Pronunciation, Advanced Students, Upgrading

All levels need attention to pronunciation upgrading and correction. It’s part of intelligibility and self expression. Challenge individual learners by inviting them to attend to  sounds, to joining words, to speed, and to slowing down, to audibility, to pausing, to  stress, and especially  unstress. Don’t worry about looking for whole group mistakes, just work with an individual for a moment, making sure the whole class is attentive, then challenge other Sts to do the same thing, and if they do it well, don’t rubber stamp it, but pick them up on something else that could be improved, In other words, don’t just correct one person on one thing, upgrade everyone on whatever presents itself. Pronunciation offers an ideal way to bring challenge to advanced students who typically get the right words in the right order. And a great way to approach this is to bundle pron in with grammar and vocab whenever you’re helping learners to express themselves better.

Upgrading is both individual and communal

With upgrading you can flip between pronunciation, grammar and vocab to match the challenge needed by each St as you go round the class. This opens the way to a different approach to correcting that is more individually challenging, more flexible and more inclusive. Upgrades replace corrections by including them. And at the same time they are rehearsing the main language points (grammatical, vocabulary etc) of the lesson. So no time is wasted. In fact perhaps time is better used as you have a more ‘intelligent’ kind of repetition that stretches everyone at their own level. Not only is pron added in for free, but it provides a multilevel challenge

Upgrading removes the ceiling

Correcting can (in my view) be a limiting activity if it becomes a process of ‘pausing’ the lesson to sort out a mistake and then continuing the lesson. A correction can give a false sense of arrival and “now we can move on with the lesson” once it is ’corrected’. If instead of focusing on correction you see instead a larger process of never ending upgrading, of everyone doing the best they can on whatever is at hand at the moment, then the ceiling is removed and everyone gets better, whether or not there’s a mistake, but any mistakes get included. You don’t need a mistake to improve. Upgrading is a bigger activity than correcting. There is a sense in which upgrades remove the ceiling and keep moving, while corrections somehow come to a stop once correct….

Roll pronunciation in with what’s going on anyway

Pron upgrades mean that everyone has something to do. There is no arriving at perfect pron. There is always something for any class member to work on. Even the apparently perfect one can say it clearer, or join the words, or say it faster, or slower, or more clearly, or placing the stress so it matches what they want to mean, or in a way that simply expresses themselves in the world or conveys their personal presence. And all the while they are attending to the pron they are also rehearsing the grammar, the vocab and the fluency. So it doesn’t take extra time, you roll it in with what’s going on anyway, but you widen the attention. I do not take pronunciation exercises into class (well, occasionally perhaps) simply because I find no need, and because it slows things down. Pron is already there in every single thing we do in the class and in every moment of every lesson (including silent reading). So why neglect part of what is already going on, and so do it incompletely, and then compensate by bringing in special exercises that are not part of what’s going on? Is that a fair question? I think it’s a neglected question that deserves attention.