As We Speak (SPLIS)

SPLIS News, Volume 3:2 (June 2006)

by User Not Found | 11/03/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Letter From the Chair
    • Letters From the Coeditors
  • Articles
    • Thoughts on Teaching Pronunciation
    • Teaching Tip: Listening to a Story in the Second Language Classroom
    • A Tip for Using Technology With Pronunciation Students
    • Focus on SPLIS Members
  • Community News and Information
    • Updating Your Member Profile
    • What Is the SPLIS Interest Section?
    • Call for Submissions for the Fall Newsletter
    • SPLIS Community Members

Leadership Updates Letter From the Chair

Carole Mawson,

Dear SPLISers,

Welcome, all SPLIS members! I am honored to be your chair for 2006-07 as I find myself in the illustrious footsteps of the “Dream Team” (so named at the ITA Academic Session at TESOL) of pronunciation authors and researchers who preceded me. I urge everyone to become contributing members of our interest section, thus to interact with the stars of pronunciation and some of us ordinary people. With this in mind, allow me to remind you of a few important dates:

1. June 1: Deadline for proposal submissions for TESOL 2007 to be held in Seattle, Washington, March 21-24, including papers, demonstrations, workshops, reports, and colloquia. Proposals from the United States must be submitted online at On this Web site, you can view the proposal rating criteria and get pointers on preparing your proposal.

2. June 20: The review process begins for reviewers.

3. July 4: Deadline for reviewers.

4. July 24: Deadline for Academic Session and InterSection submittal (by chair and chair-elect).

5. August 1: Deadline for poster/video submissions.

6. August 21: Deadline for Discussion submittals (by chair-elect).

7. Late September: Acceptance notices sent out.

8. October-November: Confirmation of day, time, and location for presenters.

9. Early December: Online planner available.

Remember, the more SPLIS proposals submitted, the more slots SPLIS is awarded for conference presentations. I encourage you to submit a proposal.

It was wonderful to see so many of you at the SPLIS sessions and at our business meeting at TESOL 2006. It was also gratifying to have so many of you volunteer to read proposals, help with the newsletter and the booth, and share your ideas for our interest section. I extend a welcome to Chair-Elect Carolyn Quarterman, Member-at-Large Armeda Reitzel, and Secretary Robert Elliott who will serve us well in the coming years. (See biographies in this newsletter.) Thanks also to all those continuing to lead our interest section (names and e-mails also in this newsletter). It is wonderful to have terrific suggestions for future sessions, InterSections, and future projects. For more information, please check out our Web site

Letters From the Coeditors

Dear SPLIS members,

I hope you have all had an enjoyable spring with cooperative weather (depending on where you are and what it should be like at this time of year). InConnecticut we have our first daffodils and the forsythia is about to begin blooming.

At the TESOL conference in March, Kate and I learned at the editors’ meeting that there was some confusion last year about signing up and/or receiving the e-newsletter once you were officially a member of an interest section (IS).

If you are a current member of TESOL, Central Office recommends that you update your member profile. If you didn’t designate an IS, you should choose one. All members can choose one IS. This subscription is complimentary and comes with your TESOL membership. If you don’t want to remain in the IS you initially chose, you may change your IS affiliation. If you want to add a second or third one (at $8.00 each), you may do that as well at any time.

New members of TESOL will automatically be subscribed to the e-lists and e-newsletter of their chosen IS. Current members can ensure that they are subscribed to the e-newsletter by checking their profile. To do so, follow these steps:

  • Log in to
  • Select “My Profile”
  • Navigate to the Communications Options tab
  • Scroll down to the Preferences area.
  • Check “Join Your IS E-list”

I’d like to thank Laura Bryant, our member relation coordinator, for writing up these steps. If you have any problems or questions about the e-newsletter at all, whether about receiving it or submitting an article, don’t hesitate to ask Kate Hahn or me. This newsletter is a good venue for first-time publications, book reviews, and well developed, relevant student papers. We are glad you have chosen SPLIS as your IS, and we look forward to hearing from you!

Have a good spring,

Paula W. Baird


I hope spring has sprung wherever you are. We have entered into that beautiful time of year when the temperatures improve, the flowers bloom, the most recent TESOL convention is behind us, and the deadline for proposals for the next TESOL convention is in front of us. It is also the time of year for another installment of As We Speak.

