Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find a simple answer to that question? But unfortunately, it’s impossible. There just isn’t one best way to teach pronunciation—or any other subject, for that matter. Teaching is a complex undertaking, and teachers have to consider a whole range of factors before they decide what to do in class.
Asking “What’s the best way to teach pronunciation?” is like asking “What’s the best way to cook?” That, too depends on a lot of things: Are you making breakfast for a nine-year-old who has to leave for school in ten minutes? Planning a dinner party for half a dozen adults, including a vegetarian and a guest who’s allergic to wheat and eggs? Or maybe you’re standing in front of an almost-empty refrigerator, looking for something for your own lunch?
Instead of asking “What’s the best way to teach pronunciation,” it makes more sense to ask, “What’s the best way I can help this group of students, in this situation, to reach their goals and make their pronunciation more intelligible?” That’s a much more manageable question. To answer it, we have to consider:
- How old are the students?
- What is their skill level?
- What are their goals? What are my goals for them?
- What resources are available in terms of time, materials, and equipment?
- What constraints are put on my teaching from outside (for example, from the school administration or a national Education Ministry)?
Each of these things will affect how you teach pronunciation in your class.
You’ll also find that every class you teach is different, even if they’re closely matched in age, skill level, and goals. What works with one group might not work as well with another.
In short, there’s no magic method, no “silver bullet” that will solve all your pronunciation teaching problems. So what can you do?
You need to acquire an arsenal of techniques, activities, and skills that you can adapt to fit whatever teaching situation you find yourself in. Stay flexible so that you can adapt to your students’ needs with an open mind.
Finally, even if teaching pronunciation (or anything else) turns out to be more complicated that you thought it would be, don’t give up. Stay strong. You can do it.