Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Twisted Tongue-Twisting Trials of the Tongue English as a Foreign Language Teaching Lesson

Using Tongue Twisters in Teaching English as a Foreign Language Pronunciation

One of my most interesting and fun EFL speaking and pronunciation lesson series is one that makes frequent use of tongue-twisters. These are a tremendous aid in forcing and reinforcing the positions needed by combinations of speech organs in order to correctly pronounce quirky, difficult and low-frequency dipththongs, triphthongs and other sound combinations in the English language.

There are several good books you can easily turn to as references. Also some “children’s” book authors like “Gulliver’s Travels” author Jonathan Swift, “Alice in Wonderland” author Lewis Carroll, Theodore Suess Geisel (Dr. Seuss – pictured above) and Shel Silverstein, among numerous others, heavily make use of jaw-stretching, tongue wrapping sound combinations to provide an extra element of fun o their literary works. More “serious” poets like e e cummings are hardly exempt either, warping words in wild weird winsome ways of wistful wacky wonder. Elements of connected speech and phonics can easily be taught, demonstrated and practiced in this way.

Not only English as a foreign language, but teaching and learning other foreign languages can be made more dynamic in this way. There are tongue-twisters, rhymes, riddles, limericks and short, clean jokes available in most modern languages.

Key Poetic Elements in the English Language

As you may recall from your trappings with poetry and poetic elements in English, there are several distinct linguistic aspect associated with poems and poetry: rhyme, alliteration, and onomatopoeia being some major ones. Let’s take a brief look at these.

Rhyme – This is most simply words which have the same or very similar ending sounds. It’s one of the best known pronunciation practice use forms. Words like play, day, slay, whey, clay, may, bay, hay or hey, and say are examples.

Alliteration – repetition of a consonant sound in two or more words in a phrase or line such as: beautiful bubbling brown sugar or shafts of shimmering sunshine

Assonance – similar sounds, like alliteration, but used in the internal syllables of a string of words (birthday weather, father’s brother, further mathematics, etc. to give you an idea)

Consonance – repetition of certain stressed syllables in a pair, group or string of words (taker, baker, maker, shaker, Quaker but not quicker)

Onomatopoeia – words which by their pronunciation imitate sounds
Words like whistle, tweet, boom, bag, pow, crash, crunch, slam, zoom, snap, crackle, pop, zip and zing among many, many others, fit into this category

If you want to delve into more details regarding elements of poetry, you might want to check out two other article posts I’ve done on the topic as a sort of “primer”. One is entitled, “How to Evoke Imagery, Emotions and Ideas in Writing Poetry That Captures Your Readers Imagination”. The other article post is entitled, “How to Write Poems That Capture the Heart and Imagination of Your Readers”.

In the next related article posts, we’ll continue looking at this little-used, fun and dynamic way to allow your English as a foreign language learners to enjoy their foreign language learning even more.

See you then.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book, “If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: lynchlarrym@gmail.com Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

1 comment:

Carissa Peck said...

Nice alliteration in the title :-)

I love using tongue twisters in my class and have come up with 10 different ways to do so. http://eslcarissa.blogspot.mx/2013/05/10-ways-to-use-tongue-twisters-in-your.html

You mention a lot of ways that tongue twsiters are created (and who uses them) but I am wondering how would you suggest people use tongue twisters in the class?