As We Speak (SPLIS)

SPLIS News, Volume 6:1 (October 2009)

by User Not Found | 11/03/2011
In This Issue...
  • Leadership Updates
    • Message From SPLIS Chair: Robert Elliott
    • Messages From SPLIS Coeditors: Paula Baird and Amanda Huensch
  • Articles
    • The Developmental Lesson: Focus on Speech for English Language Learners
    • Pronunciation Textbook Evaluation
    • Rhythm and Phonemic Awareness As a Necessary Precondition to Literacy: Recent Research
  • Community News and Information
    • SPLIS Connection to Drama-IS
    • What Is the SPLIS-L?
    • Join Interest Sections for Free
    • Call for Submissions

Leadership Updates Message From SPLIS Chair: Robert Elliott

Dear Speech Pronunciation Listening IS Members,

The 2009 TESOL convention in Denver has now come and gone, but the “great blizzard of ’09” will surely be talked about by many a convention-goer for years to come. Perhaps equally discussed in the annals of TESOL history will be the numerous wonderful presentations, papers, discussions, and panels SPLIS sponsored at the convention this year. There was truly a representation of the depth and variety of our IS. Thanks are due to all who represented SPLIS so well in Denver.

Several changes occurred at the convention for SPLIS as well. The ceremonial passing of the SPLIS “chair pin” on to the new chair, me, was delayed after some consternation, but finally did occur before the close of the convention. I’d like to officially thank the outgoing chair, Marnie Reed, and now past chair, Carolyn Quarterman, for all of their dedication and hard work over the past years. They have done a wonderful job in adding their particular strengths to SPLIS and making it a better organization. Paula Baird will be passing on her duties of newsletter editor after many years of excellent service, and she also deserves our warmest wishes. Amanda Huensch will be transitioning to taking the newsletter lead. The search for a candidate for incoming chair also ended very successfully, and as I write this, voting is being finalized online. We are hoping for a more orderly changing of the guard in the future as SPLIS and all TESOL interest sections move to preconference online voting starting next year.

We now find ourselves planning ahead and for Boston 2010. Thanks to the many who have generously volunteered to be proposal readers for next year’s convention submissions. The response this year has been terrific! Holly Gray has been very busy updating our communication channels to 2010 standards, capitalizing on Web 2.0 advances. She is revamping the Web site to make it more inclusive to all teachers interested in SPL issues, and plans include interactive features such as a discussion forum and wiki tools. And for all those considering submitting your intriguing ideas to share with colleagues next year at the convention in Boston, I would like to encourage you and remind you that the deadline is June 2.

Finally, SPLIS is looking to reach out and get new people involved. Now is a great time to get active and become a part of shaping the future of SPLIS. We hope you will consider taking part in your interest section, making it a vibrant and warm home for you within the larger TESOL organization.

Best regards,

Robert Elliott, SPLIS Chair, 2009-2010

Messages From SPLIS Coeditors: Paula Baird and Amanda Huensch

Dear Fellow SPLIS Members,

Happy Fall! I hope those of you who attended TESOL 2009 in Denver had an invigorating and productive trip.

I am excited to be working with Paula Baird on this edition of the SPLIS Newsletter and transitioning into the position of editor throughout the coming months. I am a relatively new member of TESOL and look forward to being more actively involved in our interest section. I would like to get to know more of you better, so introduce yourselves. The more we all become actively involved with SPLIS, the healthier and more vibrant our interest section will be.

As you plan for this coming year and write proposals for TESOL 2010, I hope you will also consider submitting to our fall edition of the newsletter. If you have ideas or suggestions for the upcoming newsletter, please e-mail me.

I look forward to working with all of you!

Amanda Huensch

Dear SPLIS Members,

Now that the IS newsletters are accessible to members outside the interest sections, our newsletter is one way to reach new readers: teachers who are either new or transitioning into ESL, and experienced ESL instructors who have either not taught listening, speaking, or pronunciation courses yet or do not integrate these elements into their classes.

