This guide was written with speech instructors having little to no ESL
teaching background in mind. The two aims of this guide are to foster
greater understanding of English as a second language and offer suggestions
on how to teach ESL students. A bound handbook originally published in
1997, the entire contents can now be found here. To view the ESL guide
now, please click on an underlined item of your choice in the Table of
Contents. You may also download the guide by clicking on the pdf file
at the end of the Table of Contents.
This Guide was written primarily for speech instructors who have little
or no background in teaching ESL students. The Guide's aim is twofold:
(1) to provide greater understanding and appreciation of English as a
second language, and (2) to offer suggestions on how to teach ESL students
within the context of the traditional public speaking course.
While some activities are suggested for ESL students in the Guide, most
exercises, activities, and ideas for speaking assignments may be found
in the annotations at points in the text where it is most likely that
they would be introduced. For instructors who want to continue to enlarge
their knowledge of how to work effectively with ESL students, a
has been supplied at the end of the Guide.
The term "ESL (English as a Second Language) student" is used to refer
to students whose first language is one other than English. While ESL
students are not yet proficient in English, this does not mean that they
cannot do well in a traditional public speaking course. Frequently, an
introductory speech course is recommended as a means of moving them into
mainstream college work while they are still enrolled in ESL English courses.
The public speaking class offers ESL students an ideal opportunity to
interact with native English speakers and to improve their fluency in
English and listening comprehension, while learning about spoken discourse.
ESL students enrich the traditional public speaking class by challenging
other students and instructors to think about public speaking within the
broader context of the many diverse voices that are increasingly a part
of the American "chorus." Speech instructors should be aware that the
ESL population will continue to grow into the twenty-first century. To
meet the diverse needs of these students, instructors must be willing
to adapt their teaching methods. This Guide provides ideas and suggestions
on how to teach ESL students in the public speaking classroom.
The ESL students in the public speaking classroom may be a homogeneous
group who have the same native language in common and are at similar levels
in their English proficiency. However, it is more likely that they will
be from a variety of cultures and present varying degrees of competence
in spoken and written English, and thus present an array of problems that
cannot be tackled with any single catchall approach. The following are
some of the features that distinguish ESL students from one another.
ESL students differ from one another in the levels of education they already
have and how long they have studied English. Variations in educational
level and the manner in which students learned English can manifest themselves
in differing levels of proficiency in the four skills: reading, writing,
speaking, and listening.
Some students are bi- and tri-lingual and may exhibit nearly native-like
spoken English because they were born in the U.S. or came to this country
when very young and learned English in American public school systems.
These students are fluent in spoken English but often weak in writing
Other ESL students are adults who finished secondary school and/or college
in their native countries and either learned English as a foreign language
or picked up some English while living in the U.S. These ESL students
may be graduate students who plan to return to their native countries
after college. The written skills of these ESL students may be better
than their listening comprehension and speaking skills. Adult ESL students
often have entrenched pronunciation problems which are difficult to correct.
Still other ESL students may have been educated in their native countries
but did not learn English before coming to the U.S. These students have
great difficulty with both written and spoken English.
The most problematic ESL students are those who are semi-illiterate in
their first language because they came to the U.S. as children or were
unable to obtain schooling in their native countries. Lacking knowledge
of the linguistic structures of their native languages, they generally
have the most difficult time learning English.
Back to Top Different Learning Styles
ESL students may differ in terms of their learning styles. They may
be either analytical or global learners.
Analytical learners are more interested in detail and rule learning
and often shy away from unstructured activities. They like listening
to lectures and taking notes.
Global learners prefer more loosely structured communicative activities.
They are more interested in communicating their main ideas than in grammar
ESL students also vary in learning styles regarding their sensory preferences.
Asian students tend to be more visually oriented, whereas Latinos tend
to be more auditorily oriented. Visual learners who are more oriented
to reading than speaking often have weaker oral/communication skills.
Many ESL students are hands-on learners.
ESL students also have different listening styles. For example, there
are differences in listening styles between global and analytical learners.
In listening, global learners tend to focus on the main idea and the
rhythm and music of the language, whereas analytical learners focus
on the structure and logic of the message. Global listeners may have
difficulty focusing on the details of grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary.
These differing listening styles suggest that instructors should try
to include both auditory and visual input in their presentations.
Back to Top Acculturation Versus Assimilation
Find out what type of learners you have in the classroom by conducting
a Learning Styles Inventory. (See Reid (1987) and Oxford, et al. (1991)
for examples of Learning Styles Inventories.) Such an inventory helps
create an appreciation of diversity. The results of a Learning Styles
Inventory can be used by instructors as well as other students to
adapt their communication to fit the needs of their audience.