I must apologize for how late this spring’s edition is. I take responsibility for this newsletter being later than usual. Neither my coeditor nor the contributors caused the delay.

This edition of the newsletter includes articles on teaching pronunciation, teaching listening (the L in SPLIS), and using technology when providing feedback to pronunciation students (this article includes sound files).

After you enjoy reading this spring’s newsletter, please consider contributing to our next edition of As We Speak in the fall. E-mail Paula Baird or me if you have ideas for or questions about contributing to the newsletter. We would like to continue to publish a range of topics and utilize the full spectrum of possibility with our electronic format. You don’t have to wait to contact us. We would be happy to take submissions before the fall. Please contact us whenever you get the urge to publish.

Thank you,

Kate Hahn

Articles Thoughts on Teaching Pronunciation

Martin R. Gitterman,

This brief article highlights some suggestions aimed at fostering improvement of pronunciation among English language learners. The suggestions are intended primarily for use with adult learners. The emphasis is on classroom practice, with theoretical models, although important, playing a less central role in the discussion.

I have had the opportunity to teach a basic college speech course for ESL students for many years. A primary objective of the course was the improvement of pronunciation. Teaching this course required answering some fundamental questions, such as

1. What units (and topics within units) should be covered in the class?

2. What method should be used to improve pronunciation?

3. How can pronunciation improvement be integrated into other units in the class?

I believe the methodology used in this class is applicable to pronunciation teaching in a wide variety of classes in which pronunciation improvement is a goal.

The response to the first question was dictated largely by the typical requirements of a basic speech course. Four units were included (communication theory, public speaking, group discussion, and pronunciation/voice and articulation). In communication theory, issues addressed included feedback, proxemics (spatial relations), kinesics (body language), and inter- versus intrapersonal communication. The public speaking component required students to present both informative and persuasive speeches. In group discussion, students were usually required to take part in a problem-solving discussion. The pronunciation segment was to some extent an applied phonetics unit, covering an understanding of the classification of both the consonants and vowels of English. Both expressive and receptive skills were assessed.

Responding to the second question above required a bit more reflection, including giving careful consideration to the relevant research in second language acquisition. Not surprisingly, researchers differ greatly in their approach to second language teaching. Models of second language differ in terms of the relative importance assigned to focus on form in the process of acquiring a second language. The issue is not one of simply focusing or not focusing on form/rules, but rather the extent to which such a focus is useful (see Krashen, 1982, and Yorio, 1994, for examples of different approaches). In fact, the history of language teaching in general (second and foreign) has witnessed swings in the popularity of approaches, representing different points along a continuum ranging from great emphasis on form on one end to activities requiring meaningful communication (almost to the exclusion of form/rules) on the other end. It has been my experience that the greatest benefit is derived from pronunciation pedagogy if one establishes a position at a point on the continuum where form is given a prominent role, but meaningful communication is also considered central to success. Though some researchers would clearly consider such an approach a bit too traditional, this methodology is, nevertheless, consistent with the views of others. I argue here that with adults such an approach is beneficial. Furthermore, teaching experience has convinced me of the validity of this claim.

How did I employ a focus-on-form approach in the teaching of pronunciation to my adult English language learners? As noted above, I included an applied phonetics component. For each of the consonants, students were taught the place of articulation, manner of articulation, and voicing. Students wrote this information on a chart in their notebooks along with the phonetic symbol as well as a word containing each of the target sounds. Sounds were added in pairs over the course of several weeks. Technical terms (e.g. bilabial, fricative, affricate) were explained and illustrated. Thus, entries such as the following were made on the chart:

Sound Sample Word Voicing Place of Articulation Manner of Articulation
[p] peace voiceless bilabial stop
[b] big voiced bilabial stop

Vowels were taught by making reference to the position of the tongue and lips. Students were shown a standard classification of vowel chart indicating tongue height, part of the tongue involved, and lip rounding.

Work on consonants and vowels included both production exercises and receptive drills. Production involved words in isolation as well as words embedded in increasingly more meaningful contexts. Receptive/listening exercises were of various types. Even simple dictation served as a very useful assessment tool. Other exercises, such as listening to a series of words and determining the word that is different (e.g., very, very, berry, very, very), provided helpful feedback on how well students were perceiving sound contrasts. A number of textbooks provide exercises, but instructors can craft exercises to meet the specific needs of their students at a given point in time. The difficulty that many students have in discriminating particular contrasts is very revealing and highlights the need to include receptive exercises in designing lessons. Both expressive and receptive exercises, focusing on segmental aspects of speech, have made a difference in the speech intelligibility of students I have taught. Of course, instructors must address other aspects of speech as well (e.g., rate, pitch, volume) to maximize improvement in speech-communication.

