How can Reading Out Loud help with Sentence Stress?

How often do you read out loud?

Often when we're speaking naturally, we have so many things to think about. We have to think about the word order, which words we're using, the pronunciation of the words, whether we've got the right proposition, the intonation.

All of these things are going through our heads, and often we forget something. And it could be any of those things. And today I'd like to look a little bit at how sentence stress can affect a sentence.

Which outcome are you most interested in when communicating?

Recently, during an interview about teaching pronunciation with another language teacher, Renu, the question about whether pronunciation really is an important part of learning the English language came up. Renu wanted to clarify what role pronunciation plays in communication with others. After a short consideration I realised there are different layers of the role of pronunciation and each layer allows you to improve your communication possibilities. After thinking about the topic over the course of the last week, it felt like an important topic to explore more and expand on for you here.

If you are not sure about how pronunciation can influence your communication, I am sure you are not alone. Despite being an English language teacher, I will confess that when I first started teaching and probably for eight years after that I stuck with the most basic concept of pronunciation, in that I would simply correct any pronunciation errors I heard from my students. By which I mean, if the word they said was incomprehensible, or had the stress in the wrong place, I would repeat the word they had said with my own pronunciation for the student to copy. It is only since completing my Diploma in TESOL in 2019 that I have understood the importance of going deeper into pronunciation during my lessons.

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Are your learners intimidated by English?

How much English do your learners speak in your classroom?

Speaking in your second, third, or even fourth language can be intimidating sometimes, wouldn't you agree? Depending on the situation, how prepared you feel and how confident you feel with the people around you, can all affect how well you speak at any given moment. This is as true for our students as it is for us.

How would it feel to connect better with your students, so you can help your learners, of all ages, feel safe enough and prepared enough to practise speaking more English, both inside, and outside of, your classroom?

If this sounds like what you are looking for, then here are a few tips for you on how you can encourage your students to start talking more in English.

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Am I good enough?

Have you ever asked yourself the question, am I good enough?

Let me start by saying that you are not alone.

I am 99% sure everyone has asked themselves this question at some point in their lives, and this is just as true for the teachers that I work with. They may be worried that their pronunciation is not good enough, or that their English language is not quite at the level that they want it to be, because they are grading their language for their students and not having the regular practice of a higher level of English. Or maybe they are worried about their classroom management style.

Whatever the reason, whatever your reason for asking this question, I would like to tell you, you are enough. Just to repeat; you are enough.

That is not to say that we cannot improve. All of us can improve at whatever we are working on. However, with the knowledge that you currently have and the information that you have to hand, you are enough.

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How to Get Your Students Talking

A few tips for teachers of English, on ways to get your students talking more in English - what other tips would you add?

Why Confidence is the Key to Fluency in English

When I ask my new clients what they would like to work on in particular with regards to their English, most of them respond with either vocabulary, or pronunciation. Which is fine, however, almost all of them already have a good range of vocabulary and even if they have an accent, their pronunciation is usually quite clear. So why do they come to me for lessons?

Well, having worked with teachers and professionals alike over the last 12 years, I have come to the conclusion that it is not about how much they know, or think they know. It is about the confidence in themselves.

So how can we improve our confidence in our English ability, I hear you ask?

The simple answer is: use it!

Now, this is not always that easy as we have so many things in life that we should do and we do not really want to add using our language skills to our ‘to-do list’. However, there are some ways we can incorporate English into our daily lives, and with a little motivation and some consistency, these will help us gain the self-belief in our own language ability.

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Can I still pronounce words correctly with an accent?

I was asked this really interesting question recently, which I wanted to discuss with you: Can I still pronounce words correctly with an accent?

My short answer is ‘yes’!

You can stop there if you like and just enjoy the fact that you can continue to speak in the way you have always spoken. However, if you would like the longer answer with a bit more of an explanation, carry on reading this article.

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Would you like to be the teacher who is remembered for all the right reasons?

Most English teachers I know want to incite passion for the language in their students and one of my clients, let's call her Clara, is no different. Clara's heartfelt efforts to help her pupils improve their results are something we see in teachers again and again, because like Clara, we'd all like to be remembered for being a great tacher, wouldn't we? 

Can you remember all of your teachers? Probably not, but I am sure there is at least one you remember clearly, who taught your favourite subject, or who made a lasting impression on you: your favourite teacher. The one you would cross the street to say hello to, the one you would give a big hug and you would want to thank. Because teachers influence us and can have an impact on our lives. They help us become the people we are today. And we, as teachers, want to leave a favourable impression on our own students.

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Vowel Sounds /ɪ/ /i/ and /i:/

When a words ends in a 'y' it's often represented in phonemic script as /i/, like the long /i:/, but without the colon. This sound sits somewhere between the /i:/ and the /ɪ/.

I put together a short video (2 minutes) to give you some examples, check it out here!

english language coach for non-native teachers of English leaning against an invisible wall
Why many English teachers think their pronunciation is poor, but really shouldn't

Do you feel concerned about your English accent? Do you lack self-confidence in your English pronunciation? Do you avoid teaching pronunciation in your own English classroom because you were never taught it when you were at school?