The ESL students in your speech classroom are in the process of acculturating,
or learning about and adapting to U.S. culture. Acculturation is an
additive process in which the learner takes on a new culture and cultural
persona while maintaining the old self. In the past, many non-native
U.S. citizens sought assimilation rather than acculturation. Assimilation
is a process in which the learner cuts off all ties with his old culture
in order to become totally identified and absorbed into the new culture.
Today, ESL students are more likely to seek acculturation rather than
Many acculturating students want to adopt the values and lifestyles
of the dominant U.S. culture; however, they also take pride in their
native countries. It is important for instructors to value and give
voice to the various cultures in the classroom, while reaffirming the
practical value of adapting to the mainstream U.S. culture.
Some ESL students are poorly acculturated and remain tightly enclosed
in their native cultures, socializing exclusively with people from their
group, speaking their native language at home and in their communities,
reading their native language newspapers and watching native language
TV channels. Such social and psychological distance from the mainstream
American culture limits an ESL student's ability to gain in English
fluency. Concerned instructors should try to help such students with
acculturation by encouraging communication and social contact outside
the classroom with mainstream Americans. Back to Top Differing Motivations of ESL Students
Motivation for learning English is a key factor in whether students
will make strides in improving fluency and comprehension in a traditional
public speaking course. If speech is a required course, their motivation
may be lower than if the course is elective. Most ESL students who elect
a speech course are motivated by extrinsic factors -- such as getting
a job or furthering a career. ESL students will also have widely different
expectations of what will be offered in a public speaking course because
speech courses may not be offered in their native countries. Speech
instructors should try to discover the motivations and expectations
of ESL students.
One of the best ways to motivate ESL students is to make instruction
relevant to their levels of education, learning-style preferences, and
cultural backgrounds. Because few classes are homogeneous, instructors
will need to provide a wide range of stimulating and relevant activities
to reach all segments of the student population. The most highly motivating
approach is to create an interactive multicultural classroom. Back to Top Culture Shock and Anxiety
If speaking in front of an audience produces anxiety for native speakers,
it is doubly so for ESL students who lack essential skills in English.
ESL students who are visual learners are especially troubled by formal
speaking assignments. In its acute form, this anxiety may be a manifestation
of the culture shock that occurs when individuals fear they are losing
themselves in the mainstream American culture. It may be characterized
by extreme anxiety, panic, emotional withdrawal, and depression. While
instructors should be on the lookout for students suffering from culture
shock, the majority of ESL students will be experiencing simple performance
Communication anxiety manifests itself differently depending on the
individual and his or her culture. Just as with mainstream students,
the symptoms of anxiety for ESL students can include poor class participation,
lateness, absence, talking in class, puzzled or angry expressions, acting
silly, and the inability or unwillingness to respond to questions. In
general, anxiety results in lowered student motivation, inhibition,
and unwillingness to take any kind of risk.
Instructors can use a variety of techniques to help students work through
Back to Top Balance of ESL with Non-ESL Students
- breathing and relaxation exercises,
- positive feedback and encouragement,
- holding criticism for written comments or private conferences,
- creating small groups in which students can share their anxiety,
- having students make presentations in small groups before speaking
in front of the class,
- encouraging students to share their concerns and fears with the
- creating an appreciation of diversity in the classroom,
- setting clear goals and expectations for students so that they
know what is expected of them,
- having students keep a journal in which they record something
that they did well or improved upon.
Speech instructors should also take into account the balance of ESL
with non-ESL students when considering how to approach teaching the
class. If there is only a handful of ESL students in the classroom,
instructors can teach the class as they usually would and provide special
extra-class conferences and group work for ESL students. However, if
more than one-third of the class is ESL, then instructors must find
ways to address the special needs of these students without sacrificing
course content. Back to Top TECHNIQUES FOR TEACHING ESL STUDENTS
Speech instructors will need to adapt their teaching methods to deal
effectively with the challenges brought to the classroom by ESL students.
Faced with growing numbers of ESL students, instructors will need to
use alternative teaching methods. Fortunately, many of the instructional
methods that are used in teaching English as a Second Language can be
used with mixed-ESL and non-ESL student populations in the traditional
speech classroom. This manual involves practical advice as well as explanations
about how some of these instructional methods can be successfully used
by speech instructors.
Before we move to a discussion of alternative teaching methods, there
are several important techniques that should already be a part of the
instructor's repertoire: praise, patience, and clarity. Back to Top Be Generous with Praise
ESL students may be new to this country and suffering from culture shock.