If you have a good idea about teaching, if you have a special teaching technique that works for a pronunciation problem, or if you have a new way to use technology to teach conversation or pronunciation, consider sharing this information with your peers. Put your ideas into writing and submit an article to the next newsletter. As a member of SPLIS, you have knowledge and intuitions about teaching these topics that others do not. Please consider sharing.

As an interest section, SPLIS may not be as large as some, but I would like to encourage members with an interest in this area of teaching—expert or novice—to join this IS. How do you get to know the author of your favorite pronunciation textbook? She is a member of SPLIS.

This will be my last edition of the e-newsletter for SPLIS. It has been both instructional and interesting to do this job. Still, I am happy to pass the torch to someone new who will bring a new zip to the e-newsletter. Contribute!


Paula W. Baird

SPLIS editor

Articles The Developmental Lesson: Focus on Speech for English Language Learners

Martin R. Gitterman, Lehman College and The Graduate Center, The City University of New York

It is clear that expertise in one’s subject area is necessary, but not sufficient, for being an effective classroom instructor. As the executive officer of the PhD program in speech-language-hearing sciences at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, I have been involved in providing my students with the opportunity to prepare for teaching by honing their skills in the methodology of teaching. Most of them will be teaching (or currently are teaching) courses at the college level in their specialized areas (e.g., phonetics, speech-language pathology, bilingualism, hearing science). At regular meetings at informal seminars, topics related to teaching at the college level are discussed, with methodology being a major focus. Among the issues addressed is the scope of a developmental lesson plan. The broad outline (i.e., components) of such a plan is generic enough to be applicable to the teaching of most subjects. One variant of a developmental lesson plan is found on the TESOL Web site (TESOL Resource Center). In fact, virtually all courses on teaching methodology (typically taken by those preparing to teach in elementary or secondary school) likely include the writing of a developmental lesson plan as a primary objective. Though, clearly, there are differences in teaching methodology depending on the level of education of the students (e.g., secondary, college), the malleable nature of the developmental lesson plan, when skillfully written, permits implementation at any level of teaching.

I have spent many years teaching the undergraduate basic speech course to students who are English language learners. Though not all lessons call for a developmental lesson plan, an awareness of the components of such a plan can provide instructors with a valuable tool in presenting material on selected topics. The plan imposes an organizational structure that can facilitate the learning process. It is the purpose of this article to discuss the developmental lesson in the speech class for English language learners. Within the framework of items frequently/typically included in a developmental lesson plan (i.e., aim, instructional objectives, motivation, development, application, summary, and assignment), two lessons (each on a topic appropriate for a speech course for English language learners) are outlined.


Item #1 on Lesson Plan: Aim

The aim of the lesson should be a clear and concise statement of the goal of the instructor. Having an aim increases the likelihood that the lesson will have a sense of direction. Speech instructors generally ask students to write the specific purpose of a speech on their outlines for very much the same reason. A lesson (or speech, for that matter) without a predetermined aim is more likely to lack cohesion.

Sample Aim A: To teach the meaning of the term <I>place of articulation</I> as used in classifying consonants

Sample Aim B: To teach the class the patterns of organizing the body of an informative speech

Item #2 on Lesson Plan: Instructional Objectives

The instructional objectives state explicitly what the students should be able to do if the lesson is taught satisfactorily. The application section of the lesson plan (discussed below) specifies the means for assessing whether the instructional objectives have been achieved. So, for the specific aims listed above, the following might be instructional objectives:

Sample Instructional Objectives for Aim A:

1. The students will be able to indicate the place of articulation of a specified sound (e.g., first, last) in a list of written words.

2. The students will be able to indicate the place of articulation of a specified sound (e.g., first, last) in a list of words read aloud.

Sample Instructional Objective for Aim B:

1. The students will be able to specify a pattern of organization (chronological, spatial, topical) for organizing an informative speech when presented with the specific purpose of the speech.

Item #3 on Lesson Plan: Motivation

The motivation is the tool used by the instructor to heighten interest in the lesson. It leads smoothly into development of the lesson.

Sample Motivation for Aim A:

1. Instructor says to class—

Describe what you do differently when you produce the words <I>big</> and <I>dig</I>.

Sufficient, but not excessive, time should be allowed for meaningful class discussion.

