Mike Harrison's Reviews

Make Pronunciation Physical! – Adrian Underhill at BELTE 2010

Written on 16/11/2010 – 3:50 pm | by mikeharrison

I was at the Brighton English Language Training event (BELTE) on Saturday 23 October with the British Council (together with Phil Bird, Callie Wilkinson, Amanda Wilson and Melissa Cudmore) presenting the resources the Council has on its LearnEnglish and Teaching English websites.

A session I found really useful to have been at was Adrian Underhill talking about using his phonemic chart to help teach pronunciation. I’ll be honest, I had no idea exactly what was so special about his chart – but this misconception was put to bed within about 10 minutes of listening to Adrian.

Let’s look at the chart:

phonemic chart

phonemic vowel sounds annotatedIn particular looking at the top-left quadrant: the vowel sounds. I had not realised the cleverness behind this: the vowels to the left of the quadrant (A)  are articulated with the tip of the tongue near or touching the teeth [sounds i: e æ]; while the sounds to the right (B) are made with the tongue further back in the mouth [sounds /u: ɔ: ɒ/]. From the top to the bottom of the area of the chart, the position of the cound in the chart corresponds to the position of the jaw; i.e. the sounds at the top (1) are made with the bottom-jaw close to the top [/i:/], but the bottom-jaw moves down when you make the sounds moving down the chart (2) [/e/ and  /æ/]. I know, I’m an ignoramus, but how cool.

I won’t go into any more detail, since you can watch the pron master himself on YouTube thanks to MacmillanELT, or even read his thoughts over at Adrian’s Pron Chart Blog, or his guest blog series on the British Council Teaching English site: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/blogs/adrian-underhill. The man has been busy!

What I will say is that I managed to incorporate the chart and related activities (mainly for the sounds /i: ɪ ʊ u:/) with all my classes so far, and I teach from beginner/very elementary right to upper-intermediate learners. So, Adrian, my thanks to you for such a useful resource.

Useful links:

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  1. 2 Responses to “Make Pronunciation Physical! – Adrian Underhill at BELTE 2010”

  2.   By Maria on Dec 17, 2010 | Reply


    I am a 3rd year student of English Pilology in Poland. I decided to conduct my research in the field of methodology for the purposes of my diploma paper. The topic is: “Teaching Pronunciation to a group of high school students through the introduction of the English phonemic Chart”. I’ve been looking for some time for a book on the history of the chart and a book that explains the role of pronunciation in mastering speaking skills. Could you please give me some useful titles?
    Thank you in advance!

    Kind regards,

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