Incorporating Pronunciation Instruction Across the Curriculum

Editor’s Note: This blog post follows up a TESOL virtual seminar titled “15 Content-Based Activities for Incorporating Pronunciation Instruction Across the Curriculum” that took place 10:30 am to noon, 29 January 2014. The virtual seminar was jointly planned by the Speech, Pronunciation, and Listening Interest Section of TESOL International Association (TESOL) and the Pronunciation Special Interest Group of International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL).

Thank you for attending or viewing my virtual seminar on pronunciation instruction and your interest in pronunciation instruction in general. In my presentation, I discussed


  • the rationale for including pronunciation instruction in literate/reading and writing classes as well as speaking classes
  • the features of pronunciation instruction that are typically covered, namely segementals (the individual sounds of the language) and suprasegmentals or prosodic features (i.e. word stress, sentence-level stress, intonation, linking and blending, thought groups/chunking). Research has shown that pronunciation instruction can have a positive impact on other language skills, such as listening comprehension and reading comprehension. Other research has demonstrated that focusing instruction on prosodic features and suprasegmentals is more effective in improving comprehensibility than focusing on segmentals only or mostly.
  • the Celce-Murcia framework of different types of activities to include specifically identifying/analyzing, controlled production, guided production, and free production with an emphasis on a specific language feature
  • In addition to the 15 content-based activities themselves (please see the powerpoint in the link for more details and explanations on these), I also recommended what you can do to incorporate pronunciation instruction in your teaching on a personal level and also gave tips for what institutions can do to systematize and standardize their pronunciation instruction across levels and throughout the curriculum.

There were many great questions raised in the postseminar live discussion. I now encourage you to share any questions or comments in the comments area below. Here are some questions to start the discussion:

What new information or ideas did you glean from the virtual seminar that you plan to incorporate or adapt and apply in your own teaching context? Which ideas are similar to ones you already do in your classroom? Which ideas were new to you and that you would like to incorporate and why?

Where do you feel your current program stands in terms of systematic, comprehensive pronunciation instruction? What would need to happen in order to institute or improve pronunciation instruction in your current teaching context? How motivated do you feel to make a change in the current pronunciation instruction at your institute? And what kind of actions would you need to take and support would you need to get to make that change/those changes?

About Char Heitman

Char Heitman
Char Heitman is a senior instructor at the American English Institute at the University of Oregon and has been teaching for 25 years. She has taught ESL/EFL in the United States, Japan, Holland, and Spain. Her teaching and professional interests include pronunciation, oral skills, fluency, discourse and pragmatics, materials development, alternative assessment, and project-based learning.
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7 Responses to Incorporating Pronunciation Instruction Across the Curriculum

  1. Bre says:

    As a pronunciation specialist, I find that the teaching of pronunciation is of the utmost importance–and not just by mimicking. All of the strategies that Ms. Heitman cites and explains in her presentation are great teaching tools for any teacher to be able to incorporate pronunciation instruction into their curriculum. Like Ms. Heitman, I advocate a cross curriculum approach to pronunciation teaching and definitely support an integrated level of instruction. In order for our students to become confident communicators, we need to prepare them in every way. Knowing how to use English syntactically, grammatically, and literately is only one part of the process; students also need to be able to use English orally, with good pronunciation and, thus, great comprehensibility. Without clear pronunciation as their foundation, students could know everything about English but not be able to communicate effectively. Thus, Ms. Heitman’s brilliant and most needed advocacy of pronunciation across the curriculum.

  2. Alex says:

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks again to Char Heitman for the webinar and blogpost. There have been some tech problems along the way. Apologies to anyone who tried to post but couldn’t.

    Keep an eye out for the follow up to this event. In May, Luke Harding will give the second joint IATEFL-TESOL webinar, followed by a fielded discussion. Details to be confirmed.

    Here is a list of references from Char for anyone interested in following up on the ideas she discussed:

    Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D., & Goodwin, J. M. (2010). Teaching pronunciation: A course book and
    reference guide. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Derwing, T., & Munro, M. (2005). Second language accent and pronunciation teaching: A research-based approach. TESOL Quarterly, 39(3), 379–397.

    Derwing, T., & Rossiter, M. (2003). The effects of pronunciation instruction on the accuracy, fluency, and complexity of L2 accented speech. Applied Language Learning, 13, 1–17.

    Derwing, T.M., Munro, M. & Wiebe, G., (2002) Pronunciation Instruction for Fossilized Learners: Can it Help?, Applied Language Learning. 8 (2), 217-235.