Sample Motivation for Aim B:

1. Instructor says to class—

Have you ever listened to a lecture that was not well organized?

How did you feel?

Sufficient, but not excessive time, should be allowed for meaningful class discussion.

Item #4 on Lesson Plan: Development

The development of the lesson consists of the new material and, in effect, serves as the heart of the lesson. Once completed, the instructor ideally will have achieved his or her aim.

Sample Development for Aim A:

1. Display a diagram of the vocal tract. Labels for each of the places of articulation should appear on (or be added to) the diagram. Explain the new terminology (e.g., bilabial, labiodental, interdental, alveolar, palatal). Students will learn that the place of articulation of a given consonant is determined by the point in the vocal tract at which the obstruction occurs.

2. Provide sounds in specific words to illustrate each of the places of articulation. Reference is made to the diagram to facilitate understanding. Students should also be asked to produce some of the words, feeling for themselves the actual obstruction at the various places of articulation within their own vocal tract.

Sample Development for Aim B:

1. Ask the students to explain how they would develop a speech on the topic of trends in music in the twentieth century. As part of the discussion, the instructor will elicit the response that one can explain changes in trends beginning with the early twentieth century and continuing to the late twentieth century. This will provide the basis for an outline whose development is based on time (a chronological pattern).

2. Ask the students to explain how they would develop a speech on the topic of interesting sites in European cities. As part of the discussion, the instructor will elicit the response that one can discuss sites in three or four countries in Europe (one at a time). This response will provide the basis for an outline whose development is based on space/location (a spatial pattern).

3. Ask the students to explain how they would develop a speech on the topic of current clothing fashions in the United States. As part of the discussion, the instructor will elicit the response that one can discuss fashions by gender (e.g., women first and then men). This response will provide the basis for an outline whose pattern of development is topical (a topical pattern). This pattern for an informative speech is logical/appropriate, yet is neither chronological nor spatial.

Item #5 on Lesson Plan: Application

The application of the lesson contains exercises/activities that provide feedback enabling the instructor to assess the extent to which the aim of the lesson has been achieved. The instructional objectives guide the instructor in designing an appropriate application.

Sample Application for Aim A:

1. Present a list of written words asking the students to identify the place of articulation of the first sound (a consonant) in each word.

2. Present a list of written words asking the students to identify the place of articulation of the last sound (a consonant) in each word.

3. Present a list of written words asking the students to identify the place of articulation of a specified consonant in another environment in each word (as in mother).

The steps outlined above can be followed (in whole or in part) with lists of words read aloud. The instructor will vary the places of articulation so that each place of articulation is practiced sufficiently.

Sample Application for Aim B:

1. Present a number of specific purposes (e.g., to inform the audience about the causes of disease X, to inform the audience about the status of bilingual education in the United States, to inform the audience about the development of labor unions in the United States).

Students should be able to specify and discuss a pattern of development for each of the specific purposes. The choice of the pattern of development should be explained. As an added exercise, students might propose sample specific purposes for presentation to the class, with the goal of having other students determine possible patterns of development. In some cases, it might be possible for a given speech to be developed by more than one pattern of development. This is particularly true when the specific purpose is not detailed enough to specify only one pattern of development. In preparing a speech, one wants to be certain, however, that the specific purpose is not too broad, thus defeating its purpose of serving as a useful guide for what the speech should contain.

Item #6 on Lesson Plan: Summary

The summary, although generally quite brief, provides a sense of closure.

Sample Summary for Aim A:

1. The instructor can restate the names of the places of articulation, pointing to each one on the diagram of the vocal tract used earlier in the lesson.

Sample Summary for Aim B:

1. The instructor can state the names of the three patterns of organization studied, asking a different student to define/describe each one.

Item #7 on Lesson Plan: Assignment

The assignment provides additional reinforcement, thus increasing the likelihood that the material learned will be retained.

Sample Assignment for Aim A:

1. Have students indicate the place of articulation of consonants in additional words.

Sample Assignment for Aim B:

1. Have students write two specific purposes (not discussed in class) for each of the patterns of development for an informative speech (i.e., chronological, spatial, and topical).


