Pedagogy Pop-up: Everything you always wanted to know about teaching pronunciation* (*but were afraid to ask)


I work for a publisher and a key part of my role is to help our teams integrate research findings into ELT courses, materials, methods and approaches.

One of the challenges I face is how to make research interesting and engaging for the people who need or want to apply research to their daily practice. I find that many people who are not based in a very academic setting (like a university) hear the word “research” and immediately think that it will be boring, dry or esoteric, or that it will take them forever to read and understand a research publication. (And of course, sometimes it is like this, but it doesn’t have to be!)

So last summer, inspired by the innovative format of a 10-minute plenary presentation that I gave at a conference in Spain earlier that year, I decided to hold a series of mini-events to share key insights from applied linguistics research. I called these short presentations “Pedagogy Pop-ups”, and the principles were simple:

  • just 10 minutes long, easy to fit into a coffee break;
  • purpose is to share interesting insights from research and how they relate to our practice;
  • no audience participation required;
  • no slides.

There were five pop-ups in the series, of which three were video recorded. The first one, about teaching pronunciation, is now available to watch here (

While this pop-up isn’t “ELF” in name, it is ELF in nature! In other words, I don’t focus specifically on ELF, but my recommendations are informed by ELF principles.

Note that the original audience for this event was largely composed of ELT publishers and editors, so I make reference to materials and coursebooks, etc. – but everything here is relevant to teachers and trainers, too.

Enjoy, please share, and feel free to comment below!

P.S. I also mention in the pop-up that I can share a list of research and other publications that I referred to when compiling my script. Here they are:

Cauldwell, R. (2015). Listening Cherry 13 – Connected speech rules are too genteel. Published online at

Crawford, S. Z. & H. L. Moffie (2016). ‘Activities for teaching reduced speech’. TESOL Connections. Available online at

Crystal, D. (2008). ‘Two thousand million?’ English Today, 93, Vol. 24, Issue 1, pp. 3-6.

Derwing, T. M. & M. J. Munro (2009). Putting accent in its place: Rethinking obstacles to communication. Language Teaching and Research, 42 (4), 476-490.

Graddol, D. (2006). English next: Why global English may mean the end of ‘English as a Foreign Language’. Published online by the British Council.

Jenkins, J. (2000). The phonology of English as an International Language: New models, new norms, new goals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Levis, J. M., S. Sonsaat, S. Link & T. A. Barriuso (2016). Native and non-native teachers of L2 pronunciation: Effects on learner performance. TESOL Quarterly. Published online at

Levis, J. & S. Sonsaat (2016). ‘Pronunciation materials’. In M. Azarnoosh et al (eds.), Issues in Materials Development, pp. 109-119. Published by Sense.

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

Saito, K. (2012). ‘Effects of instruction on L2 pronunciation development: A synthesis of 15 quasi-experimental intervention studies.’ TESOL Quarterly, 46/4, pp. 842-854.

Underhill, A. (2015). ‘Proprioception and pronunciation’. Speak Out! The newsletter of the IATEFL Pronunciation Special Interest Group, 53, pp. 25-34.

Walker, R. (2014). ‘Pronunciation Matters’. English Teaching Professional, 90. Available at

Walker, R. (2014). ‘Pronunciation Matters’ (presentation slides). Available at

Walter, C. (2009). ‘Teaching phonology for reading comprehension’. Speak Out! The newsletter of the IATEFL Pronunciation Special Interest Group, 40.


Going to IATEFL 2017?


iatefl-glasgow-penantIt’s that time again… the IATEFL conference is fast approaching, and we’re looking forward to hearing what people have got to say about ELF and pronunciation.

To our surprise and disappointment, searching the conference programme for “English as a lingua franca” reveals only one session on this topic in the entire conference programme: the annual ELT Journal debate. And only one other session makes passing reference to ELF in its title or abstract: a short talk about native- and non-native speaker teachers and teacher training on Thursday afternoon. There are one or two other sessions which seem to relate to intelligibility, but nothing like last year’s conference offering.

On the bright side, there are a considerable number of sessions in this year’s conference which focus on pronunciation. If you choose to attend any of these, why not browse the ELFpron website beforehand so you can participate with a critical perspective? In our experience, attendees get more out of conference sessions if they have some critical and curious questions in mind.

