Communication strategies – ‘ELF priorities’ post 3 of 3


This is the last in a series of posts looking at three areas of pronunciation which we’ve found ourselves working on time and again with different classes. If you read our first post, you may want to skip this introduction and just look at the list of activities bullet-pointed below.

ELF priorities

It can be hard to know what to focus on when it comes to pronunciation, especially if you have a group for a short time or there’s a wide range of needs. One of the great things about adopting an ELF approach is that a clear set of priorities has already been identified, based on research about what’s most likely to cause communication breakdown. This research was used by Jennifer Jenkins to draw up the Lingua Franca Core (LFC), which you can learn more about here. Obviously the key features she identifies might not be problematic for all learners, and the only way to know what will benefit your students is to do a needs analysis. That said, there are three main areas which we’ve found ourselves coming back to again and again in our classrooms:

1) Minimal pairs (e.g. pin / bin, or ship / sheep. Obviously the specific minimal pair depends on the students’ needs.)

2) Nuclear stress (e.g. “Shall we go CYcling at the weekend?” as opposed to, say, going shopping)

3) Communication strategies (e.g. trying to explain what you mean in another way, bypassing problematic vocabulary, or asking your interlocutor to explain what something means). This is relevant to pronunciation in the sense that if learners are aware that it is their pronunciation of a particular word (or their interlocutor’s pronunciation) that is causing communication breakdown, then they need strategies to move the conversation forward.

As part of a workshop on ELF pronunciation, I asked the lovely teachers on Bell’s Delta course to brainstorm classroom activities for these areas. We’ve typed up their ideas and added a few suggestions of our own, which we’re sharing in three posts. This last one looks at ideas for working on…

Communication strategies

  • Using plenty of information gap activities.
  • Asking students to reflect on whether pronunciation played a part in any communication issues after completing an information gap activity.
  • Get students sitting under chairs or tables (if culturally suitable / appropriate for the group!)  in order to make it more difficult to have a conversation comfortably. This puts them under pressure to focus on communicating their message as efficiently as possible, in order to be able to move to a more comfortable position.
  • Similarly, get students to move around as they’re speaking, or play loud music as they’re doing an activity. Before they begin, provide students with chunks of language to ask for clarification or indicate non-comprehension. Encourage them to use these chunks in the event of communication issues, which there are more likely to be with music playing or with the added burden of multi-tasking by doing something else like walking.
  • Shouting dictations. This usually makes the classroom so loud that students struggle to hear each other and have to ask their partner for clarification.
  • Broken telephone.
  • Running dictations.
  •  Back-to-back telephone role plays.
  • Get students to actually call each other on the phone.
Pic by @sandymillin via #eltpics

Pic by @sandymillin via #eltpics


Many thanks to Amra, Chris, Natalia, Mark, Adriana, Lara, Alex, Marie-Anne, and Sam, for sharing these ideas during their Delta session on ELF pronunciation.



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