The use of a developmental lesson plan can be extremely beneficial. Students will agree that good organization of a lesson facilitates learning. Of course, as noted above, not all lessons must be developmental. The use of such a plan, when appropriate, can create a classroom environment where what is taught is more likely to be learned. The components of a developmental lesson plan (i.e., aim, instructional objectives, motivation, development, application, and summary) may also be varied somewhat to meet the individual needs of instructors, as well as the topic being presented. Though these components are probably all included in the developmental lesson plans of many instructors (and at different levels of education), undoubtedly in many cases variants of the plan are used. As outlined, a developmental lesson plan includes the following:

  • a learning goal (aim)
  • a description of what students should be able to do in order to demonstrate understanding of the material taught in the lesson (instructional objectives)
  • specification of how student interest in the lesson will be sparked (motivation)
  • outline of the systematic presentation of the new material (development)
  • means of assessing the degree to which the goal has been achieved (application), which provides for a sense of closure (summary)
  • specification of what students should do after the lesson for reinforcement, increasing the likelihood of carryover (assignment)

It is hoped that the two sample lessons discussed above are useful to those teaching speech to English language learners. What is critical is not primarily the two topics used as examples, but rather the assertion that the developmental lesson, which imposes an organizational structure, can be implemented successfully by the speech instructor. It should also be noted that instructors can operate with a degree of flexibility. Some lessons will not call for a developmental lesson plan; others will. In fact, even particular topics can be taught differently from semester to semester. In some cases, it might be advisable to have the developmental lesson extend over more than one class meeting (particularly when class meetings are relatively short). Put simply, the intent of this article is to encourage instructors of speech to English language learners to write developmental lesson plans when appropriate, fine-tuning such plans to fit their own teaching styles and to meet the needs of their students.

Pronunciation Textbook Evaluation

By Christina Liao, Northwest Normal University

After years of using the same outdated pronunciation pamphlet as a textbook for their phonetics classes, many universities in the Anning District of Lanzhou, China, switched to using a proper textbook for the 2007-08 school year. Edited by Wang Guizhen, English Pronunciation & Intonation for Communication: A Course for Chinese EFL Learners (2nd ed., hereafter referred to as EPIC) was published in 2005 by Higher Education Press in Beijing and includes a companion CD. Universities in Lanzhou intend to use this textbook for semester-long freshman phonetics courses.


EPIC is an ambitious, attractive, well-balanced book that contains a wealth of listening and speaking exercises to cultivate British English pronunciation. The book includes 15 units (see Table 1 for an overview), each of which covers a phonological item and a language function. The breakdown of phonological items covered shows a good balance of focus between segmental and suprasegmental aspects of pronunciation: six units on segmentals (consonants and vowels) and nine units on suprasegmentals (stress, intonation, linking, rhythm, and function).

Table 1. Book Overview


Phonological Items



Basic Concepts: Syllables, Stress & Rhythm

Greetings & Saying Goodbye


Consonants: Stops

Introducing Others & Yourself


Consonants: Fricatives & Affricates

Describing an Object; Talking About One’s Job


Consonants: Nasals, Approximants & Lateral(s)

Getting & Giving Information


Vowels: Front Vowels & Central Vowels

Asking for & Giving Reasons


Vowels: Back Vowels

Making Suggestions


Vowels: Diphthongs

Expressing Likes & Dislikes


Stressed Syllables & Unstressed Syllables

Expressing Excitement & Surprise


Stressed Words & Unstressed Words in a Sentence

Offering Help/Things


Strong Forms & Weak Forms

Asking for & Giving Advice



Asking for/Giving/Refusing Permission


Rhythm of English Speech

Making Requests


Types of Intonation in English

Asking for & Giving Directions


Intonation Units of English

Making Comparisons


Functions & Uses of English Intonation

Complaining & Apologizing

The book covers a broad range of basic pronunciation topics. Each topic is explained in a detailed fashion without being overwhelming. By sequencing the segmental units toward the beginning of the book, EPIC establishes a strong segmental foundation for its audience but devotes more attention to suprasegmentals. Relaxed English and vocal posture are not covered in this book. The emphasis is placed on awareness of correct pronunciation—both dictionary transcriptions and oral idiosyncrasies of fluent speakers—and the ability to produce intelligible speech with a British accent.

