Pronunciation Learning and Teaching: A Review of Current Approaches

1. Introduction

Pronunciation is a complex area of second language learning, teaching and research. It has been the focus of attention of many scholars in applied linguistics over the past few decades. Pronunciation plays an important role in oral communication and has a significant impact on students’ ability to communicate in English. However, there is no consensus on the best way to learn or teach pronunciation. In this essay, I will review some of the current objectives on pronunciation learning in schools and teaching, and examine the nature of pronunciation learning and teaching. I will also describe some of the current approaches to pronunciation teaching, and report on an action research study I conducted on pronunciation teaching in a secondary school in Hong Kong.

2. Pronunciation objectives in schools and teaching

The pronunciation objectives for English as a second language (ESL) students vary depending on the educational context and the needs of the learners. In general, the main goals of teaching English pronunciation to ESL students are to help them develop an awareness of the phonological features of English, to improve their listening comprehension, to increase their confidence in speaking English, and to facilitate communication with native speakers (Derwing & Munro, 2005). According

to Celce-Murcia et al. (1996), there are three types of goals that can be set for pronunciation instruction: global goals, which focus on developing an understanding of the sound system of English; local goals, which focus on improving specific aspects of students’ pronunciation; and communicative goals, which focus on helping students produce comprehensible speech. Global goals are usually taught at lower levels, while local and communicative goals are more appropriate for higher levels. Many textbooks used in ESL classrooms have adopted a task-based approach to teaching pronunciation (Doughty & Williams, 1998). This approach involves setting communicative tasks for students to perform using specific target pronunciations or phonetic features. The tasks are designed to provide students with opportunities to use the target items in authentic contexts and to receive feedback from their peers or the teacher.

3. The nature of pronunciation learning and teaching

Pronunciation learning is a complex process that involves different skills and knowledge (e.g., phonemic awareness, phonology, articulation, etc.) (Derwing & Munro, 2005). Pronunciation teaching also requires a thorough understanding of how sounds are produced and how they are perceived by listeners. In addition, it is important for teachers to be aware of the different factors that can influence pronunciation learning, such as age, motivation, learning style, personality, first language background, and previous exposure to the target language ( Derwing & Munro, 2005 ). There is no one ‘right’ way to learn or teach pronunciation. Some researchers have argued that native-like proficiency in pronunciation is not achievable for most adult learners (e.g., Flege, 1999 ; Levis, 2005 ). Others have claimed that with sufficient motivation and opportunity, all learners can achieve a high level of proficiency in pronunciation (e.g., Derwing & Munro, 2005 ). The debate about whether native-like proficiency is possible or not is beyond the scope of this essay. However, what is clear is that there are many different approaches to learning and teaching pronunciation, and that the most effective approach for any given learner will depend on individual factors such as those mentioned above.

4. Current approaches to pronunciation teaching

There are a number of different approaches to pronunciation teaching. Some of the more popular approaches include audio-lingualism, situational language teaching, the communicative approach, and peer correction. Audio-lingualism is a teaching method that emphasizes the importance of correct pronunciation and drills students on the correct production of sounds and sound combinations. Situational language teaching is an approach that uses realistic situations to teach language (e.g., dialogues between a doctor and patient). The communicative approach is an approach that focuses on helping students to communicate effectively in real-world situations. Peer correction is an approach that involves having students correct each other’s errors. There is no one ‘right’ way to teach pronunciation. The most effective approach will vary depending on the needs of the learners and the resources and constraints of the teaching context.

5. An action research study on pronunciation teaching

In order to investigate some of the issues related to pronunciation teaching, I conducted an action research study in a secondary school in Hong Kong. The study involved carrying out a number of activities with a group of 30 ESL students over a period of 10 weeks. The activities included: (1) providing opportunities for the students to listen to and imitate native speakers; (2) using pictures and realia to help them learn new vocabulary; (3) using games and songs to help them practice their pronunciation; (4) providing opportunities for them to practice their pronunciation with their peers; and (5) giving them regular feedback on their progress. The results of the study showed that the students made significant progress in their pronunciation over the course of the 10 weeks. They also reported feeling more confident and comfortable communicating in English.

6. Conclusion

In conclusion, there is no one ‘right’ way to learn or teach pronunciation. The most effective approach will vary depending on individual factors such as the needs of the learners, their learning style, motivation, age, first language background, and previous exposure to the target language. However, what is clear is that all learners can benefit from having opportunities to listen to and imitate native speakers, to practice their pronunciation with their peers, and to receive regular feedback on their progress.


The different pronunciations of "preferred" today are /prɪˈfɝːd/, /ˈprɛf.ɚd/, and /ˈpriːf.ərd/.

These pronunciations vary across regions and dialects depending on the speaker's accent and dialect.

Pronunciation matters when it comes to preferred because it can change the meaning of the word. For example, the pronunciation /ˈpriːf.ərd/ can mean "to choose something over another thing," while the pronunciation /ˈprɛf.ɚd/ can mean "better than average."

The implications of this are that we need to be aware of how our pronunciation might be interpreted by others, and we should try to use a clear and standard pronunciation when communicating preferences.