These drills can be considered focus on form because they are, for the most part, devoid of a meaningful context. My students were expected to know what was involved in the production of given sounds. Students knew, for example, that the first sound in peace required the lips to be brought together (bilabial), whereas the first sound in think required the tongue to be placed between the upper and lower teeth (interdental). Similarly, students were able to consciously describe the manner of articulation of each of the consonants studied. The same was required for the voicing characteristic of each consonant sound. For the vowels, students had an awareness of the tongue and lip position. Thus, they knew that the vowel in food required lip rounding, whereas the vowel in feet did not. Though I argue that this approach is useful, it should certainly not be the sole focus of pronunciation instruction. Meaningful and structured communication is also essential for pronunciation improvement.

The other activities in the basic speech course provided a useful framework to continue working on pronunciation while developing other communication competencies typically taught in a basic course. I considered the integration of pronunciation improvement (the issue raised in the third question above) a central focus of the course. When students were engaging in public speaking, for example, their aim was either to increase the knowledge of the audience (informative speaking) or to change the thinking or behavior of the audience (persuasive speaking). In listening to speeches given by students, I would assess pronunciation in addition to the many other characteristics associated with effective public speaking (e.g., organization, gestures). These activities provided an opportunity to pinpoint the most difficult/persistent pronunciation problems of individual students. Of particular interest was the extent to which there was carryover from the focus-on-form exercises to these activities (aimed primarily at communicating a message). The likelihood of carryover is an issue about which researchers have debated, yet a generally accepted understanding of this phenomenon remains elusive. It has, however, been my experience that incorporating an applied phonetics approach in pronunciation instruction results in an improvement in pronunciation in activities that are designed to convey messages (e.g., public speaking). The degree of improvement/carryover is very likely dependent on numerous factors (e.g., level of student motivation, time available for individual work with students during office hours, class size).

In addition to public speaking, group discussion provides a context in which instructors can assess student pronunciation. During discussions I would spend time sitting with each of the groups engaged in a problem-solving discussion. While assessing the extent to which students were following appropriate guidelines for solving a problem, I was also attentive to pronunciation. I would assign the groups problems to solve that I thought they would find particularly interesting, thus increasing the likelihood of a serious attempt to focus on communicating a message. One such topic was to recommend a grading system to be used at a new college. I should also note that some of the topics covered in the communication theory unit (e.g., kinesics, proxemics) were of great interest to most students and resulted in lively class discussions. Though I covered communication theory at the beginning of the semester (before extensive work was done on pronunciation) the students’ speech (comments, questions) nevertheless still served a useful diagnostic function.

It is my hope that some of my experiences in teaching a basic speech course might be useful to instructors of any course in which one of the goals is to improve the pronunciation of English language learners. It is in that spirit that I offer the following points for consideration:

1. Develop in students an understanding of how the sounds are produced. They should be able to describe what is done within the vocal tract to produce a given sound.

2. Do not limit assessment to drills in production. Receptive exercises are of great importance.

3. Provide sufficient opportunity for students to engage in activities in which they focus on communicating a message. Public speaking and group discussion are examples of such activities. Other activities to consider, depending on the level of the class, are brainstorming and debate. Instructors may choose to refer to one of the many basic speech books to help design some of the classroom activities. Among those I would recommend are the books by Joseph DeVito. Use these activities to assess carryover from focus-on-form work.

4. Include some student-student correction in classroom work. It helps maximize class participation. Use office hours to help individual students with particularly difficult/persistent sounds/sound contrasts, when possible.

5. Let students know that they should not expect to speak English like a native speaker. Scovel (1988) stated, “the critical period for accentless speech simply means that adults will never learn to pass themselves off as native speakers phonologically--a fairly useless linguistic goal to begin with” (p.185). It should be noted that the details of the critical-period hypothesis remain subject to extensive debate, but fall beyond the scope of this article. The concern here is that if students have unrealistic expectations they may become frustrated by what they falsely perceive as insufficient progress. All would agree that a proper mindset for acquiring a language is important (see, for example, Krashen’s [1982] discussion of the “affective filter”).

