The place of pronunciation in a young learner’s classroom:

Integrating pronunciation into the language learning syllabus

An explanatory essay by Jovana Vuković

The place of pronunciation in language teaching has changed over time. The aim for
pronunciation teaching and learning changed from negligence to the urge for native-like
mastery or intelligibility, i.e. having a pronunciation that can be understood with little effort by the interlocutor (Szyszka, 2017). The pronunciation learning aim of a primary school pupil learning English as a foreign language and an adult training to become an English teacher is different, i.e.” individual learners’ pronunciation learning goals vary depending on age, motivation, attitude, and various other factors” (Szyszka, 2017:10). Given the aforementioned factors and limited instructional time, teachers have to be resourceful in finding ways of incorporating pronunciation into the curriculum, i.e. integrating pronunciation with other areas of the curriculum is beneficial and increases learners’ intelligibility.

Between the 1950s and 1960s, dominant pronunciation language approaches included structural language teaching and audiolingualism which relied on drilling and oral language repetition with an emphasis on individual phonemes as well as prosody of grammatical phrases and sentences. Communicative language teaching emerged during the1960s and 1970s with the idea that the function of teaching is to provide realistic opportunities for communication that would lead to an implicit acquisition of language (Pennington & Rogerson-Revell, 2019). From the 1980s to the present moment, the aforementioned CLT approach has been the dominant teaching approach to foreign language pronunciation. The communicative language approach emphasizes learners’ abilities to communicate as a priority (Szyszka, 2017).

Successful communication extensively depends on intelligibility. There are various internal and external factors affecting young learners’ pronunciation acquisition. Internal factors include biological (e.g. age), cognitive (e.g. language aptitude, learning styles, and learning strategies) and psychological factors (e.g. motivation). External factors that influence the process of pronunciation acquisition are related to the external conditions, i.e. “learner’s native language, the amount of exposure to a target language and types of pronunciation instruction“(Szyszka, 2017: 24).

When it comes to pronunciation instruction, the most important role plays the instructor, i.e. the teacher. As it was mentioned before, incorporating pronunciation into other areas of
language learning while teaching young learners is very beneficial. Integrating pronunciation into speaking and listening can be done in various ways – pronunciation can be included in conversational and various interactive tasks (oral presentation, speech-making, debating…). The practice of pronunciation fluency can also be introduced through activities that include performing and acting out, singing songs, and student-to-student dictations (Pennington & Rogerson-Revell, 2019). Various listening activities introduce young learners to different types of registers (e.g. formal, informal) and different varieties of language (e.g. British English, American English…). Pronunciation is also integrated into vocabulary development and grammar instruction (Pennington & Rogerson-Revell, 2019).

Pronunciation can be integrated and taught by using multisensory modes. It can be reinforced by visuals – including charts, diagrams, flashcards, and wall charts (Celce-Murcia, Brinton and Goodwin, 1996). Another type of reinforcement is the auditory one. Apart from the traditional “listen and imitate” or “listen and repeat” pronunciation teaching, very interesting appears to be a memory peg, a device that helps remember how to pronounce a difficult sound (Celce-Murcia, Brinton and Goodwin, 1996). Jazz chants and rap, rhymes, songs, and tongue twisters are also types of auditory reinforcement. Tactile reinforcement consists of household items that help young learners to demonstrate and practice features of the target language – e.g. rubber-band for demonstrating differences in vowel length (Celce-Murcia, Brinton and Goodwin, 1996). Usage of hand signals, poetry in motion, clapping, snapping fingers, and tapping the rhythm are examples of kinesthetic reinforcement (Celce-Murcia, Brinton and Goodwin, 1996).

Integration of pronunciation with other curriculum areas is also represented in the Croatian
context. In the first two grades of primary school, pronunciation is represented by repeating word(s) according to the auditory model, as well as using simple short words while imitating the English phonetic system (outcomes A.1.3; A.1.4; A.2.4; A.2.5.). In the third grade, young learners repeat sentences by imitating the intonation of declarative, interrogative and exclamatory sentences (outcomes A.3.4; A.3.5.). In the fourth grade, young learners read while using appropriate rhythm, intonation, and accent, as well as notice sentences with different intonation, recognize the communicative value of intonation and pronounce simple sentences using the appropriate intonation (outcomes A.4.2; A.4.3.) (Subject curriculum English as a Foreign Language, 2019).

Živić and Gal (2007) presented all pronunciation activities in two of the English first-grade
textbooks and teacher’s books (Dip in 1 and Building Blocks 1) in Croatia. There are no
activities that drill pronunciation only, i.e. the pronunciation is integrated with other language skills. When it comes to the activities used for revision, they consist of pupils’ repetition after the model, e.g. Mirror and echo, Chinese whispers, Varied speaking/singing… Activities with flashcards mainly consist of pronouncing the words while playing, e.g. Memory game, What’s missing? , What’s this? , Run for the card, Touch the card, and say the word, Make a circle…Dialogues and role-playing as well as TPR activities are represented. The aforementioned activities unite all four language skills – listening, speaking, reading, and later writing in a playful and age-appropriate way while being motivating and enjoyable to young learners.

Integrating pronunciation with other areas of the curriculum emphasizes its wider significance, i.e. if young learners realize the impact of pronunciation on communication, in terms of fluency, accuracy, and intelligibility, they are more likely to be motivated to improve (Pennington & Rogerson-Revell, 2019). Language teachers should conduct age-appropriate activities that unite pronunciation with listening, speaking, reading, and writing, as well as use multisensory modes. To conclude, integrating pronunciation with other areas of the curriculum is beneficial and increases learners’ intelligibility.


Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D. M., & Goodwin, J. M. (1996). Teaching pronunciation. A reference for teachers of English to speakers of other languages. New York: Cambridge University Press. The place of pronunciation in a young learner’s classroom:

Gal, K. i Živić, I. (2007). Poučavanje izgovora engleskoga jezika s učenicima 1. razreda osnovne škole. Život i škola, LIII (17), 81-86. The place of pronunciation in a young learner’s classroom:

Pennington, M.C. & Rogerson-Revell, P. (2019). English pronunciation teaching and research: contemporary perspectives. London: Palgrave Macmillan. The place of pronunciation in a young learner’s classroom:

Subject curriculum English as a Foreign Language. (2019). Ministry of Science and Education. The place of pronunciation in a young learner’s classroom:

Szyszka, M. (2017). Pronunciation learning strategies and language anxiety: in search of an interplay. Cham: Springer.