November 22

Does Imitation Have A Place in Learning Pronunciation?


Listen in as Dr. Piers Messum explains how by using imitation as a key to learning pronunciation we have been misled and then find out the keys we can use to learn pronunciation

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Piers Messum, who teaches in London and did his dissertation a few years ago on the role of imitation in learning to pronounce. The interview helps to explain why the current approach to the teaching of pronunciation has yielded such poor results for most learners. If you have an interest in improving your pronunciation or understanding why you have struggled with it in the past, listen in!

While this interview below concentrates on the sound quality (phonemic) aspect of pronunciation, a second one, which we will soon do, will look at learning things like stress, timing and melody.

In this 20 minute interview you will gain real insights as to how we learn pronunciation and what we need to do and not do to improve our outcomes.

piers messum on pronunciation

​In the interview Piers refers to a practical reference book that can help you with your pronunciation. Its full title is: A Practical Introduction to Phonetics, by J. C. Catford. This book is a very thorough look at pronunciation, including unique practical exercises  whereby learners can explore and hence learn to recognise what is needed to modify the sounds they make. It is a very comprehensive book that would suit language learners committed to improving their pronunciation. It is also an excellent reference for language teachers.

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  • That is an awesome interview!! I am looking forward to hear the next one!

    So if the baby says “ba” and the mother imitates (cause she does!!) by saying “ba” then the baby recognizes and becomes aware that he said “ba” BUT sometimes (10% of the time), the mother doesn’t imitate so maybe she says “pa” and the baby doesn’t recognize well, there is something wrong in this feed-back so he will modify, try something else, experiment by keeping contact on his mouth.

    Thanks for spreading awareness on how we learn and how we should be taught 😉

  • Thanks Andrew, very interesting, and it will work as all of us have learned to walk using those muscles, we will use tongue and lips to speak a different language. An the teacher becomes a Personal Trainer!!!! Waiting for the next one!!!!

  • Interesting! Imitation is of benefit in learning foreign languages; I felt this when my learners told me that my pronunciation is so nice (they didn’t like their previous teachers’). I used to read for them attractive stories using all the punctuation in the book!

  • Hi Andrew, I’m eagerly waiting for the next interview with Piers too. May I make a suggestion? Do it with a webcam: video grabs people so much more than audio. But maybe you have good reason to stay with audio???

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