Recording students’ pronunciation

I gave a webinar today on pronunciation for teenagers. This is due to appear in article form in ETp 93, but part of the webinar was about using recordings as a motivational device that allows teachers to give learners a mark for their pronunciation work.

A number of teachers have written asking for more details of the technology available for making recordings, and this topic was part of the talk I gave last year on technology for teaching pronunciation, first at TESOL-SPAIN in Seville, and later at IATEFL in Liverpool.

IATEFL 2013 – Technology for teaching pronunciation

For those who saw the webinar and want to know more, or who were at TESOL-SPAIN or IATEFL and want to refresh their memory, here is the article I  wrote on this subject for  TESOL-Quarterly back in 2005.

My original use of student recordings was  in response to one of the problems of teaching English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) to monolingual groups, but feel free to skip page one and go straight to the bit on how I handled setting up and marking the recordings, which is valid for all groups.

Today, of course, recording is easier than ever. On my laptop and desk computers I use Wave Pad (http://www.nch.com.au/wavepad/). The basic version is free and is more than adequate for language teaching purposes. The same is true for Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net), which I know is very popular, although it’s not my personal favourite.

On mobile phones the simplest way to record is to send a voice message. Most phones today also have a simple device for recording speech, but it’s important to check that once made the recording can be sent to you, the class teacher.

On smartphones students can use Recorder Pro (http://www.davaconsulting.com/products/recorder-pro/). I use this app all the time, though I know there are others. But Recorder Pro works and even I can set it up, which means that you don’t need to be a technological wizard.

Also interesting for smartphones are:

There’s tons of stuff out there – more than most of us can handle, but the above will give you a start, and after that it’s a question of choosing what’s best for your needs.

What can’t be denied is the value of recordings. They are motivating and they can be given a mark, which gives learners a reason for working to improve their pronunciation in classroom settings such as secondary schools. They can also be used to analyze individual students (clients in ESP, EAP, and BE settings), and so focus on what matters. They are asynchronous, with students and teachers working in different places at different times. They also allow students to make multiple attempts at the same piece of pronunciation (previously called ‘drilling’ but much less motivating). Finally they allow students to hand in their best attempt at a given task, and so get good marks, which is motivating …

In short, using recordings is a win-win situation once you overcome any initial logistical or technical problems, which nowadays, are relatively few in number and small in scale. What are you waiting for?

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