There are many issues behind pronunciation for teachers of English who have another mother tongue; this is not your fault. Believe it or not, this is just as true for native speakers, we too have spent much of our lives being told other accents are “better” or being told to speak “more clearly”. However, learning about how English pronunciation is different from your own language can empower you to help your learners become confident, independent English speakers.

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english language coach for non-native teachers of English sitting in the sunshine with views of the Scilly Isles behind her
3 Ways to Increase your Self-Confidence to Teach Pronunciation

Being able to teach a subject well is important for all teachers, wouldn’t you say? Of course there may be some aspects of that subject which we would rather not teach, or certain topics we prefer, but this is natural. However, when our self-confidence prevents us from doing our job well, this can cause us to feel like we are not good enough, and can develop into a real fear.

There are many reasons for a lack of self-confidence. It could be that we do not feel like an authority on that topic, which could come from a lack of knowledge. It could come from a lack of practise, or it could be part of your personality. You will be pleased to know that feeling uncertain about your abilities is not a permanent state and can be changed with a little help.

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English Language Coach for non-native teachers of English
5 Ways to Enhance your Students’ Pronunciation in your Classroom

For many teachers, pronunciation can be a scary thing to focus on and teach in the classroom. Five years ago, this was the same for me! I was terrified of trying to do anything more than the bare minimum of drilling a new word. I had not been taught pronunciation, I did not really know how it worked and had never really thought about it in any great detail, so I avoided it without even considering the effect that would have on my students.

However, a huge part of my DipTESOL focussed on pronunciation and I realised that I had been letting my students down. By not focussing on pronunciation in my classes, my learners were unable to communicate clearly and would potentially have issues understanding others. I realised I had to change the way I thought about pronunciation in my lessons. And slowly, at first, I began incorporating small aspects of pronunciation into all of my lesson plans. Now, I can’t imagine not incorporating it in some way.

There are a several ways we can help our students become better communicators, here are a few tools which are simple and easy to use, which help us include more pronunciation in our classrooms.

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Intonation, or changes in the tone of voice, are key to being understood clearly. Unfortunately, it is often part of the English language that is overlooked and considered less important than grammar or vocabulary.

In fact, intonation can often carry more meaning than the words themselves!

Watch this video for more information:

english language coach for non-native teachers of English sitting in the sunshine with views of the Scilly Isles behind her
Do you want to get rid of your self-doubt?

Are you sometimes concerned that your pronunciation isn’t as good as it could be? Are you often worried that you don’t have the correct pronunciation even for some basic words? Do you feel like other people judge you for your accent?

You’re not alone.

All of these fears were part of my daily reality when I was first living in Italy trying to speak Italian. When I went into shops in Rome, the sales assistants and shopkeepers would hear me speak and immediately switch to English – I have to say, that did nothing for my self-confidence.

However, after much perseverance, time and personal reflection, I was able to speak Italian fluently, without worrying about my pronunciation and even enjoying the process of using the language freely to communicate with whomever I was speaking to.

As teachers these fears can become even more powerful as we are in a position of authority and should be role models for our students.  When we let self-doubt creep in we can feel as though we’re not good enough, which in turn may lead to a lack of enthusiasm for the job, which will mean our student don’t get our best and will suffer from poor results, which will result in low level of job satisfaction. So, let’s look at five ways we can banish self-doubt and use more English with total confidence.

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English Language Coach for non-native teachers of English
Our Accent is an Important part of our Identity

Do you agree with the title above? I’ve had several discussions with various colleagues with differing opinions on this topic. In English, I don’t have a strong accent; anyone listening to me talk would not be able to place me to a certain region in the UK. I’ve never been someone who plays with different accents and couldn’t produce an accent on demand, but I love hearing the range of accents when I’m walking through a multicultural city! Being a teacher of English and speaking a few other languages I am curious how others see themselves when speaking another language. When I’m speaking German or Italian, I tend not to worry too much about my pronunciation, as long as others can understand me. How do you feel about your own accent?

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Do you have a Passion for the English Language?

As teachers of English, we are passionate about our subject and keen to share our enthusiasm and knowledge with our students. However, after weeks, or months, or even years(!), of students looking disinterested and disengaged, we sometimes become resigned to going through the motions, but do not feel our spark. We go through the course book and follow the syllabus, but we do not feel we can share our passion, which means we have a low-level of job satisfaction. Now, I am not blaming anyone, instead I would like to make some suggestions on how we can insert some of that passion back into our classrooms. What do you think, would you like to connect with your students better through English?

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Pronunciation - Elision (Missing Sounds) Part 2

There are many ways fast speakers change the way words are said in English to aid fluency, elision is just one of them.

The use of contractions in spoken language, or skipping sounds in multiple syllabic words, which are unnecessary for comprehension, are just a couple of ways we do this.

Watch this video for more information:

English Language Coach for non-native teachers of English
3 ways to sound more fluent when speaking English

As advanced speakers of English, we tend to speak without considering how we say the words and sentences. That is okay most of the time, because we can make ourselves understood, context can help us when we know what is being spoken about and we can find the funny side of any misunderstandings which do occur. However, for those of you who would like to feel more fluent when speaking English, here are three things you can focus on in order to get your words flowing more smoothly.