6. In choosing a textbook for the focus-on-form work in pronunciation, select one that will be of interest to the students, one that you are comfortable with, and, of course, one that is consistent with your teaching methodology. Do not, however, stick rigidly to any book.

I have found that most English language learners are particularly motivated about improving pronunciation. It has been a pleasure to play a role in helping students achieve this goal. I hope that some of the thoughts expressed above may be useful to other instructors.


Krashen, S. D. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. New York: Pergamon Press.

Scovel, T. (1988). A time to speak: A psycholinguistic inquiry into the critical period for human speech. New York: Newbury House.

Yorio, C. (1994). The case for learning. In R. M. Barasch & C. V. James (Eds.), Beyond the monitor model: Comments on current theory and practice in second language acquisition (pp. 125-137). Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Teaching Tip: Listening to a Story in the Second Language Classroom

Marcela Quintana-Lara,, and María Isabel Trillo,

We have implemented this listening activity in some of our intermediate English classes for second-year English/Spanish translation students. The activity takes some preparation time but eventually it is under the students’ control. This activity may take place over various class periods or in just one. We usually do it in a 2-hour class period.

We start by selecting two or three stories and recording them on a CD to use either in the computer lab, the classroom (using a CD player), or another facility in the building (using a computer or CD player). We make sure the stories are not familiar to the students but related to the class topic(s) and with a degree of difficulty in terms of lexicon and grammar appropriate to their proficiency level but challenging enough for their current language knowledge. The stories are usually two to three minutes long.

Once we have the stories, students team up in groups of three and receive the task instructions. Sometimes we give each group the same story just to see how each understands and interprets it. However, we tend to give different stories to each group.

Part 1: Written language

1. Listen to the story at least twice and try to get an overall idea.

2. Write it down word by word. You may use the dictionary to help you. (Our students like the challenge of trying to figure out the words’ spellings by themselves.)

3. Once you have the story written down, create an original title for it.

4. Write a short personal opinion on the story explaining how you liked or disliked the story.

5. Select four or five relevant and/or unfamiliar lexicon items. Define them in your own words, translate them, and provide examples.

Part 2: Oral language

6. Tell the story to the class in your own words without reading and include as many details as possible. Each member of the group must participate.

Part 3: Follow-up activity

7. Discuss the story from various points of view. For example, if you had been the main character, what would you have done differently? What other possible endings could the story have had?

A Tip for Using Technology With Pronunciation Students

Carolyn Samuel,

Pronunciation Tech Tip: Computer metronome for rhythm practice

When teaching rhythm, teachers either have students tap the beats to the sentence or bring a metronome to class. Computer technology allows for more personalized practice that students can do outside the class even if they don’t have a metronome.

Audacity software is a free and easy-to-use audio software program that teachers and students can use for rhythm practice. The software has a “Click Track” feature that can serve as a metronome. Users can even adjust the speed.

Pronunciation teachers around the world are already using Audacity software (the recent Oral Skills and Technology EVO was evidence of this). This click-track tip is intended to enhance teachers’ use of the software.

One exercise that I use the click track for is practicing rhythm through active and passive voice sentences. Click here to listen to the 14-second sample audio file.

The recording was made at 86 beats per minute. Stressed beats are italicized.

The Dean addressed the students. (five words, three stressed beats)

The students were addressed by the Dean. (seven words, three stressed beats)

Limericks are also popular for practicing rhythm. This one was also recorded at 86 beats per minute. Click here to listen to the 14-second sample audio file.

To create your own audio files with a click track, download Audacity software from: Once you’ve downloaded the software, open the recording window and click on “Generate” from the menu. From the drop-down menu, select “Click Track.”

A dialogue box appears that allows the user to adjust the tempo, beats per measure, and number of measures.

Make your selection; click on “OK.” Record your material and save it as an mp3 file. This file format is small and easy to upload. I upload exercises for students to access at WebCT and at CAN-8.

As Audacity is freely available over the Internet, students can download it and make up their own practice exercises.

