Review ~ The Book of Pronunciation

An excellent review of the basics of phonology with many useful classroom activities, also suitable for teacher training purposes.
Reviewed for Teflnet by Kaithe Greene


I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the lookout for new ideas on how to correct the pronunciation of my students – even the good ones with a great ear for music need all the help they can get, so this book is a bit of a gift.

Somehow, that “listen and repeat” routine just doesn’t do it for so many students. They need something more – something more tangible, some oral mechanics or technology, some help to isolate the alien sounds of English in order to access both aural recognition and oral production. The Book of Pronunciation aims to assist us in giving them just that.

The book is organized into three sections. The first focuses on what the poet W.B.Yeats called “a mouthful of air” – some of the issues involved in incorporating pronunciation work into class time, how and what sounds humans produce in language, and how to promote that effectively in our students. The second, and largest section, gives us a wide range of activities to do with our students. These range from awareness raising activities, through ways of dealing with lip positioning and aspiration, to individual sounds and intonation. The third section, including “More…..about pronunciation”, “More…about learners”, “More about ….teaching” give readers exactly that through a quiz, a wander through sounds that exist in other languages, a little about transcription and impossible words, ideas for action research, and some troubleshooting and discussion ideas.

What is new about the materials? The approach is a little different to previous similarly practical books on pronunciation for teachers in that the underlying theory of the start of the book enables us to adapt activities to suit our students, and it does make the whole topic very accessible for both teachers and students.

The activities range from the delightfully named “Starring Schwa” and “Breadnbutter” in which students work on recognizing and producing weak forms in unstressed syllables, through activities which focus on word endings (great for Vietnamese students), intonation patterns and tonic prominence, to team games with an emphasis on phoneme combinations. If by any chance that little round up of contents has left you head whirling because you’ve never heard of “tonic prominence”, thought “bread ‘n butter” was a pudding and imagined “starring schwa” to be a hitherto unknown cocktail take heart because by using these activities with your students you can teach yourself a great deal about phonology.

This book is nothing if not practical as the section of activities is 117 pages long and contains 111 activities, and the CD has nearly 100 tracks on it.

This book is for teachers who are looking for ways to incorporate some pronunciation into their classes and those who want learn more about phonology and would make a great source book about pronunciation work for teaching training purposes.

I like pretty much everything about this book. My favourite activities are: “Tough enough”, in which students complete a gapfill with words containing ‘ough’ and then assign the words to categories depending on sound; “Nothing a tall”, which gives students practice in catenation (linking between a final consonant and an initial vowel); and “A bagful of sounds”, which is a group activity supporting students in noticing and practicing links between pronunciation and vocabulary.

There was something missing though. I would have appreciated an index, a glossary and the audioscripts. Although it’s not difficult to find your way around the material by using the contents page at the front of the book and the activity lists at the start of each chapter, I would have liked to have been able to browse the audioscripts for inspiration rather than having to approach from a position of knowing what aspects of pronunciation I want to focus on. I also would have appreciated the opportunity to use an index for finding specifics such as regular past simple endings or plural sounds.

This book is an excellent introduction to, or review of, the basics of phonology together with some useful activities to use with students. It would be very useful for any teacher who wants to get started with some meaningful pronunciation work but doesn’t know how to go about it, and for teachers who simply want some new or different ideas to work with. It is also great material to use for in-service training sessions. It deserves a place in every teachers’ room.

Reviewed by Kaithe Greene for August 2013
Having been in the EFL industry for nearly twenty years Kaithe is currently working for Language Link Vietnam where she is Head of Teacher Training and Development. When not working she can be found grannying in Devon or Australia.

One Comment

  • Kawong Chan says:

    Look for pronounciation guide

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