They may also feel embarrassed or ill at ease because of their speech
errors. Instructors should take extra pains to make ESL students feel
welcome through positive feedback and praise. All too often, ESL students,
because of bad experiences with instructors who have no background in
teaching ESL students, believe that instructors are prejudiced and do
not care about their welfare. Instructors should show ESL students that
they care about their development by speaking with them after class
and during office hours. Personal concern from the instructor is one
of the biggest motivating factors in working with ESL students. Back to Top Be Patient
Instructors need to reach out to ESL students to get them to participate
in class. ESL students may never volunteer comments or ask questions
unless the instructor calls on them. The instructor needs a lot of patience
and skill in dealing with the verbal responses of ESL students and should
avoid jumping to another student for a quicker answer. Instead, instructors
might ask their students to help each other phrase or paraphrase their
questions or responses. Instructors should compliment students when
they make an effort to participate in class. Back to Top Be Clear
Instructors need to ensure that ESL students understand them. Often
ESL students will sit politely in class, feigning interest and understanding,
when they do not understand what the instructor or fellow students are
saying. To assist the listening comprehension of ESL students, instructors
- preview and summarize material.
- use clear transitions when speaking.
- use gestures, facial expressions, posture, and body motions to
- vary their volume and intonation, speak more slowly and clearly,
and use pauses to help ESL students process information.
- put homework assignments in writing on paper or on the board.
- rephrase complex ideas and restate key words and concepts.
- avoid idiomatic or colloquial language.
- use analogies and examples ESL students will be familiar with.
- check to see that ESL students understand by asking questions
or giving short quizzes.
Many ESL students believe that they have to comprehend every word that
they hear. Native speakers do not; they are familiar with filling in
gaps in meaning. The best way to help ESL students with this problem
is to reduce listening-related anxiety in the classroom. Back to Top Alternative Teaching MethodsCreating a Multicultural Classroom
Instructors should view the presence of ESL students in the classroom
as an opportunity to create a truly multicultural learning environment.
ESL students may have frames of reference, rhetorical traditions, and
language usage that are different from one another and from the mainstream
U.S. culture. Students should try to understand and appreciate the differences
within their classes rather than ignoring them. Students born in the
U.S. need to know more about the ESL members of their audience to successfully
adapt their speeches. Similarly, ESL students need to learn as much
as they can about mainstream U.S. culture and the other cultures represented
in their classes.
The welter of terms -- native, nonnative, ethnicity, race, cultural,
sociocultural, multicultural, diversity, demographic groups, etc. --
can be very confusing. Simplify the discussion of demographics by adopting
one term, such as "culture," to refer to groups distinguishable from
one another by such factors as race, gender, or ethnicity. Make it clear
that all students are part of the mainstream U.S. culture but that many
have affiliations with one or more other cultures within it.
Sharing experiences, beliefs, traditions, practices, and features of
the various classroom cultures enhances appreciation for diversity.
Consider assignments on multicultural topics and some which involve
visits to cultural events, museums, lectures, or places of interest
in the nearby community. In addition to speeches and group exercises
in which students share aspects of their cultures, instructors might
want to encourage multicultural discussions of representative speeches
from among the cultures represented in the class.
Issues of cultural diversity can leave ESL students feeling confused
and lost in their new culture, and mainstream U.S. students feeling
threatened. It is important to keep class discussions focused on the
commonalities between the mainstream U.S. culture and the cultures represented
in the classroom. Instructors should accentuate the positive elements
of multiculturalism and focus class discussions on the role that communication
can play in creating smooth relationships among cultures. Back to Top Suggested Multicultural Activities and Assignments
Back to Top Creating a Student-Centered Classroom
- Invite to the class speakers from the campus and nearby community
who represent the students' various cultures.
- Assign a speech of explanation about an object that is indigenous
to a given culture.
- Assign compare-and-contrast speeches in which students use a picture
or object from their culture and compare it to a similar one in
the mainstream American culture.
- Have students conduct Learning Styles Inventories of their classmates.
(These inventories can be found in Reid (1987), and Oxford et al.
- Lead cultural discussions sparked by videotaped speeches or Learning
- Have students act as "cultural ambassadors" who deliver speeches
designed to increase appreciation and understanding of other cultures.
- Have panel presentations by students, grouped according to their
cultures, on a topic relating to their culture, e.g., "The Music
of the Caribbean," "Chinese Festivals," etc.
- Assign informative speeches that are based on a trip to a natural
history or ethnographic museum in which each speaker is responsible
for reporting on the exhibits of a particular culture.
- Assign a speech in which students discuss folk tales or stories
that are part of their culture.
- Assign a speech of demonstration on some aspect of the student's
culture, such as food, dance, music, art, drama, or crafts.
