Tag Archives: pronunciation

Forvo

Storefront sign that says "pruyn pronounced prine"

Good pronunciation resources are hard to find.  I’ve previously written about Rachel’s English, an excellent resource for the mechanics of pronunciation including sounds, mouth positions, and sound charts.  But sometimes students just want to know how to pronounce a certain word.  Enter Forvo.com.

Of course, students could reference any good dictionary (paper or online) for an explanation of how to pronounce a word, but online dictionaries often require a subscription to hear pronunciations.  Forvo makes its audio available for free.  Users can also create an account and upload their own pronunciations of words, which is how it has grown to almost 80,000 English pronunciations.  (Many other languages are also available.)

Like many other web 2.0 websites, a community has grown around the process of expanding the website.  Other examples of this phenomenon include Wikipedia, on which groups of users debate and define editorial policies and solicit help from each other; and Flickr, which allows users to tag photos so that all pictures uploaded to the site are easily searchable.

Forvo incorporates both of these features.  Users can posts words they would like to hear pronounced.  Pronunciations can also be voted on so that if there are multiple pronunciations available, the best pronunciation appears at the top of the list.  Pronunciations can also be tagged so that users can find interesting groups of words such as nouns, past tense verbs, mathematical terms, male names, and many others.

Words have been pronounced in British, American, and other English accents.  For each word, you can view the biography of the user who pronounced it to find out where they are from.  If you find a user you particularly enjoy, you can follow their RSS feed to find out when they have added pronunciations.

Because of all of these features, the website can be a bit overwhelming at first.  But once you get used to the layout, the site is a very useful resource.  Students can use it to listen to assigned vocabulary words or to explore pronunciations of new words.

Teachers can create an account and upload their own pronunciations for students, which would make them very easy for students to find if they search for their teacher or for a tag their teachers use, such as the name of a textbook, course, or school.  Once they become accustomed to the site, students might also be interested in uploading pronunciations in their native languages, thereby expanding this resource for language learners around the world.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Resources

Pronunciation 2.0

I don’t recall how I came across Rachel’s English but I was instantly impressed and have yet to explore its entire depth.

The first thing I found was the list of sounds represented by the phonetic alphabet.  There is also a sound chart that lists every sound a letter can represent.  Both of these have links to YouTube videos like the one above, which detail how to pronounce the sound.  I especially like the portion of the video that compares pictures of Rachel in profile as she pronounces the sounds with her teeth, tongue, and other relevant anatomical features drawn over top (for example, see the 3:50 mark in the above video.)  These photos are also available in the mouth positions section.  There are also other interesting exercises and a blog.

In addition to being a useful pronunciation resource, a lot of attention is paid to linking everything from various sections appropriately.  It doesn’t matter if you are looking through the sound chart or pictures of mouth positions; you can always link to the relevant YouTube video for a quick 5-10 minute tutorial on a given sound.

This is a useful site for students to work through on their own.  Perhaps more importantly it could be something teachers recommend to students to supplement classroom instruction.  If students are having trouble articulating a particular sound, email them a link to the video, then suggest they follow up with one of the exercises.  Working through some of these clear and informative tutorials might be just the extra help they need.

5 Comments

Filed under Resources

History of English-Language Popular Music Elective

ipod in a book

You didn't think your students were reading, did you?

As promised, the list of songs I used in my History of English Language Popular Music Elective (HELP-ME) class is below.  The class was taught over 20 days in 5 weeks with each week devoted to a different decade of popular music.  We covered one song per day usually beginning with watching a video of the song, examining the lyrics and something linguistically relevant (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, etc.), talking about the meaning of the song, and then listening to the song again and singing along.

A much more exhaustive (and exhausting!) resource is available as a Google Docs Spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet also contains several songs I considered but didn’t use.  Each entry has the song title, the artist, the year it was released, the genre, information about it’s popularity (#1 for four weeks, for example) as well as links to the lyrics, video, and Wikipedia articles on both the song and the artist.  I also have my notes on relevant or ESL-appropriate features of each song.

I delivered all of this information to students using Moodle, an open-source online course management system.  I hoped to present as much information for students to explore as I could and several students took advantage of this opportunity by logging in and exploring many of these resources.  They were also able to listen to each of the songs via our streaming server.  (Simply giving them the .mp3 files would have created copyright issues.)

Overall, the class was very well received for it’s novel approach and interesting subject.  I included a wide variety of musical genres so that no student would have to suffer through a prolonged period of country or R&B.  Students also appreciated touching on grammar points and new vocabulary words in the more relaxed context of an elective class.  They were exposed to more English without having to worry about a final exam.

If I were to teach the class again, I would probably eliminate a couple of the longer songs, or at least find a way to devote more time to them.  The class really enjoyed Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) and Parents Just Don’t Understand, for example, but we had to rush through them a bit in order to completely cover the lyrics.  In fact, I would like to teach this class every quarter, and could by changing up the songs so that they wouldn’t be repeated if students take the class in back-to-back quarters.  The class included students from all five levels in our program and I worked hard to ensure that all students were able to gain something from the class.  According to my student evaluations, I was successful.

In the table below, the names of the songs are linked to the lyrics (on sing365.com) and the artist names are linked to their page on Wikipedia.  As I mentioned above, you can view more information at the Google Docs Spreadsheet.

1950s and 1960s

1957 All Shook Up Elvis Presley
1964 A Hard Day’s Night The Beatles
1964 Paint It Black The Rolling Stones
1968 What a Wonderful World Louis Armstrong
1967 People Are Strange The Doors

1970s

1972 You’re So Vain Carly Simon
1973 Time In A Bottle Jim Croce
1978 I Will Survive Gloria Gaynor
1978 The Gambler Kenny Rogers

1980s

1979 Video Killed The Radio Star The Buggles
1983 Billie Jean Michael Jackson
1984 Jump Van Halen
1988 Parents Just Don’t Understand DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince (Will Smith)

1990s

1991 Smells Like Teen Spirit Nirvana
1993 If I Had $1,000,000 Barenaked Ladies
1999 Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) Baz Luhrmann

2000s

2000 Say My Name Destiny’s Child
2001 Clint Eastwood* Gorillaz
2002 We Are All Made Of Stars Moby
* = this page contains explicit lyrics

Leave a comment

Filed under Projects

Musical Inspiration

the sun

Sing, floss, stretch. But trust me on the sunscreen.

I wrote recently about the elective class that I am developing and teaching on popular music.  I’m covering a decade per week and a song per day.  Within each song, I highlight an interesting grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation point.

Developing this class has meant combing through many online resources including lists of Billboard number one hit songs on Wikipedia and best-of-the-decade lists such as AOL’s radio blog, which is a good place to start because you can listen to most of the songs on the list.  I’ve also found that the website sing365.com tends to have the least errors of all of the lyrics websites that are returned in Google searches.

I intend to post the list of songs I’ve used at the end of the quarter (I might even link to the Google Docs spreadsheet that I used to record all of the songs I considered for each decade) but for now I thought I would post the following music video, which I plan to use tomorrow, the last day before Thanksgiving break.

The song is actually a spoken word piece which has an interesting story.  While not a traditional pop music video, I think the message is inspirational without being cheesy.  Plus, there are lots and lots of examples of advice using the imperative.  It might not get you through the last two weeks of the quarter, but it doesn’t hurt.

1 Comment

Filed under Inspiration