A web site for the developing language teacher

November 2000 - issue 11/00


Welcome to the Newsletter.

Last month one of our subscribers, Zelda, wrote to us asking for ideas on teaching the phonemic chart so instead of including it in the 'Questions Answered' section we're going to make it the theme this month.

In the Questions Answered section we pose a question to you & this month we are starting a jobs service in the newsletter & on the web site. Hope you find the ideas & links useful.

As always, contributions & suggestions are very welcome - e-mail them to Happy teaching!


Please e-mail a friend the Developing Teachers Newsletter. Thanks.





1. THEME - the phonemic chart

The phonemic chart has been around for quite a while & in the not too distant past the chart constituted the sum of pronunciation in the classroom. We used to spend lots of time teaching the sounds & trying to iron out difficulties with minimal pairs.

In recent times we have come to realise that phonemics is only a part of pronunciation development. Phonology can be seen in terms of suprasegmental aspects & segmental aspects. The former includes intonation & the latter, the bits, the individual sounds. In terms of communicative effectiveness the suprasegmental aspects are vital for successful communication - get the intonation wrong & there could be a breakdown. As to the segmental side of things, the context will probably sort out any sound problems. So the time we used to spend on sounds has diminished & increased on intonational aspects because of this recognition of what is more useful.

That's the theory anyway. I suspect that not much has really changed. Working with sounds is relatively easy when compared with working on intonation - there are some that say that you can't teach intonation. It is difficult as much of it is very much context-bound & intuitive. The phonemic chart is easily definable & teachable - safe for both the learner & the teacher. Moreover there are still very solid reasons for dealing with the phonemic chart.

Among these:
- it helps students perceive the differences between sounds
- it helps in the overall awareness of phonology
- it helps the teacher anticipate some problems
- it helps when used as a reference for correction
- it helps with sound/spelling difficulties
- it is a valuable study aid used in dictionaries & coursebooks thereby encouraging learner independence
- it helps with the recording of vocabulary

In the Phonology section on the web site you'll find the phonemic chart, a key to the different sounds & a chart with the voice & unvoiced sounds marked. There are also two linked pages of phonemic activities, as well as a page which gives an introduction to some features of sounds in combination.

It took me a long time to get around to learning the chart. After several years of existing in the classroom guiltily without it, I was fortunate enough to have someone to teach it to me. I found that I didn't need to remember the word that highlighted the sound as it was easier to learn the sounds in relation to each other. I have put example words below the chart on the site for those of you who are on your own but if you do have a colleague who knows the sounds then get them to teach you. It shouldn't take long. Another approach is to learn the sounds gradually as you introduce them to your students.

Here are a few guidelines:

1.Introduce the sounds gradually. If you go straight into teaching the whole chart you'll overload the students, demotivate them & put them off any future development. Begin with the schwa & expand with the monophthongs as they crop up in different contexts. With a beginner class on day one you can introduce the schwa - highlight it in the vocabulary you introduce & work on production from the start. Use the easily identifiable consonant sounds in conjunction with the vowel sounds. Review the sounds you have covered with short warmer, filler & cooler activities.

2.Work on recognition first - the students have to be able to actually hear the sound. Then move to discrimination so they can tell the difference between the sound you are looking at & other similar sounds. After this you can safely move to production. The message here is a lot of listening.

3.Use mouth visuals to show what is happening when the sounds are made. You can use your hands or pictures to show what is happening to the tongue & lips.

4.Use gestures to remind your students of a sound e.g. mime showing a baby in your arms for the sound /a:/

5.Use the sounds & the phonemic chart as a reference for corrective work & be aware that your students are going to have problems & that it will take time to overcome them. Explain this to your students & ask them to be patient.

6.Introduce the voiced & unvoiced distinction early on. Here are three ways to help students differentiate:
a. Put your hands over your ears & say the sounds. You'll hear the voiced sounds.
b. Put your hand on your throat. You'll feel a vibration with the voiced sounds.
c. Put a piece of paper in front of your mouth & you'll see it move with the unvoiced sounds. This distinction will then be useful for discrimination & correction & also if you want to introduce the plural & 3rd person singular ending rule & the past tense ending rule. For the rules the activities' page.

7.Work on the features of sounds in combination as they crop up in context - weakening, linking, intrusion, elision & assimilation. For their definitions see the sounds in combination page.

8.Integrate work on sounds with other aspects of your lessons. For example, when teaching vocabulary, highlight difficult sounds, mark them under the word & get your students to copy them down. If the students cannot see the relevance then they will lose interest.

9.Develop dictionary use. If the sounds are known to your students they can be fairly autonomous with new vocabulary with a good dictionary. Don't forget to teach them how to use the dictionary effectively.

Above all, make learning the sounds fun & don't take it too seriously!

A few links connected to phonemics:
For a directory of where you can get the phonemic symbol fonts to install on your computer.
The web site of t he International Phonetic Association
A run through of all the sounds together & in isolation. For each sound there is a mouth & lip diagram, a recording of the sound, recordings of the sound in isolated words. For teachers & students alike to get to grips with the sounds.
Check out the 'New Randomizer' - minimal pair man/men
Lots of activities on sounds at this mammoth site.
IATEFL Pronunciation SIG - good for links & there's a collection of articles on phonology.

Two interesting sites:
The Phonemic Inventory of Modern Standard Vulcan
A Vulcan Academy Linguistics Department Web Booklet

A couple of recommended books:
Sound Foundations - Adrian Underhill (Longman)
A teacher awareness book that takes a systematic approach & has lots of practical ideas.
Speaking Clearly - Rogerson & Gilbert (CUP)
More for the learner & very well built up in simple & clear stages.

