How to Teach English Pronunciation to Adults

Written by karen farnen
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How to Teach English Pronunciation to Adults
Teach English pronunciation to adults. (teacher & students image by Luisafer from

Adult students of English often have difficulty with pronunciation. According to Marianne Celce-Murcia and her co-authors of "Teaching Pronunciation," adult students can acquire accurate pronunciation in a second language. But affective factors create more problems for adults than for younger learners. You should therefore address both non linguistic and linguistic factors when teaching pronunciation to adults.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Help adult students feel comfortable with your class and the new culture. A friendly, welcoming attitude will put them at ease. Make sure that all students also show respect to each other. Ask them to share their cultures. Help them realise they can keep their identities and still speak English well.

  2. 2

    Give your adult students confidence in their learning abilities. Celce-Murcia states that adults need extra help in building confidence. Therefore make your correction gentle and nonthreatening. Help them to set attainable goals, and be generous with your compliments.

  3. 3

    Teach them the basic sounds or phonemes of English. In a full-fledged pronunciation class, teach them the "International Phonetic Alphabet." Use sound charts of the vocal apparatus, and show them how to produce each sound. In a combined-skills class, you won't have time for this much detail. Instead, work on the most difficult sounds and explain how to produce them. Give them practice with pairs of words with only one difference like "be" and "me" or "bat" and "cat." These are called minimal pairs.

  4. 4

    Teach adults listening as an aid to pronunciation. Give them practice in discriminating minimal pairs, in hearing verb endings and in distinguishing singular nouns from plural.

  5. 5

    Teach them the suprasegmentals. These include pitch, rhythm and stress. Celce-Murcia states that students should practice these larger aspects of speech in addition to the basic sounds. Drill these areas with practice in sentences, poems and chants.

  6. 6

    Give them communicative practice. After work on basic sounds and sentences, practice conversations and role plays. That way your adult students will learn to use the correct pronunciation in real-life contexts.

  7. 7

    Make pronunciation fun. Use games, songs, cheers, tongue twisters and poems. Such variety will help adults forget their fears and practice repetitions more willingly. When you consider both the affective and linguistic needs of your adult students, they will achieve more native-like pronunciation.

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