EPIC’s emphasis on being able to comprehend and produce British English is supported by the voices recorded on its companion CD. The second edition of EPIC includes a CD for all the listening exercises in the book. Three speakers on the CD represent a small variety of British accents. A female Chinese English speaker with an accent that tends toward British reads the instructions to the exercises. The exercise questions are read by a British man and woman who have slightly different accents.

One of EPIC’s strengths is that each book contains a profusion of listening and speaking exercises. The answer key located in the back of the book allows readers to practice the listening exercises outside of class. Because pronunciation training requires outside input for monitoring and to increase awareness, the speaking exercises cannot be properly done without the aid of another person. However, EPIC’s organization and exercise materials do encourage learner autonomy. Each unit has so many exercises that some cannot fit into the 2-hour class session. EPIC’s user-friendly layout and organized breakdown of concepts enable students to use the CD and practice listening on their own time. They are able to monitor their own listening skills; the exercises encourage pair work to help monitor their speaking.


Units in EPIC are organized in order of difficulty. EPIC starts with a statement of the author’s belief in the importance of suprasegmentals. After this introduction come the segmental units, which contain exercises that keep readers focused on suprasegmentals. The following units cover topics that are more difficult to define and prescribe. Overall, EPIC is slightly cumulative as Units 8 through 15 assume a foundational understanding of English sounds, but each unit could be taught in isolation.

The units begin with a brief introduction to and definition of the topic. For example, Unit 8 (“stressed syllables & unstressed syllables”) has the following introduction:

We now have a general view of the sounds in English. We have learned how important correct pronunciation is for successful communication. We have also learned a little about how we need to master other important aspects of spoken English in order to achieve successful communication. Stress and rhythm are two more essential elements. . . . Stress is such an important feature of spoken English that it determines not only the rhythmic flow of words, but also the quality of the vowels. Correct word and sentence stress in spoken English can mean the difference between good communication and no communication at all. (p. 82)

The introduction is usually followed by a “Pronunciation Tip” to help readers with the unit’s listening and speaking exercises. “Pronunciation Tips” are scattered throughout each unit to remind readers of material from the unit introduction. The exercise sections usually begin with two simple listening exercises—for example, minimal pairs, pairs of similar words with different stress—followed by a speaking exercise requiring readers to reproduce something similar to what they heard in the listening exercises. After these exercises are another pair of listening and speaking exercises that are more difficult. Next are a few speaking tasks that allow students to use knowledge and material beyond the scope of the class. These tasks are intermingled with more listening exercises. Then there are a few more speaking exercises for pairs to monitor each other. For example, a typical speaking exercise in each unit is called “Speaking – Word Stress for Information.” This exercise presents a table to help partners give feedback on the other’s pronunciation. For example, the short question-response table on page 64 (see Table 2) helps readers monitor the accuracy of their central and back vowels.

Table 2. Sample Question-Response Table

Student A

Student B

1. a. Did she calm down for tea?

b. Did she come down for tea?

No, she was too excited.

No, she was too busy.

2. a. The girls are always larky.

b. The girls are always lucky.

Yes, because they are happy.

Yes, aren’t they lucky!

The exercises become more communicative as the unit progresses. The last few exercises usually include a listening passage, a few conversations readers can listen to and imitate, and a few tasks related to the unit topic and the language function designated for that unit; for example, Unit 6 combined back vowels with making suggestions.


EPIC is an appropriate pronunciation resource for Chinese EFL learners because the exercises use names and places learners are familiar with. Also, the instructional material is accurate, useful, and reinforced throughout each unit. The instructional material is clear and technical, but the book is limited in its ability to help coach learners in performing what it asks them to produce. Segmental units contain detailed instruction on places and manners of articulation and are complete with diagrams and specific instruction on sounds that are difficult for Chinese learners. Suprasegmental units contain extensive descriptions of the topic and adequate instruction on general trends and habits of fluent speakers without overwhelming readers with long lists of exceptions. The burden of instruction still rests on the teacher, but EPIC requires very little supplementation. Teachers of North American English (NAE) pronunciation will need to pay special attention to discrepancies between British and NAE pronunciation systems and point out areas where NAE pronunciation departs from the book’s prescriptions.

