Teaching Pronunciation to ESL Students

Instructor: Vanessa Botts
Proper pronunciation is an essential skill for ESL students to develop so they can communicate effectively. In this lesson, we will provide activity ideas to teach pronunciation to students of varying ages and language levels.

The Importance of Pronunciation

If you make yourself understood, you're always speaking well. This quote was written hundreds of year ago by Moliere, a French playwright, but it may as well have been written today about the purpose of teaching pronunciation in the English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom. What is the purpose? Pronunciation ensures that when students speak, they are understood.

As an ESL teacher, you know first-hand that pronunciation is essential for ESL students to communicate appropriately and fluently. Since it can take years for an English learner to achieve advanced grammatical proficiency, students with limited language skills must rely on proper pronunciation to make themselves understood and avoid mistakes in communication.

Below are some effective and interesting ways to teach pronunciation so your students can improve their understanding of the English language as well as their ability to speak well!

Improving Pronunciation through Listening

Listening to proper pronunciation can drastically help students improve their own speaking abilities. Below are some ideas for listening activities that can be modified for younger or older students of different linguistic levels. By choosing resources that are of interest to your students and that vary in length and language complexity, you will get your students excited about listening.

Listen to the Teacher!

You can record yourself reading book excerpts, reading interesting articles, conversing, or even reciting the contents of a menu so that your students can hear proper pronunciation. There are a various software applications you can use to record your voice, such as GarageBand or VoiceThread. These apps allow you to record your voice and play back the recording while the entire class listens. Or, if your students have their own devices, they can listen at their own pace or choose from a variety of recordings to suit their language levels or interests.


Podcasts provide English learners with the opportunity to listen to just about any topic that may be of interest to them. These podcasts are available for download through iTunes or other popular sites, and you can make listening to them a class activity or an individual activity.

With younger students, you could choose podcasts that are appropriate for their age and interest level, while older students could make their own choices from a series of podcasts you have pre-approved.

Improving Pronunciation through Speaking

In addition to listening to proper pronunciation, it's important that students practice speaking using correct pronunciation. To help accomplish this, students should be able to hear themselves speak. One of the listening activities we mentioned in the previous section entailed students listening to your recorded voice.

Well, for students to get speaking practice, you could have them listen to your recording and then record themselves repeating what you said. Once they have recorded their voice, they can play back their recording and compare your pronunciation with their own. Students can repeat the recording process to improve their pronunciation each time.

Improving Pronunciation through Watching

Students can show great improvement in pronunciation if they have an opportunity to watch the shape of the mouth and lips as others speak. An engaging way to have students listen to authentic conversation is through movie clips, TV shows, commercials, and video lectures.

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