How do you prepare to
important first step in teaching pronunciation is for the teacher to develop their own understanding
of the sound and writing system of the language so that they can
sounding speech and build up these skills in their students.
Each Australian language, like all languages, has a set of sounds,
although there is a high degree of similarity of sound systems in
languages across the continent. If the target language has a
published dictionary or grammar, information about the sound and
writing system can often be found in the early sections of the
book. The sounds are often explained and may have diagrams to show
how and where in the mouth each sound is made. Explanations also
usually have example words in which each sound is used, just as
young/beginner learners of English learn the sounds a as in apple,
b as in ball, c as in cat, and so on.
Teachers who are familiar with the sound system of their language,
can be clear about which sounds in the target language are:
are familiar with the sound system of the target language are able
to predict which sounds the students will manage easily and which
ones they are likely to find tricky to master. Those are the
sounds to keep in mind when teaching
similar to English, e.g. m, n, w and y sounds are produced in
the same way in Australian languages as in English.
different from English, e.g. Australian languages can have up
to three r sounds Ė an r as in how the word run is generally
pronounced in Australian English, an r which is rolled as in a
Scottish English pronunciation of the word run, and an r which
is known as a tap/flap sound, as in the language name Maori.
similar to English but occur in different positions in a word,
e.g. the ng sound can occur in the middle and at the end of
words in English such as singer, laughing. In Australian
languages this sound can also occur at the beginning of a
word, e.g. the word ngali which means you and I in
many Australian languages.
What are some
strategies for teaching pronunciation?
is best learned by listening to the sounds of the language in the
context of words, phrases, sentences and texts. However, it is
also possible to take time to teach individual sounds, especially
if the students seem to need assistance with pronouncing the sounds that
are unfamiliar to them. This can be done:
Central school, the teachers convert the studentsí names into the
sound system of Paakantyi. This activity is based on the teacherís
knowledge of sound patterns in Paakantyi:
a sound chart,
the students looking closely at the teacher explicitly
modelling how to make particular sounds,
a class set of hand-held small mirrors, so that the students
can check for themselves how and where they are making the
Following these rules
the boy's name Blake becomes Paliiki, Andrew becomes Nganthurru,
Anthony becomes Ngaanthani and Jessica becomes Tyithika.
You can see a demonstration of this process in a
lesson given by Kayleen Kirwin and Robert Lindsay.
must end in a vowel.
are fewer consonant blends in Paakantyi than in English and so
most consonant blends in English words need to
be separated by a vowel in Paakantyi, e.g. the bl- in Blake
has to be made into a syllable pal-, the -ndr- in Andrew
has to be separated into -nt- and -r-, with a vowel between
cannot begin with a vowel, so use Ng- instead.
words are pronounced with a heavy stress on the first
- At the
beginning of a word, the consonants p, k, t will usually sound
more like b, g, d and
vowels are pronounced in Paakantyi.
Along with sounds, itís important to teach stress in words. Stress
patterns in Australian languages are different from English. For
example words in Australian languages often have stress on the
first syllable and every second syllable after that, e.g. in the
Wiradjuri word gagamin (younger brother)
stress falls on the first and third syllables.
Alternatively stress can fall on syllables which have a long
vowel, e.g. in the Wiradjuri word babiin (father)
stress falls on the long vowel in the second
syllable. Teachers often use clapping and stepping games, e.g.
practise saying new words out loud and at the same time clap
loudly on stressed syllables and softly on the unstressed
syllables; or take a big step on the stressed syllables and a
small step on the unstressed syllables. In this way students learn
to pronounce words accurately and stress the correct syllables
when they are learning new vocabulary items.
Chanting games are a good way of practising the sounds and stress
rhythms of the target language. They are also helpful for
rehearsing grammatical patterns through repetition and rhythm. For
example in English some well-known chants and tongue twisters are:
The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.
The big fat cat sat on the mat.
She sells sea shells by the sea shore.
While in Western Arrernte there is:
Kwerrkwerre kweke kakeke kaltye (Little owl knows big
Anyone can make up a chant. Choose the sounds, stress pattern or
the grammar structure you think your students need help with, and
create a short sentence in the target language that they can say
over and over again.
Pronunciation is a micro-skill. It is just one part of teaching
the macro-skill of speaking.
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about good teaching for reviving Australian languages is one of
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This page was first
published on November 25, 2013
and was last updated on July 30, 2021. All material is
copyright to the individual authors unless indicated