For example, during pronunciation sessions you might ask yourself:

  • Are these activities useful for focusing on areas within the Lingua Franca Core?
  • Would my students need to focus on these areas of pronunciation, or are they more suitable for learners aiming for native-like pronunciation?
  • What assumptions are made about what is “intelligible”? What are these based on?

Without further ado, here is our selection of this year’s sessions which appear to focus on ELF and/or pronunciation, including ELFpron’s own Laura Patsko, whose workshop will take place on the Wednesday afternoon (details below). Do come and say hello in person if you’re at the conference!

Monday 3 April

ALL DAY – PronSIG Pre-Conference Event: “Pronunciation then and now”

This day won’t focus specifically on ELF, but it’s bound to be mentioned as the focus of the day is a review of historical methods, techniques, trends and topics related to pronunciation teaching. We’ll also be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Daniel Jones’ English Pronouncing Dictionary.

Tuesday 4 April

10:40-11:25 – Adrian Underhill (Forth) – Getting pronunciation out of the head and into the body

Adrian will presumably be working his usual magic, entertaining and informing the audience with his techniques for raising learners’ awareness of the fact that pronunciation is fundamentally a physical skill. Worth attending if you’ve never been to one of his workshops.

12:00-13:05 – ELTj debate, featuring Péter Medgyes and Alessia Cogo (Clyde) – ELF is interesting for researchers, but not important for teachers and learners

We wouldn’t miss this session for the world. Alessia Cogo is one of the foremost published researchers on ELF and pedagogy, not to mention a great presenter and always keen to meet and talk to teachers at conferences (unlike some academics!). It’s really worth going to listen to what she has to say. Péter Medgyes is also a big name in the whole ‘native/non-native speaker teacher’ debate, and caused a stir back in 2014 when he referred to ELF as merely a “trendy concept” in his IATEFL e-bulletin. He stepped down as IATEFL Vice President/President-Elect shortly afterwards. (Click here to read about the pair of articles which prompted his comment.)

15:20-15:50 – Mark McKinnon & Nicola Meldrum (Alsh 2) – Making pronunciation an integral part of your classroom practice

We often talk about the importance of integrating pronunciation into all lessons throughout a course. This session looks likely to focus on this, and we’re excited to see what suggestions they have for classroom practice. The abstract reads: How much pronunciation work takes place in the average EFL classroom? Many teachers would admit that a lot less goes on than they would like. It makes sense that without sufficient mastery of pronunciation, being understood and understanding others is virtually impossible. In this talk, we will cover practical ideas on how to fully integrate pronunciation into your classroom work.

Wednesday 5 April

This day of the conference has a dedicated stream of sessions related to the Pronunciation Special Interest Group (“PronSIG”), so if you’re a pronunciation enthusiast, you could just stay in room “Boisdale 1” all day and you’d probably be quite content!

10:20-10:50 – Mark Hancock (Boisdale 1) – Accent: are we bovvered?

Regular readers of this blog will know that we find accents fascinating. There is such a diverse range of English accents in the world today and it’s not only possible but necessary to address this in the classroom. Laura gave a practical workshop on this topic at the 2015 IATEFL conference and it looks like Mark is going to cover some of the theory behind such an approach in his session this year.

Mark’s abstract reads: Accent can be a problem in English teaching. Which accent do we take as a model? Must it be a native-speaker accent? Must it be a prestige accent? In this session, we will look at how accents vary, both across the UK and in the wider world, and examine some of the implications for English language teaching.

12:25-12:55 – Sarah Grech (Boisdale 1) – Owning English: honing learners’ chances of intelligibility internationally

Here’s one of the few talks in this year’s programme that looks like it might address ELF, even if it doesn’t specify this in the abstract:

This talk explores how far fossilised pronunciation patterns can be challenged in a class of young adults aspiring to use spoken English internationally. It also shows how trained language experts rationalise their notions of intelligibility when listening to learners attempting to accommodate international interlocutors. Practical implications are considered with respect to multilingual contexts.