These are just two of the many ELT-related books that you can order through the Developing site. We have used all of the books on the list & recommend them. At the bottom of the page is a search engine for the Amazon site. Please use the list & the search engine to buy your books as this is one of the ways that helps with our expenses in providing you with this free newsletter. It is just the same as if you went direct to Amazon - you still get the discounted books. Thanks.
If you are after an ELT book & the list doesn't cover the area or you are after alternatives then do get in touch & we can recommend other titles.

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As the theme is responding to a request I'll put a question to you all. Large classes in rural China? Any ideas for large classes in general? Answers on the back of an e-mail for the next issue of the newsletter. Thanks.



If you want to develop your teaching but can't make it to a face- to-face course then this is for you. Each course is personalised to take into account each participant's teaching experience, you can take your time with each module & fit it into your weekly timetable as you want & you get lots of personal feedback by e- mail. For a very high quality course get along to the e-mail course page.

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The long-awaited re-launch of Seamus O'Muircheartaigh's - the first educational site dedicated to bringing the uniqueness of Ireland to a worldwide audience. Although devoted to all things Irish, it has more than a foot inside Spain. For the language teacher there's a Teachers' Room & lots of free materials are planned - on the site at the moment there's a seminar on learner autonomy. For the English language learner there is the chance to do an online evaluation to determine language level, work on vocabulary, grammar & reading skills online with a variety of tasks & also find out where to learn in Spain & Ireland. For interest in Ireland there is the Arts & Entertainments' section that keeps you up with the cultural side of Ireland, as well as connections with Ireland abroad. CDs, videos & books with Irish connections can also be bought through the site. Stay in touch with the newsletter & bookmark the site!
Takako's Great Adventure - get your students involved in his story.
Lots for the English language teacher; lesson plans, training info, jobs, discussion groups, a web guide & much more. 'Inspire' is the newsletter. Worth checking out. A site all about people - the ordinary, the celebrity, obituaries, biographies & live information, statistics & records - just about anybody is reachable here.
Here is a very useful site - a portal for online dictionaries, giving you links to more than 1800 dictionaries representing more than 230 languages. These dictionaries are organised into five different sections: 1. Language Dictionaries
2. Speciality Dictionaries
3. Multilingual Dictionaries
4. Translation Engines
5. Other Indexes
You'll spend a lot of time just looking around - an excellent language resource.

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Courses running in the near future at the British Language Centre in Madrid:
Full-time four-week courses: mid-November, January & February CAMBRIDGE DIPLOMA IN ELT - DELTA
Full-time eight-week courses: January - March
You can see brief descriptions of all of the current courses on the BLC web site
The postal address of Teacher Education at the British Language Centre is Calle Bravo Murillo 377, 2, 28020 Madrid, Spain. The phone number is (00 34) 733 07 39 & the fax number is (00 34) 91 314 5009.
The e-mail address is

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We're beginning a jobs' service on the web site for employers who are looking for teachers. This will be a free service & all you have to do is send a brief description to We will publish the advert in the newsletter & post it on the site at the recruitment page.

China - Nanjing
Currently looking to recruit new staff. A small private school, teaching mostly young professional adults that offers a generous wage, accommodation a short walk from the school, and return airfare. For more information contact Gus Latchem on

Spain - Vitoria
'We have a vacancy for a part time teacher, approx. 23 hours a week, preparation time included. The contract is from mid-November '00 to the end of June '01, but might beextended for one more month. The pay, including the proportional part of the two extra payments which will be paid on a monthly basis instead of as lump sums at Xmas and June, is approx.134.000 pts/month. There is also a severance pay at the end of the contract. If interested please contact Yolanda Gómez Campayo at Level English Services, C/ Francisco Javier de Landaburu, 24,bajo. 01010 Vitoria-Gasteiz Spain Tel./Fax: 945175809
An American-registered Internet company offering language services to businesses and individuals. The editor network provides native -speaker level translations and editingfor several different languages. As Kelly says: 'We are in searchof entrepreneurial individuals interested in joining our network as 'senior editors', responsible for starting up and maintaining a local branch of our company in a city in which we don't yet have an office. Plentiful editing work, profit sharing, and stock options are available for the right person.
Anybody interested in throwing a lot of energy into a new part-time project should drop us an email; we'll tell you how to make a branch office successful.' If interested, contact Kelly McDonald at or by phone at (48 50) 159 8228.



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8. PS
Here's something to help you out when surfing the net. It's similar to Alexa & Netscape's 'What's related' but is much more sophisticated. You don't have to do any searches at all. It is installed at the top of you browser & goes into action when you open a page by giving you a series of related & categorised links. Unlike utilities like Copernic or Web Ferret or Search engines, you don't have to open anything up to make a search. What you might be looking for might be sitting right there. If not then carry out your normal search.
When I view the Developing site I'm given the following categories at the top of my browser: Teacher Training, English as a Second Language, Language Schools, Teacher Resources, Jobs, Student Resources & Online Resources. In each category there are up to 60 links given. It makes searching easy. The download for installation is very quick but unfortunately it only installs on Explorer.
Something else for your browser toolbar. WebMonkey, an excellent web building site, is giving away a toolbar that helps you have your favourites at your fingertips.
For those who are in need of ideas in the early hours of the morning. Lots of links aimed mainly at the geek.

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