two-sides rule in teaching
listening and pronunciation
by Richard Cauldwell
The Pronunciation layer
section leads on to the second layer in the materials, Pronunciation,
which like its Listening predecessor, consists of two sections.
At the core of the first Pronunciation section (section 4
in the chapter) is a table of a set of either vowels or consonants,
with a pair of speech-units, extracted from the original recording,
in which the target vowel/consonant is spoken in a prominent
syllable (see Figure 3).
3 Table of short vowels and speech unit models
the symbols in the left hand column are those for the short
vowels of English; the central column contains the sample
speech units from the original recording, with the target
sound shown in the syllable in bold upper-case letters; the
right hand column shows the speed of the speech unit in words
per minute. Syllables in upper-case are prominent syllables
students task is to listen to the original (by clicking
on the relevant speech unit), practise speaking it, record
their version, and compare their version to the original.
They are then asked to evaluate their own performance. In
piloting the materials, students had difficulty getting up
to speed, and so each Chapter now has specific guidance on
how to progress from citation form speech, to the speed of
the original recording.
second section of the pronunciation layer (section 5 in the
chapter) presents the student with an extended extract of
speech for listening, imitation, recording & comparing.
In such longer extracts, the variability of speech, more easily
seen over a number of speech units, is practised (see Figure
4 An extended extract
first eight chapters follow the same pattern, covering between
them all the vowels and consonants of English.
Chapter 9 a choice of speaker to model pronunciation
9 Segments Workshop allows students to choose
one of six speakers (three female, three male) to act as models
for the full inventory of vowels and consonants. (See Figure
if you like Coronys voice, you can use her voice as
a model for pronunciation; if you prefer Philips voice,
you can use him as a model for all the vowels and consonants
Chapter 10 the patterns of normal speech
10 is designed primarily for teachers: it provides, in one
place, intensive training in recognising the patterns of normal
speech which were identified and taught, in a pedagogically
staged manner in the filling (Discourse Feature)
sections of each of Chapters 1-8.
The target audience
Speech is for those who aspire to be advanced users of the
spoken language: those who want to handle fast speech both
in listening and in their own vocal production. Streaming
Speech is appropriate for three groups of people: those studying
for high-level English examinations, those preparing to study
in an English-speaking country, and non-native speaker teachers
of English, either in training, or already at work.
exciting thing about developing Streaming Speech has been
the extent to which some of the tenets of phonology, as they
are taught on TEFL courses, are challenged by the evidence
of spontaneous speech. Normal speech is stream-like, and within
its limits, infinitely variable, and appears not to obey many
of the rules suggested by textbooks. Speed varies moment by
moment, rhythmic patterns vary moment by moment (instances
of stress-timing are extremely rare), most yes/no
questions have falling tone, and are not rude.
spontaneous speech also reveals native speaker strategies
and short-cuts that make the task of speaking easier. Easier
both in the sense of strategic planning, and in the degree
of accuracy to be aimed at. An example of a strategy: native
speakers use a wide variety of pause phenomena, including
dwelling/pausing on content words (with level tone) to give
themselves time to plan what to say next. This is a strategy
worth teaching. As far as accuracy is concerned, consonant
clusters are often simplified to simple consonants by native
speakers particularly when they occur early in a speech-unit
we need to allow our students to avail themselves of
the short-cuts that native speakers take. For too long our
segment-focused, citation-from focused work on the spoken
language has been based on views about how speech ought
to be, rather than how it is. We can improve
our students ability to handle fast speech both in fluent
production and in understanding the stream of speech if we
attend to the evidence of normal speech, and the implications
of the two-sides rule.
D. (1994). Pronunciation for Advanced Learners of English.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
D. (1997). The Communicative Value of Intonation in English.
[2nd Edition]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
R.T. (1998) Faith, hope, and charity: the vices of listening
comprehension. The Language Teacher July 1998
R.T. (2002a) Grasping the nettle: The importance of perception
work in listening comprehension. [Paper published on the web
R.T. (2002B). Streaming Speech: Listening and Pronunciation
for Advanced Learners of English. Birmingham: speechinaction.
You can try out Streaming Speech on the web at http://www.fab24.net/examples/streamingspeech.htm
(You will need Internet Explorer 5.5 or later, and Macromedia
Flash Player. You will need to say 'yes' when invited to download
C. (1997). Metacognitive awareness and second language listeners.
ELT Journal 51(4), 361-369
M. (1990). Listening in Language Learning. Harlow: Longman.
in Dublin, educated in England, Richard has taught English
in France, Hong Kong, and Japan. Between May 1990, and
September 2001, he worked at The University of Birmingham's
(UK) English for International Students Unit (EISU). He
now works free-lance, continuing his research, and applying
the results of this research in teacher training, and
classroom materials. His research and teaching centre
on spontaneous speech which he attempt to analyse on its
own terms in all its continually varying, stream-like,
real-time, contextual glory.
web site, which contains his research & articles,
can be found at:
he can be contacted at: email@example.com
the beginning of the article
to the articles index