Pronunciation: Production exercises

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The following drills can be helpful for pronunciation practice. However, exercises or drills should not be overdone to the point of boredom. Usually, one would do some listening discrimination exercises, then production exercises, then a less controlled activity, such as pair or small group work, and if possible, a communicative or quasi-communicative activity. While doing listening activities, it is helpful to sometimes mix up listening activities and similar listening activities, and these listening exercises can often be adapted to simple production exercises. These can then be followed by quasi-interactive controlled activities and then more interactive activities.

Phoneme contrasts need to be practiced for initial, medial, and final contrasts, that is, sound distinctions for each sound at the start, middle (and between vowels), and end of words. This is because the phonetic realization of each phoneme can vary according to these word positions, and students need to know that, e.g., A, B, C are the same sound category (phoneme), but A is not the same as sounds D, E, F. See the links at the bottom for finding minimal pairs. For example:

For /s/ vs. /θ/: (1) series - theories; (2) faceless - faithless (3) use - youth


1 Simple repetition

Students engage in choral repetition, or repeating individually after the teacher; or they can get into pairs to repeat words together in pairs from a list of words and expressions. These can include: * Repeating sounds in isolation, e.g., /θ/, /ð/

  • Repeating words with the target sound, e.g., bathe, lathe, rather, lather
  • Repeating minimal pair words, e.g., base, bathe
  • Repeating near-minimal pair words, e.g., neither, Nessie
  • Repeating minimal pair sentences, e.g., I threw Cathy / Cassie the thick math book.
  • Intra-sentential contrasts, e.g., He hid his head.

2 Phoneme substitution

Students hear words with one sound and are to change it to the target sound. This can be done chorally, individually or in pairs. E.g., the teacher says base and the students are to change it to bathe. Word pairs from a same/different exercise can be used for this.

  • see → she
  • presser → pressure
  • lass → lash

3 Minimal pair sentences

Like the phoneme substitution above, students hear a whole sentence, and replace the target word with the other minimal pair word. E.g., the teacher says, Your base belongs to usYour bays belong to us for the /s/-/z/ distinction. The teacher may need to cue the target word.

  1. said sad
  2. dead dad
  3. led lad
  4. heck hack
  5. X ax
  6. lest last
  7. Beck back
  8. leftl aughed
  9. kettle cattle
  10. pellet pallette
  11. pecking packing
  12. speckle spackle
  13. wreck rack
  14. lend land
  15. mess mass
  16. guess gas
  17. bet bat
  18. hem ham
  19. gem jam
  20. wrench ranch
  21. begged bagged
  22. better batter
  23. fester faster
  24. kept capped

4 Mixed phrases (sentence discrimination)

Students repeat phrases or sentences with the target phoneme and a word with a similar phoneme; e.g., if teaching the /æ/ - /ɛ/ contrast, one would use words with both sounds in sentences.

  1. a bad text
  2. please edit that
  3. it began there
  4. she read the ad
  5. some black thread
  6. I understand better
  7. an excellent plan
  8. ready for action
  9. in Yellow Valley
  10. answer the question
  11. those hefty bags

Minimal pair sentences, or at least sentences with similar sounding words with the target phoneme, can be used for practice, as in choral repetition. The following examples are for the /æ/ - /ε/ contrast.

  1. This bed is bad.I guess they want gas.
  2. The gem fell in the jam.What she said made me sad.
  3. Can you bend this iron band?
  4. I came down with an unpleasant malady, but I'd rather have an unpleasant melody.
  5. I wanted some fatty meat, but all I got was fetid ham and rancid bread.

5 Q&A

The teacher poses questions with the target phoneme or phoneme contrast, and students must answer in complete sentences.

  1. Would you like to study math or Latin? (for /æ/ cf. /ε/)
  2. I would prefer to study math.

These can be done with minimal pairs or similar sound words, if they fit logically - but it may be difficult to find suitable words for this.

  • Would you like to do math or make a mess?
  • Is your favorite design lattice or lettuce?

6 Correction exercises (in sentences)

Students must identify the incorrect words and say the correct word. This can be done as a class activity, as the teacher reads aloud sentences and student correct them in unison. Or students can be put in pairs, with each one being given a different set of sentences; in turns, they read aloud and correct each other's sentences.

  1. I had to pay 5 bugs for a Starbucks coffee in Seattle. (bucks)
  2. I don't have to worry about rash hour because I finish work so late every day! (rush)
  3. I had a hangover, but I drank three bulack coffees and now I feel much better (black)
  4. We had to go to the playground in the rain because some set off the fire ararm. (alarm)
  5. I always pill up the car on Saturdays. (fill)
  6. When I was a teenager you didn't have to wear a helmetu when you rode a motorbike. (helmet)
  7. I prefer selp-service restaurants because I hate having to split the bill or argue about who pays. (self)
  8. There weren't any double rooms so we had to take two shingles. (singles)
  9. Although they are mainly oil tankers, I think the sheeps in Busan harbor make the scene more beautiful. (ships)

7 Stories, rhymes, limericks

Various stories, rhymes, limericks, and songs can be used. These fall under the more guided or controlled pronunciation activities.

8 See also

  1. Phonology & pronunciation portal
  2. Phonology & pronunciation topics (Minimal pairs will appear here later in wiki pages for various segmentals)
  3. Pronunciation: Teaching overview
  4. Pronunciation: Listening exercises
  5. Pronunciation: Production exercises
  6. Pronunciation: Controlled activities
  7. Pronunciation: Interactive activities
  8. Discussion questions for listening-speaking class

8.1 External links

  1. Sounds of English
  2. Phonetics flash animation practice (U. Iowa phonetics site)
  3. English phonetics and phonology for non-native speakers
  4. Tongue twisters website (also, tongue twisters for other languages)
  5. Phoneme flashcards for kids
  6. MoreWords] (Here you can search for words by spelling patterns)