Over the last few months, I’ve started learning German from an A0 level. After several interactions with native speakers, I was taken to the side and informed that my pronunciation was almost unintelligible. In fact, I wasn’t even saying ‘thank you’ correctly. Mortified, I barely said a word the rest of my holiday in Germany. That showed me how important pronunciation is — and how difficult. And I’m not alone. A recent survey showed interesting insights into students’ perception of pronunciation. Here are some answers that were submitted:
- ‘It’s very important to get your meaning across. People can think you said another word from the one you want to say.’
- ‘Gives a good first impression when you meet people, including getting a job.’
- ‘Helps you present your ideas at work. People won’t be scared to be your friend.’
Some of it is transactional, some is aspirational and a lot of it is about confidence. Professor Anne Burns, TESOL professor at University of New South Wales, builds on the importance of pronunciation, saying; ‘Even where learners produce minor inaccuracies in vocabulary and grammar, they are more likely to communicate effectively when they have good pronunciation and intonation…’ So, how do we get to that point?
Clear Pronunciation works to build up your students’ confidence by drilling down to the building blocks of pronunciation and tackling the 43 sounds of the English language. It is a helpful tool in the teacher’s toolkit, allowing the student to dissect, listen to and practise making sounds, independently but still in a structured learning environment with lots of guidance. Let’s take a closer look at what the latest upgrade entails.
As with all the other Clarity programs, Clear Pronunciation has now been migrated onto an HTML5 platform. This means that the program is now accessible on all devices, including mobile. Alongside the technological upgrade, the program has also received a much-needed design upgrade. There’s a clean and minimal approach to the design. Space is used efficiently and the interface is intuitive. The mobile interface was something I was paying particular attention to — I thought it would be particularly challenging to produce easy to access exercises on mobile, especially with all the video content. However, they managed to retain the style while not compromising the quality of the exercises.
A key highlight from this latest upgrade is the spotlight placed on accents and voices from around the world. Not only can the student choose between British, North American and Australian — with this version the change can be made at any time — there is also a move away from native-speakerism. From the very start, students are encouraged to embrace their own accent, to enjoy it and be proud of it. In every unit, the ‘Sounds in action’ exercise features a different accent including from New Zealand, Zambia, Germany, Britain, Ireland, India, and many others. It’s a welcome step that moves away from the standard native speaker voices and starts to embrace English as a global lingua franca. After all, it is a language that is used by more non-native speakers than native speakers.
As with the last version, the program is broken into an introduction, consonants, vowels and diphthongs. There is a clear and methodical approach throughout. Each unit focuses on two phonemes through a minimal pair and takes the student through ‘meeting’ the sound, discriminating it from its pair, and how it sounds in different parts of the word. It then explores the sounds in action (featuring accents from around the world) and, finally, encourages the student to practise the phonetic pronunciation aloud. This is done with a handy built-in recorder that allows users to playback, listen to themselves and to compare their own voice sound waves to that of the model speaker.
The videos are clear and helpful, with three possible channels to stream from — which will hopefully deal with any buffering issues. The expanded introduction with the accompanying videos are a much more welcoming and complete start to the program. I’m a particular fan of the detailed animation video that breaks down the mechanics of the sound.
This upgrade is definitely worth the wait and is a pleasure to use. I hope the program will be recognised for the useful tool that it is. With all the uncertainty surrounding schools reopening, this is a helpful, engaging program for both in-person and remote learning.
- ‘Is it OK to speak English with a foreign accent?’
- 6 tips for improving your English pronunciation | British Council (Portugal)
If you would like to discuss the review with the author, you can visit the Atlas English website here.