“Does my child have good pronunciation?”

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I lost count of the number of times I got asked this over three days of parent-teacher meetings at my school. In fact, I don’t know if this was the exact question they asked, because we rely on translators. But there was definitely an interest in pronunciation, even among parents of my kindergarten students. So what do you say? Especially when parents say things like “I want her to have a British accent like yours” (don’t get me started!)…

Here are a few things I said at the time, and others I wish I’d said but only thought of afterwards! They might at least provide some inspiration if you’re looking for ways to provide meaningful feedback without getting into a debate about the phrase ‘good pronunciation’.

Pronunciation feedback you could give at a parent-teacher meeting:

  • Your child is confident articulating the main vowel and consonant sounds of English and she is consistent in her pronunciation. There is also a clear difference in the way she pronounces similar pairs of sounds, for example, short and long vowels like ‘ship’ and ‘sheep’. Her classmates never seem to misunderstand her because of any pronunciation issues.
  • Your child pronounces most of the key vowel and consonant sounds clearly but she has some difficulty differentiating between /v/ and /w/. She needs to make sure her teeth are touching her lip for /v/. You might like to try doing some tongue twisters at home together because this can be a really fun way to practice pronunciation. Try googling British Council Learn English Kids Tongue Twisters.
Fun tongue twisters that children can try at home

Fun tongue twisters on the British Council Learn English Kids site

  • Your child lacks confidence speaking English and this impacts on her pronunciation because she speaks very quietly and is reluctant to open her mouth too much. Her confidence will build with age and it’s important not to push her too hard at this stage, as that could make her even more uncomfortable. Try listening to more songs at home together, if she enjoys this, to help her become more familiar with the sounds of English.
  • Your child copies the sounds of words clearly when she is repeating after me, which shows she doesn’t have difficulty articulating the sounds. However, when she’s speaking more freely in a pair or a group, she sometimes forgets what the new words sound like, even if she can see the word on the board or in her book. This issue is connected to reading and remembering sound-letter relations, rather than pronunciation in the sense of articulating the sounds. I would recommend watching more cartoons with the subtitles on in English or listening to songs which show the lyrics in English, to help her become more familiar with sound-letter relations.
  • Your child pronounces most of the key vowel and consonant sounds clearly but she sometimes has difficulty hearing the difference between sounds when she’s listening. When we do dictation activities, I’ve noticed that she sometimes confuses sounds which are articulated in similar places in the mouth. For example, she might write down ‘t’ when she should have written ‘d’. I would recommend watching more cartoons with the subtitles on in English or listening to songs which show the lyrics in English, to help her become more familiar with sound-letter relations.

What other top phrases do you have to talk about pronunciation at parent-teacher meetings? And do you have any other suggestions for parents about how they can help their children work on pronunciation at home? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

katybannernew

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8 thoughts on ““Does my child have good pronunciation?”

    • Agreed James. I reckon I thought about it more than I would with adult classes because of the volume of parents we spoke to over the three days (we each teach around 200 children), and so it was more noticeable with being repeatedly asked that question. But when I go back to teaching adults, I’ll be taking so much with me that I’ve learnt from the YL classroom that is definitely applicable to adults too.

    • Thanks Ann! That’s exciting 🙂 great to see discussions about ELF being given an opportunity to reach a wider audience.

  1. How about just letting our student just get confident and feeling at easy with her/his use of/speaking & pronouncing English..Trust her/his ability to get better and better with no insistance nor interferring pressure of you,teacher..

    • Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I think a lot of my students feel the same way – but the pressure often comes from the parents. Part of the reason for writing this blog post was to suggest constructive ways that teachers can respond to those parents. I also think that in my context, in Thailand, where there is often more focus in their regular classes on writing English and not speaking, that my students lack confidence partly because there is little guidance when it comes to pronunciation. In terms of letting students get on with speaking as much as possible, I totally agree that when it comes to pronunciation, a little and often is probably the key. In which case, it’s useful to have a set of priorities so we can focus on the areas that are going to produce the most benefits. That’s why I’ve found it really useful to take an ELF approach to pronunciation because it helps you to think about what is worth focusing on and what is, like you say, just getting in the way! If you’re interested in this topic, check out our blog post on the Lingua Franca Core. Thanks again for getting involved! It’s great to see so many people entering into discussions about pronunciation 🙂

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