    Derwing, T.M., Munro, M., & Murray, J. (1997). Accent, Intelligibilty and Comprehensibility, Studies in Second Language Acquisition. 19, 1-16.

    Gilbert, J. (2004). Clear Speech: Pronunciation and Listening Comprehension in North American English. New York, NY: Cambridge.

    Grant, L. (2010). Well Said: Pronunciation for Clear Communication. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle Thomson Learning.

    Hahn, L. D. (2004). Primary stress and intelligibility: Research to motivate the teaching of suprasegmentals. TESOL Quarterly, 38(2), 201-223.

    Han, Z., Park, E., & Combs, C. (2008). Textual enhancement of input: Issues and possibility. Applied Linguistics, 29(4), 597-618.

    Levis, J. (2005). Changing contexts and shifting paradigms in pronunciation teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 39(3), 369–378.

    Levis, J., & Pickering, L. (2004). Teaching intonation in discourse using speech visualization technology. System, 32(4), 505–524.

    Lu, J., Wang, R., & Silva, L. C. D. (2012). Automatic stress exaggeration by prosody modification to assist language learners perceive sentence stress. International Journal of Speech Technology, 15, 2, 87-98.

    Miller, S. (2000). Targeting Pronunciation: The Intonation, Sounds and Rhythm of American English. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

    Munro, M., & Derwing, T. (2006). The functional load principle in ESL pronunciation instruction: An exploratory study. System, 34, 520–531.

    Munro, M., & Derwing, T. (1999). Foreign accent, comprehensibility, and intelligibility in the speech of second language learners. Language Learning, 49(Supp.1), 285–310.

    Tanner, M. W., & Landon, M. M. (2009). The effects of computer-assisted pronunciation readings on ESL learners’ use of pausing, stress, intonation, and overall comprehensibility. Language Learning & Technology, 13, 3, 51-65

    Taylor, K. and Thomson, S., (2013) The Color Vowel Chart, retrieved from:

  3. Christine Olli says:

    Thanks for the practical ideas that are easy to incorporate.

    I was hoping we might see a list of useful web resources posted.

    • Alex says:

      Hi Christine,

      I think that would be great. Let’s share ideas. I’d love to hear suggestions for apps too.

      I like the British Council phonemic chart app called “Sounds”. It is very easy to use, has nice practice features and can be set for British or American.

      For self-analysis exercises I’ve mostly just used the simplest mp3 or acc recorder apps, e.g. there is one called “acc recorder”. I think acc is better if you use speech analysis software such as PRAAT.

      Recently I’ve been looking into the possibilities of an app called Recordium. You can highlight sections of audio, add comments, cut extracts etc. So, when students examine their pronunciation they can skip the problem of transcribing and focus directly on sound.

      Voice Actor is another new one I haven’t tried in class yet but has potential. It’s a really simple app for adding voice-over and backing music to video. Students would have to think about how their voice fits with the images and music, thus a motivating top-down focus on pronunciation, e.g. by making a movie trailer.

      These were all free when I got them.




  4. Tamara Jones says:

    Thanks for the useful webinar, Char! I really liked your explanation of the Vowel Color Chart. I had seen it demonstrated before, but you provided a nice reminder of how important those peak vowels are and how easy they can be to teach.

  5. Alex says:

    Hi everyone,

    And thanks Char for a great webinar. It got me thinking about why I have held back on bringing pronunciation into syllabuses I’ve worked on. One problem is the range of backgrounds of teachers, all having different priorities.

    I think it’s also that I have seen some pronunciation exercises used in ways that seem to be punishment, torture or primarily for the teacher’s amusement (tongue-twisters, I’m looking at you).

    Are there any pronunciation techniques you suggest we avoid?


    • Skip Gole says:

      Hi Alex,
      I have the same problem communicating on how to teach pronunciation. Tongue twisters are what everybody grew up with, so these are always dragged out to teach. As for me, an alternative is to focus on the big picture from the beginning; specifically, how English is a stress-timed language. My students trust my teaching because it fits into a correct system for how English works. For example, many of my students have immigrated into the USA and in their country were taught that contractions were low-class English. So, I think a corrective would be to avoid teaching segmentals as an ‘only’ category. That misdirects learners to their own knowledge of how their language, probably syllable-timed, works. They need to learn the complete picture to be successful. For example, when teaching my students I have them classify words: Is it a noun? Verb? Adjective? What’s the peak vowel color? What category of word is it? Hopefully, they’ll say ‘content’ word after the first week of class. So, I always connect the sound of a word to its category in English.

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