Activities in the book have various strengths and weaknesses. Awareness-raising is a major focus of the exercises, but the book does not provide much training in dictionary use or information on sound/spelling correspondences. Some awareness-raising instruction goes into allophonic details that may confuse learners who struggle to understand the basics of segmental production. The phonetic alphabet used in EPIC is mostly IPA but does not correspond to the phonetic alphabets used in many Chinese dictionaries, nor does it make any attempt to explain this discrepancy. EPIC has a strong base of listening/perception tasks (again, teachers of NAE must be careful which tasks to assign students) and provides ample opportunities for controlled practice—though accountability for the accuracy of production should be provided by another person. Controlled activities are EPIC’s strength. The attempt to include communicative activities is commendable. However, the activities seem a bit contrived and artificial as the language functions do not necessarily relate to the unit’s focus. EPIC does attempt to include communicative activities in each unit, but pronunciation is difficult to monitor without some degree of control imposed on the tasks. Students find monitoring their classmates difficult without a transcript to help them track their classmates’ speech.

EPIC does a decent job of including various teaching techniques in each of its units. Perception of sounds and awareness of sound distinctions are improved by minimal pair listening activities. Stress and rhythm analyses are done through diagramming stress patterns and asking readers to identify the nucleus of intonation units played on the CD. Both focused and global listening practice is included in the form of “minimal pair/sentence” exercises and “listening for information” exercises. Production practice involves imitative speaking in both controlled and guided practices. Most of the production practice in EPIC errs in being too controlled. Communicative activities such as storytelling and information gap exercises are not included. Fluency is mentioned and presented as a goal of the book. However, readers are not offered much communicative reinforcement. Blocks of text in the speaking exercises are not longer than one or two sentences. The occasional role play allows students some freedom, but most exercises do not encourage students to stray too far from the book. As mentioned before, the more communicative pronunciation tasks suffer from being too contrived.

Though the practices are not situated in authentic contexts, the success of the textbook does not depend solely on the author or even the instructor. Student response determines a large part of EPIC’s success. Chinese students expect a pronunciation class to have more controlled practices and relevant examples, which the book has in abundance. The drills and listening exercises hold strong appeal for Chinese students. What the book lacks in communicative activities can be made up by teacher supplementation.

EPIC’s impressive organization and content make it an understandable choice as a textbook. Teachers using EPIC must be aware of its shortcomings and carefully adapt its content for classes that require a NAE or communicative language focus.

Christina Liao, a third-year English teacher at Northwest Normal University in Lanzhou, PRC, has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois) and is working on an master's degree in TESOL from Azusa Pacific University (Azusa, California).


Wang, G. Z. (1996). English pronunciation & intonation for communication: A course for Chinese EFL learners. Beijing, China: Higher Education Press.

Rhythm and Phonemic Awareness As a Necessary Precondition to Literacy: Recent Research

Judy B. Gilbert

Pronunciation teachers are generally aware that second language learners tend to continue to rely on their first language rhythm (Aoyama & Guion, 2007), which clearly affects their intelligibility. It seemed to me that this same tendency might interfere with learning to read in English, so I’ve been reading lately in the literacy field. It has been well established that dyslexia can be connected with impaired timing or motor deficits (Thomson, Fryer, Maltby, & Goswami, 2006), so it would seem reasonable to assume that learners listening to a new language within the constraints of their first language rhythm might also be struggling with faulty timing when learning the “phonemic awareness” which is necessary before a person can connect sounds to letters.