14:15-15:00 – Laura Patsko (Boisdale 1) – How to give feedback on learners’ pronunciation

ELFpron’s own Laura Patsko is giving this workshop. There is a lot of good advice available nowadays for how to teach pronunciation, including (we like to think) on this blog! But attention is usually focused on introducing or practising certain features, and many teachers are left wondering: how do I then respond to what my students produce? In this workshop, attendees will look at some practical tips and techniques which teachers can use to give feedback on their students’ pronunciation. Naturally, we’ll be taking an ELF perspective when considering what aspects of pronunciation to prioritise.

15:15-15:45 – Adam Scott (Boisdale 1) – Achieving phonology’s potential in the ELT classroom

Adam probably won’t be focusing on ELF, but he’s certainly an engaging speaker and author and it’s well worth attending his session in order to benefit from the reflected glow of his creative ideas for teaching pronunciation!

Here’s his abstract: Phonology is central to language, and the ultimate noticing activity for learners. It has many uses in reading and writing in addition to speaking and listening, but materials, teachers and students undervalue its systemic importance, ignoring its learning potential. This presentation outlines how sound phonological awareness informs wider language development, and offers practical adaptations to CLT that place phonology centre-stage.

16:20-17:05 – Louise Guyett (Boisdale 1) – Designing personalised pronunciation board games for your learners

A PronSIG committee member, Louise is another pron enthusiast and has a particular interest in materials creation. In her practical workshop, she’s going to focus on board games – how to adapt them for pronunciation practice and how to decide what learners need to focus on.

17:20-17:50 – Ewa Wanat & Rachel Smith (Boisdale 1) – Rhythm matters? Rhythmic training techniques for comprehending connected speech

Another session in this year’s programme which doesn’t mention ELF, but which may be relevant. The abstract focuses on comprehension – how to understand connected speech, rather than how to produce it (which many native-oriented approaches would prioritise). We’ll be interested to see what techniques and tips they suggest!

Thursday 6 April

12:00-12:30 – John Field (Argyll 1) – Listening: ways out of the fog

John is an expert in second-language listening and you may be familiar with his view that we should move away from traditional/popular notions of ‘listening for gist’, ‘listening for detail’, etc. in favour of approaches that deal more directly and usefully with the real business of listening – i.e. decoding the stream of speech that we hear. We’re looking forward to hearing his suggestions for identifying English learners’ particular difficulties with listening.

14:00-14:30 – Karin Krummenacher, Daniel Baines & Marek Kiczkowiak (Carron 2) – NESTs and NNESTs: awareness-raising and promoting equality through teacher training

Although the abstract for this session makes passing reference to ELF, it appears to focus more on the problems of native-speakerism within ELT. It’s likely that participants will come away with some ideas for addressing the issues of diversity, identity and accent variation in teacher training courses.

14:00-14:30 – Gemma Archer (Alsh 1) – The other 97%: pronunciation strategies for non-RP-speaking teachers

Gemma is from Scotland and – like most ELT practitioners – does not speak with an accent that is reflected in most ELT materials, either as a model or an example. Her abstract reads: For many years, the dominant pronunciation model in UK teaching resources has been Received Pronunciation, despite the estimation that RP speakers only account for 3% of the population (Crystal, 1983). This talk will focus on both the phonological and pedagogical problems this may pose to the remaining 97% of regional teachers, and share supportive strategies to aid their pronunciation instruction.

14:35-15:05 – Pamela Rogerson-Revell (Alsh 1) – Research into practice: revisiting some more ‘old-fashioned’ notions in pronunciation

We wonder if Pamela will touch on ELF in her talk. Her abstract reads: […] I would like to [discuss] some more old-fashioned or well-established notions in pronunciation. In this talk, I will argue that there is still a need for closer links between phonological research and pronunciation teaching.

16:45-17:15 – Richard Cauldwell (Barra/Jura) – A syllabus for listening: less top-down! More bottom-up

Richard is well-known for making the messy business of listening to authentic speech more accessible to learners. In this session, he’ll talk about how we can help learners “decode the sound substance of recordings”, truly teaching them to listen, as opposed to merely testing what they managed to understand.

