One Vision /ˈvɪʒ(ə)n/ by Queen and Love Profusion /prəˈfjuːʒ(ə)n/ by Madonna to practise /ʒ/, /ʃ/, and /dʒ/

The phonemes /ʒ/, /ʃ/ and /dʒ/ can be tricky to identify and sometimes produce in certain contexts for Spanish speakers of English. The song One Vision by Queen can help students get acquainted with the differences in sounds.

One Vision (Queen) -You can do this interactive exercise: click here or on the screenshot below:

Alternatively, you can download the worksheet below. Start watching the video from 1’15”:

Love Profusion by Madonna also contains plenty of words featuring those sounds (profusion, destruction, illusions…). It also contains examples of yod coalescence (I’ve got you –/ɡɒt juː/ becomes /ɡɒtʃuː/). 

Love Profusion lyrics

My Favourite Things (from The Sound of Music) to tell the difference between /s/, /z/ and /ɪz/

This activity is aimed at helping students tell the difference between /s/, /z/ (and /ɪz/) in plural endings (the same as in 3rd person singular present simple endings and possessive ‘s). It uses the song “My Favourite Things” from the film The Sound of Music, which makes a long list of plural things the singer allegedly loves.

Students are provided with the phonemic transcription of the singular word. By applying the rule, they can guess what sound(s)/phoneme(s) would be used to pronounce them in the plural. Then, they can check their answers against Julie Andrews’s performance, by paying special attention to the way she pronounces either /s/ or /z/. Can they tell the difference?

  • Exercise- click here
  • Key to answers- click here

 

Norwegian Wood, by the Beatles- vowel sounds, diphthongs, weak forms

This is an activity I came up with long ago for a course on phonetics and pronunciation. Ask students to listen to Norwegian Wood by The Beatles, and have them fill in the gaps with the vowel sound/diphthong they hear. To do so, students can have a phonemic chart in front of them. [The same number in brackets means the same vowel sound or diphthong is being used]

  • Exercise– click here
  • Key to answers– click here

Students can listen to the song twice. Then, they can share their answers with the other members of their group, or partners if they’re working in pairs.

The objective is to increase their phonemic awareness, and help them tell the difference between some tricky vowel sounds (/ɪ/ and /iː/, for example). As a follow-up, students are also asked to spot weak forms of grammatical words. These are marked green in the answer key.

IPA phonemic charts and other tools to help students improve their pronunciation

These are some of my favourite phonemic charts. They can be useful to help students make sense of phonetics, and realise they can help them improve their pronunciation and overall phonological control:

Screenshot from Sounds Right app

You may also be interested in this tool to create automatic phonemic transcriptions.

Alternatively, if you need to type IPA symbols, you can copy and paste the transcriptions from a dictionary. My favourite one for that is the Macmillan dictionary.  You can visit this website: https://ipa.typeit.org/. 

Finally, you can find links to and ideas on how to use ‘living’ pronunciation dictionaries here.

Phonetizer: automatic phonemic transcriptions

If you ever need to transcribe words or sentences into the phonemic alphabet, you may use https://www.phonetizer.com/ui. Simply type or copy and paste the text, and click on “transcribe”.

You can also select some text (not the transcription) in the box on the right, and ask phonetizer to read it for you. It’s artificial reading, but still, it can help students with their pronunciation. At the time of writing, the British voice seems to have a more ‘natural’ intonation than the American one.

 

Phonetics for CLIL teachers- videos

In this playlist you can find videos dealing with the main points of an induction course on phonetics and pronunciation for teachers of other subjects in English that I’ve taught for several years.

-ed pronunciation (regular simple past ending)

Watch this video if you need to remember how to pronounce -ed at the end of past simple verbs.

Would you like to try this exercise? Apart from deciding on the right pronunciation, you can also listen to a native speaker reading the text.

You can also play these games.