¿Ingeniero? ¿Ferrocarril? Surely your students have had a lot of headaches with these and other Spanish words. And it’s no surprise, with so many accents, spellings, and letters that aren’t common in other languages, learning Spanish is a real challenge. Oral expression is one of the skills that our students need to develop in our classes and one of the most important to know how to communicate in everyday life. Interestingly, pronunciation is sometimes the least emphasized aspect in the teaching of Spanish as a foreign language.
The importance of teaching pronunciation
Your students may know the correct grammatical structures and have a good vocabulary, but if they make mistakes in pronunciation, the communication objective is affected and causes frustrations that could be avoided from the beginning through pronunciation sessions and activities.
In view of the clear need to teach and learn correct pronunciation, what tools, methods and activities can we include during our teaching sessions? First of all, help your student understand that pronunciation is not boring or tedious: do not try to teach lists of words or sounds in isolation, without a communicative basis. Rather, plan exercises and find effective methods that are fun, different, and practical. Do you have any ideas in mind? Here are some useful suggestions that you can adapt according to the needs and level of your students.
Vowel or consonant pangrams
They are sentences where the only attempt is made to include words with a specific letter, the one that the student needs to practice, does not need to make sense, the important thing is that the student is able to repeat and become familiar with the sound of the vowel or consonant. One of my students had difficulty pronouncing the vowel “e” so I decided to construct the following paragraph:
Pepe de Menéses ve memes,
Mete peces del Edén
El verde es el que merece
Que se espere que te den
Note that “meme” and “Eden” have a different pronunciation in English, with this type of exercise, the student will be tempted to say it as in his mother tongue and will learn to pronounce it in Spanish. You can include funny words or pictures to make the activity more fun or add challenges and punishments. You can even practice pronunciation by inviting your students to read texts in English with the phonetics of Spanish, I am sure it will not leave them indifferent.
Tongue twisters have always been a simple and effective method to speed up the tongue. And improve our hearing for difficult words. Try to use tongue twisters that are eye-catching and fun for the student. I recommend you create your own based on others already made according to the needs of your student. For example, my student found it difficult to pronounce the « r » and confused it with the « l », but there were no existing tongue twisters to help him practice, so starting with one and with slight modifications, it was like this:
Modified tongue twister
Había un gallina muy ética, perética
Pelada, peluda, perenpenpuda…
Songs are definitely an entertaining tool that many students prefer especially if they have an appreciation for music in Spanish. The repetition of the words really strengthens the pronunciation and the catchy lyrics help the letters stay in the head. The songs also allow you to learn new words to add to the vocabulary and to record in the mind the sound of certain consonants that would otherwise be tedious to learn by heart. For example, a certain student commented that before listening to “De Musica Ligera” by Soda Stereo, did not know that the word “ligera” has a strong g sound. Try to use songs according to the tastes of your students and encourage them to create a playlist of songs in Spanish.
Speakable from support
Take advantage of the various modalities that Speakable offers to help your students review the vocabulary and pronunciation of their favorite songs. You can create specific lessons to review the lyrics of a certain song. The lyrics of a song take on more meaning and emotion when the meaning is known and it is sung in the same way as the singer pronounces it, so use this valuable tool to your advantage to carry out music and learning sessions.
This activity is usually useful for beginning levels in which the pronunciation of common Spanish syllables is completely unknown. Take into account that letters like “g”, “j” or “ll”sound different in English. Identify which syllables are most difficult to remember during class and create two dices with the following consonants and syllables on each side.
In each turn, the student will roll the dice and try to match the consonants with the syllable that falls. Then, the student has to say a word with that syllable. In the example above, there are syllables that do not correspond to Spanish such as GU-U or GÜ-O, it would be good if you previously taught this in the class to avoid frustrations by looking for an impossible word. Remember to personalize the dice with the consonants that are most difficult for your students to learn.
Speakable’s voice recognition
In your lessons you can include various sentences with the vowels or consonants that your students need to improve and record your voice reading the sentences with the necessary stress and rhythm. Most online translators are not 100% reliable when it comes to pronunciation and their robotic speed causes confusion. The main objective of these exercises is for Spanish learners to get used to the correct pronunciation with the recorded audio from their teacher and to know if they are pronouncing it correctly with the help of voice recognition. You will notice the step-by-step progress of your students faster than you imagine!
Use everything within reach
Sessions don’t have to be boring and reduced to simple reading-aloud practices. In this information age, we have access to many other tools and methods that you can include in your classes to sharpen listening and speaking skills. Remember that creativity and genuine interest in the needs of your students will motivate you to create activities and teaching materials whose main purpose is to encourage your students to use the language effectively in communication.
Without a doubt, our students will greatly appreciate that we, as teachers, spend time in our classes to teach them the correct pronunciation and intonation of sentences. Imagine how much your student will appreciate you teaching them to properly pronounce a word that they have said wrong for a long time! An added value that will stand out from the crowd.