Friday 7 April

09:00-10:00 – Jane Setter (Clyde) – PLENARY: Where angels fear to tread: intonation in English language teaching

There could be no better start to the last day of the conference than Professor Jane Setter giving the morning plenary. Some 15 years ago, Laura was lucky enough to be taught by Jane on her undergraduate degree in linguistics, and it’s no coincidence that her specialist subject is now the same as Jane’s. Jane’s expertise, enthusiasm and guidance has strongly influenced Laura’s career and research in English linguistics. We wouldn’t miss her plenary for the world.

(Note: A follow-up Q&A session with Jane will take place in Alsh 1 from 11:05-11:35, if you’d like to discuss intonation in ELT or any aspect of second language phonology, phonology in global Englishes, and pronunciation teaching and learning.)

10:20-10:50 – Catarina Pontes (Carron 1) – Using e-portfolios to develop pronunciation teaching via an awareness-raising framework

One of the most important aspects of developing pronunciation skills is to be self-aware. In this session, Catarina will use her experience of e-portfolios to demonstrate how teachers can develop awareness of their own pronunciation and the influence this has on the quality of their teaching.


Interview with Prof. Jennifer Jenkins


We were thrilled to have the opportunity to catch up with Professor Jennifer Jenkins at the University of Southampton recently, as she inspired so much of our work at ELFpron. It’s 16 years since Prof. Jenkins published  her research leading to the creation of the Lingua Franca Core (LFC) so we decided it was time to ask her what she is researching now, and how her earlier work on pronunciation helped to inform her current work on multilingualism.

We hope this video might be a useful introduction for the teaching training classroom and anyone interested in better understanding ELF. If you are a fan of video content, check out our new page linking to all the ELFpron training videos, available to watch for free.

Many thanks to Prof. Jenkins for her time and continued support.


English UK plenary: ELF and the multilingual classroom


Thanks to all those who attended Laura’s presentation at the English UK Teachers’ Conference in London on Saturday 12 November 2016.

You can download the slides from Laura’s plenary by clicking here and, if you missed it, you can watch the video here. (Apologies for the sound and picture quality! The video also stopped recording for several minutes in the middle of the presentation, so we have re-recorded and inserted the missing section as a screencast.)

Live Q&A event with Laura Patsko and Martin Dewey


Today I had the pleasure of hosting a live teacher development event with my colleague at King’s College London, Dr. Martin Dewey. The topic was “Teaching English as a Lingua Franca”. Martin specialises in teacher knowledge and beliefs (particularly about language use), and I – of course – specialise in accents and pronunciation. Together, we answered questions as they came in from teachers around the world who were attending this Cambridge English Teacher event.

You can watch a video recording of this event here or by clicking on the image below:

Please note that the event begins about 6 minutes after the video begins (when the time remaining shows -33:11).

ELF - Cambridge English Teacher event

Some of the questions we attempted to answer were:

  • If not a native-speaker model, what should we refer to?
  • Isn’t “adjustment in an ELF setting” just what we’ve always known as “accommodation”?
  • How do we combat the fear of decline as English spreads and perhaps simplifies?
  • What’s the difference/Where’s the boundary between ‘misuse’ of English in an ELF context and the formation of a new English dialect?
  • What would you suggest if, during a lesson in an EFL context, a student comes up with some ‘ELF expressions’, would you accept it or disregard it or consider it a mistake?
  • Will examination boards eventually accept such variation?
  • Will globalisation definitely lead to simplification? (Will the third-person ‘s’ disappear? Will ‘th’ sounds vanish?)

If you’re a member or guest user of Cambridge English Teacher, you can also go here to read the summary and watch the trailer that were posted before the event:

Thanks to all who attended!


ELTJ book review


More books about ELF pronunciation are desperately needed, so I was very excited when I read the blurb of Jolanta Szpyra-Kozłowska’s book Pronunciation in EFL Instruction: A Research-based Approach, published by Multilingual Matters, which claims to address the following key issues:

in view of recent debates on the global spread of English and its international lingua franca role’: how to choose a pronunciation model, which pronunciation features to teach, and how to teach them.

pron bookThe author proposes her own approach, a NELF approach to pronunciation—Native English as a Lingua Franca—which she says ‘combines some ideas of ELF and EFL, and can be viewed as a kind of compromise between them’ (p. 23). I was intrigued by what this might mean but, unfortunately, the books disappoints by failing to contribute any meaningful solutions to the question of what and how to teach pronunciation to students who use ELF.

eltj70However, if you are looking for an exploration of some of these issues, check out my review of Szpyra-Kozłowska’s book in volume 70 issue 3 of OUP’s ELT Journal. You can access a longer extract on the ELT Journal site here and we will be happy to share the full text on an individual basis. Contact us here.


