Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pronunciation of Minimal Pairs /p/ and /b/ (initial and final positions)

When teaching pronunciation to intermediate level students, you have to find some balance between giving them the information they need to produce certain sounds and finding a fun way to practice those sounds a lot in class. Here are some of the resources that I used and created to help my students, primarily Arabic speakers, distinguish between /p/ and /b/ in both initial and final position.

A game that was fun and successful is a variation on Go Fish, where students try to match cards with identical words written on them. That is, instead of asking if someone has any "Queens", the student asks a partner if (s)he has the word "PUB." If the student asked has the card with "PUB" written on it, (s)he gives the card to the student asking questions.  If the student being asked does not have the word, "PUB", the other student must draw a card from stack of cards that were not passed out.  Below is a photo of some of the cards I made up. I printed the words on an Avery label sheets. I stuck the words on old playing cards. You can often get these as give-aways from local casinos. Students liked playing with cards that looked like actual playing cards.

I used words from this minimal pair list. Students had a chance to practice the words on the list two days earlier. As with all card games, there is some time investment on the part of the teacher making them, but once she has the game(s), she can use it (them) repeatedly.  I also made another set of Go Fish cards using the images and words from this site (= a very useful site with lots of written and visual materials put together by a speech pathologist). Finally, you can have students practice pronouncing the sounds outside of class with YouTube video links, such as this one.  More advanced level students can also practice learning all the sounds of English using the phonemic alphabet.

It is also possible to use these same cards to do vowel contrasts (e.g., "cap" and "cup").  When students had played a few round of Go Fish, they also could play a game of Concentration or Memory using the same cards or a subset of the cards. I also showed my students a link to an audio version of Concentration for practicing pronunciation.

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