sounds, I highly recommend Jennifer's ESL site, which has a lot of helpful YouTube material. The only thing that is missing at these last two sites is a way for students to get feedback on their pronunciation. For this, students can always purchase a small hand-held digital tape recorder or download a free recorder for their computer from Audacity.

In addition, there are fun audio and audio-video recording sites which are free up to a certain number of megabytes (I'm giving you the homepage links), such as VoiceThread and Podomatic. You can sign up with e-mail and some basic information about the user. Instructors can also create sites where students can go and record themselves for feedback. I have not yet tried to use these last two devices for classes. I have had students do homework/quiz recordings using Audacity and e-mailing me their work as a wav or mp3 file. Voice Thread is perhaps an easier way for students and instructors to interact with each other aurally and visually. I am sure that many of my readers are experienced at Voice Thread or Podomatic already, so I welcome links and examples of how well it can work!

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