Focus on SPLIS Members

Carole Mawson

Carole Mawson teaches courses in pronunciation, oral presentation, and writing to international graduate students at Stanford University. During the summer, she is the coordinator of California CLASSIC, a program for international visitors. Her main areas of interest are pronunciation and intonation. She is currently on the board of the TESOL interest section of Speech, Pronunciation, and Listening. She has taught ESL in South America and France. She is proficient in French and Spanish and has studied Japanese and Chinese. Carole is currently serving as the SPLIS chair.

Robert K. Elliot

Robert K. Elliott teaches at Stanford University’s English for Foreign Students program, where he works with international graduate students in oral presentation, pronunciation, interacting in English, and academic writing classes. During the summer, he is the coordinator of the American Language and Culture program for undergraduate exchange students from Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. His interests include computer-assisted language learning, prosody in English discourse, and the use of model papers in writing classes. He is proficient in Swedish and has studied Spanish, German, and ASL. Robert is currently serving as the SPLIS secretary.

Holly Gray

Since she began teaching 11 years ago, Holly Gray has been juggling her two ESL passions: pronunciation and instructional technology. You may know her from one of the many workshops and presentations she’s given on one or both topics. She has designed and taught a number of online courses, the most recent being a pronunciation and oral skills course that is offered in Korea. She has also been studying speech pathology. Holly normally teaches atCalifornia State University, but she is taking some time off to be with her husband, who is on a Fulbright grant in England. Meanwhile, she is keeping busy with instructional design, consulting, and online teaching. She is also the author of an intermediate-level pronunciation textbook which is in press with Houghton Mifflin. Holly serves as the SPLIS webmaster.

Community News and Information Updating Your Member Profile

Dear IS E-list subscribers,

IS e-list membership continues to grow. Since May 2006, NEW members are automatically subscribed to their respective Interest Section electronic discussion list (e-lists). With this new system, IS e-list subscribers who were current TESOL members before May 1 should edit their member profile on the TESOL Web site to remain on the e-list.

Please update your member profile today and by no later than July 15. With your TESOL ID and password, updating your profile takes less than 3 minutes. While you update, members also have the option to provide a secondary email address to use for e-lists. Members can also set e-lists messages to a daily digest.

To Update Member Profile

Log-in and enter your password

Go to My Profile

Scroll to the bottom of page and click Edit

Go to Communications Option and Professional Info

Check 'Join Your IS E-list'


Thank you for taking this extra step!

Laura J. Bryant

Member Relations Coordinator

What Is the SPLIS Interest Section?

Nancy Hilty,

SPLIS-L is the electronic discussion list for the Speech, Pronunciation, and Listening Interest Section of TESOL. Its function is the exchange of information, questions, and answers about instructional techniques, learning challenges, and successes, as well as research findings related to speech listening and pronunciation. SPLIS-L, along with the SPLIS Newsletter, will also provide information about SPLIS-related issues, projects, and interest section business.

Of the 483 members in the discussion group, many of them published authors. The focus is very practical, most often related to teaching issues and questions. No job advertisements or promotion of commercial products is allowed on the list. To join the list, go to the official site of the SPLIS Interest Section at which will direct you to the TESOL site and lead you through subscription to the list. You must be a TESOL member to join the list.

Welcome and enjoy participating in SPLIS-L!

Call for Submissions for the Fall Newsletter

If you presented in Tampa this year on a topic related to our Interest Section, or are considering presenting in Seattle in 2007, please consider also presenting your ideas in writing and submitting them for publication in our newsletter.

Have you used a new textbook in your class? Have you read an interesting book that relates in some way to speech, pronunciation, or listening? If so, please consider writing a review or a summary for our membership.

Are you working on an interesting paper? Have you developed a new teaching technique? Have you done research within the theory of language acquisition that relates to speech, pronunciation, or listening? Add a publication to your academic resume by submitting an article to the fall newsletter.

So don’t wait! Contact the SPLIS editors now if you have something in mind at or

SPLIS Community Members

Chair: Carole Mawson
Chair-elect: Carolyn Quarterman

Past chair: Laura Hahn
Secretary: Robert K. Elliott
Historian: Judy Gilbert
Members at large: Marnie Reed, Armeda Reitzel, Karen Taylor, Sue Miller, Betty Pow
Booth coordinator: Mary Di Stefano Diaz
Newsletter editors: Kate Hahn and Paula Baird

Webmaster: Holly Gray
E-list manager: Bill Acton