1. “Reading is about gaining access to meaning from printed symbols. To access meaning from print, the child must learn the code used by their culture for representing speech by a series of visual symbols. The first steps in becoming literate, therefore, require acquisition of the system for mapping distinctive visual symbols onto units of sound (phonology).” (Ziegler & Goswami, 2006, p. 429)

2. Rhythm sensitivity precedes and is correlated with phonological awareness. (David, Wade-Woolley, Kirby, & Smithrim, 2007)

3. “It would seem that speech rhythm sensitivity precedes phonological awareness, but speech rhythm is also an index of the phonological construction of language. So, perhaps in becoming sensitive to speech rhythm, our attention is directed towards features of phonology, ultimately enhancing our phonological awareness. (Wood, 2006, p. 271)

4. “The ability to detect speech rhythm is . . . intimately linked to vowel perception and production. It follows that the auditory cues contributing to speech rhythm may be important for representing the syllable in terms of onset-rime segments.” (Goswami, 2003)

5. “In speech, a syllable’s duration can also affect its salience, and links between duration discrimination and reading and spelling were indeed found for the adults tested here. . . . An insensitivity to the auditory rhythmic cues of speech could be the result of early motor difficulties in producing actions/sounds with differential rates of onset/degrees of salience. . . . Perception and production of rhythm are intimately related. There was some evidence that rhythmic auditory and motor skills remain coupled and linked to literacy skill, even in adulthood.” (Thomson et al., 2006, p. 346)

6. English depends on stress patterns to help the listener determine where words begin. (Cutler & Norris, 1988) “English speakers effectively use the stress rhythm to segment speech by assuming that strong syllables are word-initial.” (Cutler & Otake, 1994, p. 825)

7. “Given the importance of speech rhythm in oral language, particularly in stress-timed languages such as English and Dutch, perhaps speech rhythm, such as stress or prosody, would be a productive area of investigation.” (David et al., 2007, p. 180)

8. Memory and attention are intrinsically rhythmic processes. (Di Matteo, Rossi-Arnaud, & Tirozzi, 1997)


Current brain research suggests that people coming from languages that use a nonalphabetic script (e.g., Mandarin) may have learned to use different parts of the brain than have those who learned to read from an alphabetic script (Tan, Laird, & Fox, 2005; Wai, Zhendong, Zhen, Perfetti, & Li, 2008). Here is an intriguing passage from Tan and his colleagues in Hong Kong:

Language forms come to shape cognitive and learning strategies, which in turn alter the neural circuits involved in language processing. For children learning to read English and other alphabets, the most popular and effective approach emphasizes children’s awareness of the phonological structure of speech, because this awareness helps establish the relationship between graphemes and phonemes and facilitates reading development. . . .

[But] . . . learning to read Chinese is not associated closely with children’s sensitivity to the phonological structure of spoken language. . . . As a consequence, the critical mechanisms that the brain will draw upon to accomplish reading tasks are likely to differ depending on the demands of a particular writing system. Results from the present study have generated evidence indicating that neural circuits for phonological processing in reading are different across languages. (Tan et al., 2005, p. 89)


However, even if L2 students have learned to read with an alphabetic system, their inventory of sounds and habitual connection between those sounds and the letters may also involve differences in timing. Here is an example of the difficulty of guessing how to spell English from the sound of the spoken form even if the user is accustomed to the same alphabet, that is, even if the learner is already well aware of the principle of spelling by a sequence of sounds. A group of Spanish-speaking migrant workers in the United States were asked to figure out how to show the pronunciation of an English sentence, “Everybody wants to learn English.” After hearing it a number of times, they agreed on the following: “Evri bari guants tulem inglis” (Kalmar, 2001, p. 23). Comparing the two versions of this sentence can give some idea of the challenge of English literacy for ESL learners.


Because it seems clear that appropriate phonemic awareness depends on perception of timing and because the ability to identify the beginnings of words depends on perception of stress, it would certainly seem that teaching rhythm should be a top priority for all ESL/EFL classes, not just the classes assigned to pronunciation.


Aoyama, K., & Guion, S. (2007). Prosody in second language acquisition: Acoustic analyses of duration and FO range. In O.-S. Bohn & M. Munro (Eds.),Language experience in second language speech learning. In honor of James Emil Flege (pp. 281-297). Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Cutler, A., & Norris, D. (1988). The role of strong syllables in segmentation for lexical access. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 14(1), 114.

