Using singing to improve pronunciation is just the trick you need to engage your teenage and adult students.
One of the hardest things to do when trying to improve students pronunciation is to get them to practice consistently, especially if they’re teenagers. Like when the doctor tells you to eat healthier and exercise, you agree to do it but then drive to the corner shop instead of walking and sneak seconds at dinner. You’re following the advice, but as minimally as possible. Why? Because apples are boring and chocolate isn’t. Same with language; saying the same words over and over again, over-enunciating and listening for different sounds are boring unless you reframe it.
Most people enjoy music and singing, and this is a great way to bring some excitement to learning.
What can music do?
Voice teachers often tell their students to focus on vowel sounds and mouth shape when singing. This is because the shape of our mouth helps control the flow of air while we sing, but it can also make sounds clearer for non-English speakers.
The same techniques many voice coaches use to improve the sound of a singing voice can also be used to improve the sound of speech.
It’s common to use songs when teaching young children; it keeps them excited and having fun. Continuing this technique into adolescents and even adults works as well. Using age-appropriate music creates interest, and keeps students practising after class if they enjoy the songs
Singing is an enjoyable activity and if you choose the right kind of music; popular songs your students enjoy, they will continue practicing when class is over.
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Armed with new techniques, students can continue to practice their pronunciation as they listen to the music they enjoy.
A song for everyone
Using singing to improve pronunciation can be used with any song and any genre. Have them listen to the vowel sounds and mimic the mouth shape they need to make that sound. Discuss the reason for that sound and why the word might sound different in the song than it does in speech.
Students can practice mouth shape exercises to hear the difference in pronunciation. Operas work well as an example of this because the singer’s’ mouths are often very exaggerated in order to produce extreme notes. Even rap can be used as an example of how the performer is pronouncing a word to fit into the rhythm of the song.
This technique of using songs to help with pronunciation isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly a good way to keep students interested and help them practice as much as possible by making it enjoyable for them. Music is something that sticks in your head, so if students can leverage that to get in some extra practice they’ll improve in no time.
See it in action
You can check out some videos by Sam Johnson. In it, he discusses singing techniques and you can get an idea of how this technique can help your students with their English pronunciation. In this video, he talks about how mouth shape and breath affect how you sound