Teaching & learning new sounds

Here’s a fascinating link that Louise Guyett of the IATEFL PronSIG shared with us via the PronSIG Facebook page.


The link takes you to a short BBC news item where reporter Joseph Winter (presumably UK born) receives pronunciation lessons for Xhosa, the language of Mandela, from South African reporter Pumza Fihlani.

Apart from the insights in the main text into how the BBC pronunciation unit works , what’s really interesting to me is how Pumza goes about teaching Joseph to make sounds that are entirely new to him, especially the clicks. Admittedly the basis of what goes on between the two of them is listen and repeat, and some of Joseph’s comments and comparisons with sounds from other languages suggest he’s not new to pronunciation, but it’s also true that Pumza doesn’t bombard Joseph with too many repetitions of the target sound. She’s patient enough to let him experiment inside his own mouth as he tries to get a ‘feel’ for it. She doesn’t exactly take a ‘Silent Way’ approach, but she does give Joseph quite a lot of space to find what he’s looking for by himself.

On a related front, if anyone ever doubted if explicit instruction (albeit in layman’s terms) could improve a learner’s pronunciation, here’s proof.

(PS. Have a go at the clicks in the words Joseph attempts. He’s right. They are OK in isolation, but using them to start a word is much harder.)