Friday, October 28, 2011

Teaching pronunciation by the numbers

At a recent workshop I was asked why we use vowel numbers. My standard response (which includes all of the vowels of North American English): "Using or employing vowel numbers for haptic teaching and correcting pronunciation is not just a good idea, it is probably the only way!"

Clip art: Clker
In order,  the vowels there are: 11w+2, 8, 4+8y+2,  6w+12, 7+12, 8, 5+2, 1y+2, 5, 8+4+2, 12+12+1y+3y+12, 2, 6, 7, 12, 10, 6y+1y+12,  2,  2,  6+12+1y+1y, 1y, 9w+1y, 3y! I began using that system when I was a student of Joan Morley back in the 70's at the University of Michigan (Here is the link to her great student text, Improving Spoken English, still one of the best ever written.)

The benefits are several, including being able to quickly make sure that the learner gets the right vowel noted, without having to fish around in class verbally for the right vowel quality--which may not happen anyway. Once the vowel felt sense and number and key word are anchored effectively, ability to change and recall are enhanced significantly.  If you are relatively "dys-haptic" in your work, it probably doesn't make much difference how you correct vowels . . . but your days are numbered!

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