The Importance of Pronunciation in a Foreign Language
One may always be grammatically correct or use a wide variety of vocabulary in a foreign language. However, this means absolutely nothing if one cannot pronounce words and phrases correctly. When I was learning Spanish in school, my teachers rarely corrected my pronunciation. It wasn't until I traveled to Spain that I learned how to pronounce words correctly. Emphasizing pronunciation is something I feel a lot of foreign language teachers/tutors overlook and don't emphasize enough in their teaching. Here are some tips for foreign language tutors and teachers to emphasize pronunciation more in their lessons.
1. Start lessons going over the alphabet in the target language
I always begin a lesson by going over the alphabet. It is the most basic lesson, yet crucial lesson for beginners. Beginners can become familiar with the language without feeling overwhelmed. I have homemade index card with the letter and the sound underneath. On the other side of the card I have a word with the letter/sound to help students practice. First, I go over the alphabet by sounding out the letter and having the student repeat it. If a student is struggling with a sound, I always have the student look at my mouth movements. After I go through all the letters I have the student practice reading the words on the back of the cards. Again, this is a great exercise for beginners because it allows them to become familiar with the target language without becoming overwhelmed.
It's important for students to be familiar with the differences in sounds in their target and native languages. The more students become familiar with the sounds, the less opportunities for miscommunications or misunderstandings.
2. Encourage students to talk as much as possible in the target language
Students generally feel uncomfortable speaking in the target language at first, especially beginners because they are so embarrassed about making a mistake. However, with a lot of practice the student has with speaking the target language, he/she will improve their reading and writing skills automatically.
It is also important to note that you shouldn't correct a student's mistakes abruptly. Instead, allow the student to talk freely in the language. You may be surprised that students know more about the target language than they realize. As a result, students become more confident in their language abilities.
3. Encourage students to listen to native speakers as much as possible.
It is equally important for students to listen to the language as well as speaking it because students may subconsciously learn more vocabulary and retain information about grammar rules and pronunciation. I personally would recommend watching authentic movies and listening to authentic music in the target language with subtitles in the students' native language. Another recommendation is watching videos on Youtube that reinforce grammar rules or vocabulary the student is struggling with.
I hope this advice helps. Happy Teaching!