Cutler, A., & Otake, T. (1994). Mora or phoneme? Further evidence for language-specific listening. Journal of Memory and Language, 33, 825.

David, D., Wade-Woolley, L., Kirby, J., & Smithrim, K. (2007). Rhythm and reading development in school-age children: A longitudinal study. Journal of Research in Learning to Read, 30, 169-183.

Di Matteo, R., Rossi-Arnaud, C., & Tirozzi, B (1997). Rhythm processing and entrainment process. In A. Gabrielsson (Ed.), Third Triennial ESCOM Conference Proceedings (pp. 76-81). Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University.

Goswami, U. (2003). How to beat dyslexia. The Psychologist, 16, 462-465.

Kalmar, T. (2001). Illegal alphabets and adult biliteracy: Latino migrants crossing the linguistic border. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Tan, L-H., Laird, A., Li, K., & Fox, P. (2005). Neuroanatomical correlates of phonological processing of Chinese characters and alphabetic words: A meta-analysis. Human Brain Mapping, 25, 83-91.

Thomson, J., Fryer, B., Maltby, J., & Goswami, U. (2006). Auditory and motor rhythm awareness in adults with dyslexia. Journal of Research in Reading, 29, 334-348.

Wood, C. (2006). Metrical stress sensitivity in young children and its relationship to phonological awareness and reading. Journal of Research in Reading, 29, 270-287.

Wai, T. S., Zhendong, N., Zhen, J., Perfetti, C., & Li, H. (2008). A structural-functional basis for dyslexia in the cortex of Chinese readers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 105, 5561-5566.

Ziegler, J., & Goswami, U. (2006). Becoming literate in different languages: Similar problems, different solutions. Developmental Science, 9, 429-453.

Community News and Information SPLIS Connection to Drama-IS

This spring, SPLIS teamed up with the TESOL-Drama e-discussion group to work together to build an interesting workshop that speaks to a wider audience.

In Denver, SPLIS was a sponsor for the TESOL-Drama e-discussion group as they held their 6-week online session as part of CALL’s Electronic Village Online program. This year’s topic was “Teaching English Through Drama: Dramatic Questions, Dramatic Answers.” TESOL-Drama is a year-round forum for issues related to drama in language teaching and all SPLIS members are welcome to participate free of charge. For further information, go here.

As a member of SPLIS, if you have an idea of how we can connect with other e-discussion groups or interest sections, don’t hesitate to pass it on to our president or anyone on the board.

What Is the SPLIS-L?

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 finding 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.

There are 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 are allowed on the list. To join the list, go to the official site of the SPLIS Interest Section, 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.

To go to the Web site, click here.

Join Interest Sections for Free

Members can select an unlimited selection of interest sections (ISs) for free. As a member of an IS, you automatically receive all e-newsletters and e-lists. Most important, you determine the level of involvement you want in each IS, and you may vote in your primary IS.

It’s easy to join an IS! Log on to the TESOL Web site. Enter your username (your e-mail address) and password (in most cases, your last name). Click on “My Communities” to make your selections. Last, remember to click “Save” once you have identified the ISs you want to join. Take advantage of this opportunity now to connect with colleagues who share your professional interests!

Call for Submissions

Call for Submissions

The SPLIS e-newsletter, As We Speak, is soliciting articles on any of the various aspects of teaching and tutoring pronunciation, oral skills, and listening that apply to or focus on ESL/EFL pedagogy, second language acquisition, accent addition/reduction, assessment of those skills, and other related research. We also solicit book reviews for both classroom and methodology texts. Teaching tips, tutoring tips, and classroom strategies are also acceptable submissions.


Articles should have the following characteristics:

  • Be no longer than 2,500 words
  • Include a 50-word (500 characters or fewer) abstract
  • Contain no more than five citations
  • Follow the style guidelines in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition (APA)
  • Be in MS Word or ASCII format
  • Follow accepted conventions for online publishing (handout available upon request)


As We Speak will be published two times per year: November 1 and April 15.

  • Submission deadline for November issue is September 20
  • Submission deadline for April issue is March 1
  • Note: You may contact the editors at any time to discuss possible submissions.