Klingon the easy way


Well, since I’ve fallen into another Internet rabbit hole and since Star Trek is almost mainstream nowadays, I might as well share this amazing video course of Klingon with you. It’s the best one I’ve seen, and my post is not a New Year joke. Yes, it’s an artificial language invented just for the Star Trek franchise, but it can also be useful for English language teachers.

The first video has a pronunciation guide, which I’m actually going to use to show off to my students in the breaks. (I don’t think many of them will appreciate the video as it is, so it requires a bit of preparation on the teacher’s side.) There’s also a handy downloadable pdf.

What’s the benefit? It’s educational, it’s steeped in pop culture and so can be really enjoyable and low-stress. Moreover, it contrasts English pronunciation with Slavic languages as well as German, and it just might help you reach the more obstinate ears and demonstrate the difference between /kh/ and /h/ and the value of glottal stops.


Tongue twisters and history

Merry Christmas everyone! But since I don’t celebrate this tradition myself, here’s another work-related post for you. If your learners are interested in pronunciation and etymology, this article will make them (or you :)) extra happy: it tells a short but entertaining story behind each of the most famous tongue twisters in English. Could make for a nice holiday read!

Disappearing sounds


There’s been talk here and there about the interdental ‘th’ (or rather, /ð/ and /θ/) due to disappear in about 40 years. I can’t be sure of the academic veracity of this (plus, it all looks a bit too entertaining and at the same time rather political). Still, what a great conversation starter with students! And, if the conversation continues, I would send them to this great article about interesting facts in the history of English pronunciation and spelling: it’s a bit more academic, but a real treat for curious learners and a good refresher for teachers like me who last did Pronunciation and History of English, ahem, more than twenty years ago 🙂 Did you know, for example, that wasp used to be waps and then a bit of metathesis happened? So cool.

Youglish as she is spoke


What an amazing find! Thanks to Ozge Karaoglu, I now have the greatest tool for checking how words are pronounced: by real people, in real-life contexts, in different situations. All this through YouTube videos. The search is incredibly fast: if you enter a word like ‘privacy’, you get more than 6 thousand hits and can watch every clip one by one and see how this or that particular speaker says it. There are also subs, which show conveniently large on the screen, and pronunciation tips if you scroll down. And you can actually filter speakers by region! (Yes, I do prefer to say ‘privacy’ as if the syllable is closed, and you?) A perfect teaching aid in and out of the classroom – but be warned, I’ve been watching videos all morning.

Flipping pronunciation


Now, this post deserves a long and careful reading! Martha Ramirez will take you through all the stages of preparing, teaching and reflecting on a flipped lesson which was designed to help students with pronunciation, -ed and -(e)s verb endings. What is particularly valuable is how the setup of all the stations is described and justified: there are flipped stations and practice stations, and a special discussion station that allows the learners to spend their time practising while waiting for their turn. And the students got the checklist to help them select relevant stations and track their progress – a great idea which compensates for the slightly chaotic nature of flips.

If you haven’t tried in-class flipping yet, you’ll have no excuse now.


Beowulf to the rescue


If your students are unhappy about some complexities of English spelling, or irregular plurals, just quote Beowulf to them! This rendition of Beowulf in the original can help your prepare. There is an interesting article to go with it, with quotes from the performer, who is an MIT medievalist:

“Besides being the language of Rohan in the novels of Tolkien, Old English is a language of long, cold, and lonely winters; of haunting beauty found in unexpected places; and of unshakable resolve in the face of insurmountable odds.”

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Home-made jazz chants


If you haven’t read this post by Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto yet, you are in for a real treat. It features a video with none other than Carolyn Graham, who is showing conference participants how to make their own jazz chants. You don’t have to watch the video to get the idea, but those 10 minutes will be worth it, especially the live performance at the end. There are a few well-chosen links for extra reading at the end of the article, but I am already convinced: this is the perfect drill.

Spoken with a hint of villainy


If you were the owner of this castle, what kind of English would you speak? I bet a wonderfully refined variety of RP.  Or perhaps you would have a slight Hungarian, German or Slavonic accent. Somehow I find this entertaining rather than prejudiced, but the author of this article has more to say about English accents and the dark side of their use in films and TV shows.

Compare this to David Crystal’s take on the changing perception of accents. So, what English do we teach?

A bit of sound engineering


Inspired by a student in my Academic English lesson who said she doesn’t appreciate longreads: here’s a video which is just over 4 minutes. It’s a great explanation of how foreign accents are formed by the process of approximation. In fact, when we are mispronouncing a phoneme, we are picking the wrong tool from our vocal toolbox. It can do the job, but seems slightly off. So, do we teach students to pick the right tools? And how far can we go?