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Do You Want to Use More English?

Sometimes, even we teachers get nervous before a language class. We worry about our pronunciation, or that we will not be able to explain something to our students, or that we will make a mistake that is so embarrassing we will have to quit and find a new school to start over again, or maybe we will just find a black hole to hide in, for ever! 

For all these reasons and more we rely on the school course books and the audio files to provide our students with the English they need. We sometimes rely on our mother tongue to give explanations, so we can save time, make it easier for the students and not confuse them with an explanation in English. But is this what is best for our learners of English?

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four giraffe's looking like they're having a conversation
How to Improve our Pronunciation

We are regularly told that speaking clearly and comprehensibly is vital to being understood, but how can we improve our pronunciation? This article takes you through 5 practical tips to help you better your English pronunciation. This is not about getting rid of an accent, or trying to sound like a native-speaker. Although I realise this is the goal for some, the main aim of this article is to give you some pointers of activities you can do in order to be better understood by those you are communicating with.

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Pronunciation - Elision (Missing Sounds)

There are many ways fast speakers change the way words are said in English to aid fluency, elision is just one of them.

The use of contractions in spoken language, or skipping sounds in multiple syllabic words, which are unnecessary for comprehension, are just a couple of ways we do this.

Watch this video for more information:

Three people sitting under a tree chatting
Do we need to encourage our students to speak English with each other in the classroom?

Often, when we give our students a task to complete with a partner, they do the task, but use their mother tongue to discuss the problems with their classmate in order to complete it. Is this a problem? As long as they get the answers correct, does it matter which language they use to get there? I would argue that the more English they use, the more they will learn about the language. I am not saying their mother tongue does not belong in the classroom at all, however, the less it is used the more advances there will be in their English. So, how can we encourage our students to use more English in the classroom, even when they are speaking with their friends?

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Why is Pronunciation so Difficult?

There are many reasons we struggle with pronunciation. But by understanding a language and immersing ourselves in examples of comprehensible speech we can improve. So, what do you find difficult with English pronunciation? Is it that sometimes words sound the same, like ‘cat’ and ‘cut’, or ‘boat’ and ‘bought’? Or other times, that the same word can be pronounced in different ways, such as ‘read’ in the present (I like to read) and ‘read’ in the past (I read a whole book over the weekend)? For others the silent letters cause total confusion, for instance the ‘b’ in ‘lamb’, or ‘comb’ and the ‘h’ in ‘honest’. 

Let’s have a look at how we can understand the English language and its pronunciation.

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Simple English phrases to use in your classroom

Sometimes it may seem easier and quicker to use students’ mother tongue to communicate ideas fast without needing to get into lengthy explanations, especially if it is our first language too. However, this can be detrimental to the student’s language development. When the students expect you to give them instructions, make small talk or ask questions in their mother tongue they do not think in English and so they are less likely to communicate in English even when you do speak to them in the target language. Here are some simple phrases you can use with your students.

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Pronunciation - Same Word, Different Sound

Prepositions, auxiliary verbs, modal verbs and articles can all be pronounced either in their strong form, or their weak form, depending on whether they are stressed or not.

When they are said in their weak form, they are often pronounced using the schwa and should be said softer, shorter and faster than if said in their strong (stressed) form.

Watch this video for more information:

a person holding the word ENCOURAGE on wooden scrabble tiles
How to feel more confident about your pronunciation

How do you feel about your English pronunciation? Hopefully you feel proud that you can communicate in another language, that you are able to make yourself understood and you can understand others. But I know from personal experience, with other languages, we can still feel self-conscious about how we pronounce certain words or sounds. I am still practising how to roll my ‘r’, which is not a common sound in my regional accent. When I speak Italian or Spanish, sometimes I have no problems, but other times I really struggle. So here are some tips on how to feel more comfortable with your pronunciation.

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the word welcome written in 10 different languages
How can we increase the amount of English we use in our classroom language in 3 simple steps?

Of course, as English teachers, we all use English in our classroom. We help our students learn the grammar to speak correctly, we give them exercises to practise the new vocabulary and we use audio recordings to give our students the chance to listen to different voices. However, sometimes, it is easier and quicker to give information in their mother tongue, this prevents any confusion and allows the class to move on more smoothly, does it not? But if we use the students’ native language, why should they bother speaking English, it is much easier and quicker to communicate in their L1. Us using English as much as possible can, and will, change the mind-set of our students and encourage more exploitation of the target language. So, how can we achieve this?

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How can we encourage our students to speak more English?

Kids and teenagers often feel embarrassed when asked to speak in a second language and they don’t want to sound silly or make mistakes in front of their classmates. Sometimes students are shy, especially if they’re not sure of the correct answer. So how can we encourage our students to speak more English?

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drawing of an owl, wearing a hat and glasses, in black and white
Are English teachers still needed in 2020?

At this time, when information is so easily accessible on our smartphones, tablets and laptops, do we really still require English teachers? Especially when so much of the content online is already in the English language.

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