Speaking & the Internet: an unlikely match?
by MJ. Auria, E. Lozano & M. Mansilla
The main aim of this section is to make things easier for the teacher who wants to use the Internet as a tool to teach English pronunciation, either in the classroom (taking advantage of free materials provided by some websites) or in the computer lab. We used two well-known search engines: Google and Yahoo! and started from scratch searching "English pronunciation". We were presented with more than 300 addresses of websites, and the list could have been much longer if we had had the time and the energy required to trace the links provided. As is widely known, and we had anticipated, one of the most tiresome burdens the teacher has to bear is to deal with the huge amount of information the World Wide Web offers, information which must be classified, verified and frequently has to be discarded and forgotten.
In his article "Where are the Good Web Pages?" http://www.eastment.com/eval.html David Eastment says that the best way to find good websites is to follow the recommendation of a colleague who has actually visited a site or to find a site with some kind of authority and follow the links it suggests. What can be read below is the result of our visiting a huge amount of sites throughout this school year. Needless to say, there are many others that we simply were not able to check.
We have tried to spare the teacher the trouble of spending too long sieving the incredible amount of websites offered. We have left aside those websites we did not find interesting enough and have kept those which could be of, at least, some help. The addresses we have discarded are of three kinds:
websites with a sheer commercial aim, like selling a particular book, course or CD-Rom, unless there is an interesting "demo" or the course is highly recommendable.
websites which merely show the transcription of a long poem, jokes or stories, since although these are presented to the teacher as wonderful materials to study or practise English pronunciation, actually no directions are given as to the way they can be used and they prove to be really poor resources.
websites with long lists of words and their pronunciation in English. We think they could be of some interest for specific teaching purposes but of little use for the more general purpose of our study. Within this group we came across sites with the pronunciation of biological Latin terms, taxonomical names, biblical names, or even the names of the characters in Harry Potter's books, although no doubt this would be more attractive to our younger students.
Once we had made a first selection, our next step was to determine how useful the remaining sites were. And this is our list:
This is a free site.
It is presented by David Appleyard and includes audio materials.
It offers "playful pronunciation practice (or the 44 sounds of English English one at a time!)"
Its list of contents includes the 20 vocalic and diphthongal sounds, the 24 consonantal sounds and problem sounds for Japanese learners. It uses SIL-IPA phonetic fonts.
Free access. No audio materials.
Ted Power, an English teacher, presents TESL/TEFL theory from his teaching experiences. He offers free lesson materials, a section of common mistakes, assimilation, a list of 150 Songs for English Phonology Teaching by Level, classified in 6 levels of difficulty with the most frequent sounds which you can hear in each of them.
CD-Rom for sale.3 demos. Audio and video materials.
Jürgen Handke presents The Mouton Interactive Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology. It claims to be able to replace the traditional face-to-face course, including evaluation and assessment.
The University of Marbug Linguistic Engineering Team offers this method in CD-Rom for sale. There are three interesting demos containing a phonetics section (aspects of articulatory, auditory and acoustic phonetics and animations, pictures and sound examples), a phonology module (the phoneme, distinctive features, non-linear phonology, optimality theory and the sound system of British and American English) and a group of additional modules with bibliographical references and a glossary of important linguistic terms.There is an interactive tutor who trains the skill of the student and monitors his individual progress.
Online subscription. CD-Rom version. Downloadable version. Audio and video materials.
Four products are offered: English Dictionary, Pronunciation Power 1(Beginner-Intermediate), Pronunciation Power 2 (Intermediate-Advanced) and Pronunciation Power Idioms. There is a useful demo with sound examples, animations and speech analysis (here the students listen to the instructor's voice and then record their own voice; then they compare their waveform with the instructor's waveform)
CD-Rom Pronunciation Guide. Free material. Audio materials.
Timothy Bowyer presents "The Online Resource for Pronunciation and Language Study" with examples not only in British English but in American E., Australian E., Canadian E., Irish E., Scottish E., and Welsh E. There are recordings of 40 speakers. There i s a stress and tone section.
CD-Rom. Very interesting demos. Audio and video materials.
Brian Rhodes, from Okanahan University College, presents this pronunciation teaching method which covers different aspects of this topic such as sound description, minimal pairs, dictation, dialogue (interaction with a native English speaker), tongue twisters, etc.
Free materials for teaching and learning. Audio materials.
Easton Language Education provides materials for teaching pronunciation of American English, such as: articles, exercises, quizzes, readings, songs, tongue twisters, etc.
Free access. Audio materials.
English Club is presented as a club for teachers and learners of English as a foreign or second language. If you join the club, you receive a monthly magazine and you are promised special discounts on selected ESL products. Among other aspects of pronunciation, this site covers word stress, linking, homophones, tongue twisters. There is also a ESL Help Centre for questions and interactive activities.
Free materials. Audio materials.
Edict Virtual Language Centre is described as a "resource-assisted website for distance learning". A free gift is offered including a Phonemic Alphabet Chart, a description of consonants and a comparative study of vowels.
Free access. Audio and video materials.
Sharon Widmayer and Holly Gray present a website designed for learners of English and their teachers and which contains materials created by them. There are links, handouts from presentations they have made, English pr onunciation pages (with pictures, sounds and videos), tips for teachers, word stress and short listening exercises with online activities.
Free material. Audio and video materials.
There is a long index of languages, including BrE and AmE. When British English is chosen you get to Peter Ladefoged presenting "Vowels and Consonants" with audio and video materials, and A Course in Phonetics, which covers almost every aspect of this area.
Free site. No written materials.
Mantained by the Internet TESL Journal. It offers useful links for the teacher, articles, etc. The student can contact a teacher for an online class. There is a wide range of class times. This site can be useful for learners to work on their own.
Pronunciation course. Downloadable version
Made by Tomasz P. Szynalski and Michael Ryszard Wojcik. They sell a computer programme called \ldblquote Perfect Pronunciation\rdblquote with more than 500 exercises in BrE and AmE. The students listen to an example, record their own voice and can listen to their recording. There is only a description of the course.
This course of 24 languages includes American English. It is a language learning programme in CD, although you can go to the website for one week of free instruction online. It covers the four skills. There are e xercises of speech recognition: the students listen to the native speaker\rquote s recorded voice, reproduce it and they compare their recording with the speaker's
This is John Wells's website, which contains interesting articles. As we said at the beginning, this is only a very short list of what can be found on the Internet. Again we have to agree with Eastment that good learning materials take too much time, energy and, let us face it, money to be put up on "what is essentially a world-wide copying facility". Still there are some sites worth visiting and some are worth buying.
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