My English Voice


The fifth in a series of lesson materials

If you’re looking for audio resources featuring a wider variety of accents than is offered in most coursebooks, then YouTube is the place to go. This is the last in our series of five free downloadable lesson plans and worksheets based on YouTube clips, aimed at inspiring teachers to expose students to the full range of English accents in the world.

The four previous posts have all featured individual lesson plans for teachers to take into class. I would like to complete the series with something a bit different, by sharing details of my new ‘online school’ based almost entirely on… YouTube.

Self-study worksheets

There are so many interesting videos on YouTube featuring speakers from around the world that I decided it is time to create a YouTube channel of my own, to put these videos in one place. I have created self-study worksheets and answer keys for each one, with listening comprehension and vocabulary exercises, and a section aimed at raising students’ awareness of the range of accents they might hear when using English as a Lingua Franca (which I have called International English on the videos because I think this is easier for students to understand). The lessons include a sub-titled extract from each video, with a transcript of the extract on the worksheet, and students are asked to repeat what the speaker says to try and notice any differences between their own pronunciation and the pronunciation of the speaker on the video. The My English Voice website is still in the final stages of design, but should be live in a few weeks, and this will be a place for students to search lessons by topic, level, and speakers’ first language backgrounds.

raleway font logo

Example lesson

The lessons are aimed at learners, i.e. they are self-study materials for people to do at home, alone. However, teachers are most welcome to use them in class, and it would be great if you could show the site to any students who might be interested, even if you feel the worksheets are not appropriate for use in class. You can encourage people to join the My English Voice ‘community’ by liking the Facebook page, subscribing to the YouTube channel, and signing up to the newsletter for updates of new lessons here. And if they subscribe (for free) this is the kind of lesson they will receive:

  • A worksheet like this
  • …which goes with a video like this
  • …and when they finish, they can check their answers with an answer key like this.

YouTube live broadcast

Feedback from students who have used the worksheets suggests that they need more motivation to actually complete them! For example, some kind of deadline. So, on Saturdays at 9.00 GMT, I am hosting YouTube live broadcast ‘chats’ where students can answer the discussion question at the end of the worksheets by typing their ideas into the chatbox.

I am also experimenting with ways to make English language learning more accessible, i.e. more affordable, by hosting speaking ‘lessons’ via Skype and YouTube live broadcast on Sundays at 9.00 GMT. The idea is that students pay the price of a cup of coffee in their country, so people pay different rates based on their currency. It works like this…

  • Students message me through the Facebook page with their email address, Skype ID, and their first language (e.g. French, Farsi, Japanese, etc.).
  • After they have paid, via PayPal, I match them with another student and send them the Skype ID of their ‘speaking partner’ (of a different first language background).
  • They also receive an email with the lesson materials and a link to the YouTube live broadcast event.
  • During the lesson, students can type questions and messages into the chat box on YouTube live broadcast to communicate with the whole class, but the speaking is done just with their partner via Skype.
  • After I have demonstrated the communication exercise (i.e. an information gap activity), students call their speaking partner on Skype while I countdown the time in the YouTube chatroom.
  • When the time for the speaking activity has finished, students come back to the chatroom to share their experiences of doing the activity and reflect about how successfully they communicated. We work together as a group to think of ways they could improve.
  • Then there is another speaking exercise in the same way again, using Skype, and then feedback via the YouTube chat box.

The My English Voice course

As well as the YouTube lessons, My English Voice will also soon be launched as an ‘online school’ by offering a four-week Skype course in groups of three learners, all of different first language backgrounds. The first pilot course has just been completed, with a Russian speaker, Japanese speaker, and Farsi speaker. Here are a few details…

My English Voice course details infographic


The course aims to develop learners’ speaking and listening skills in an ELF context and, as you might expect coming from one half of ELFpron, there is a strong pronunciation focus:

Course outline

I would love to hear any suggestions or feedback, and watch this space for the launch of the website in the next few weeks. Happy YouTubing!