- Assign a speech of description on one's hometown.
- Assign persuasive speeches that describe serious issues facing
the people of cultures represented in the class.
- Assign a speech of tribute to a famous person, living or dead,
chosen from the student's culture.
The instructor's most effective method of addressing the challenges
presented by ESL students is to create a student-centered classroom.
The traditional role of the instructor as authority figure and source
of all learning stifles communication. ESL students need as much opportunity
as possible to speak in class in order to develop communication skills
and fluency. The role of the instructor should be that of a facilitator
who orchestrates the many activities in the classroom. The instructor
should also be a diagnostician, helper, advisor, and coordinator. Self-Monitoring
Instructors should encourage students to take more responsibility for
their learning by teaching them how to monitor their own speech production.
Instructors have limited time and cannot be responsible for all the
learning that takes place in the classroom, but they should provide
ESL students with the tools to identify and correct speech errors that
interfere with listener comprehension.
Back to Top Dialogue Tapes
Instructors might consider having the students keep dialogue audio tapes
as the speech counterpart of the written response journal. The tapes
allow students an additional opportunity to express themselves orally
in English; provide a means of communicating privately with the instructor;
and offer students an auditory mirror for monitoring their speech production.
They are especially useful for recording practices of class presentations.
Dialogue tapes are kept throughout the semester to provide a cumulative
record of the student's progress. The instructor should collect the
tapes periodically and make recorded and written comments to the student.
Because dialogue tapes require a lot of the instructor's time, they
are most useful when there are only a few ESL students in the classroom.
They can also be used on a voluntary basis for students who really want
additional help with their speeches. Back to Top Language Logs or Class Journals
Students should use language logs or class journals for writing down
new vocabulary words, word pronunciations, and examples of grammatical
usage that they hear inside and outside of the class. Students can periodically
share material from the logs with their peers and write in them their
personal speech goals and periodic assessments of their progress.
Back to Top Small Groups
The best way to manage a public speaking classroom in which more than
one-third of the students are ESL at varying levels of proficiency is
to engage the class in small group exercises. Participation in small
groups assists ESL students in gaining fluency through frequent practice.
Interactive small-group work often lessens student anxiety about presentations.
It is sometimes more interesting and more motivating for students. Moreover,
communication apprehensive students are more likely to speak up in small
groups than they are in front of the whole class. Within the group,
students can monitor, correct, supply words, encourage, make suggestions,
review, and critique each other.
A group of from two to eight works best. Groups should be put together
based on the purpose of the assignment. For assignments such as pronunciation
practice or panel presentations, instructors might want to group students
by culture with ESL students grouped according to country of origin.
There are, however, several problems with this type of grouping. First,
students may decide to speak their native language. This can be avoided
by appointing a gatekeeper who reminds students that they are to speak
English or incur infractions for not doing so. Second, students with
the same first language, who are at the same level of proficiency,
may have difficulty hearing and correcting each other's speech errors.
Third, ESL students should be encouraged to socialize with mainstream
U.S. American students, which the cultural groupings would not allow.
For most assignments you will want to consider mixed groups of ESL and
non-ESL students. The benefit of such groupings is that the more proficient
students can assist the instructor. Carefully consider putting together
groups so that there is a balance between the various cultures and levels
of language fluency. Also, consider putting different students in the
groups each time so that everyone gets to know one another.
Back to Top Setting Up Assignments for Small Groups
The following guidelines will help in forming groups:
Back to Top Peer Monitoring
- Announce the assignment before students form groups. After groups
are formed, their attention is focused on each other rather than
- Make sure there is a clear task for each assignment.
- Have the groups assign roles, e.g., timekeeper, note-taker, chairperson,
The use of small groups facilitates the practice of peer monitoring
and peer review. Group work can be used for peer monitoring of pronunciation
errors and peer review for outlining speeches. Many students complete
their formal outlines without reviewing them for mistakes. Peer reviewers
should troubleshoot each other's outlines for mistakes in grammar, spelling,
language appropriateness, and vocabulary. Instructors might consider
providing a checklist of the most common grammatical errors made by
ESL students. In addition, students might be encouraged to write short
analyses of their own or others' formal speech outlines according to
a series of questions provided by the instructor. Back to Top Promoting Active Listening Skills
Speech instructors have a responsibility for assisting ESL students
in developing listening skills. They might consider having students
alternate written critiques of their listening with written critiques
of student speeches. Listener critiques help students to appreciate
the important role played by listening in the communication process
and assist them in recognizing problems in their listening behavior.
Listening is not just attending to spoken verbal meaning, it also involves
attention to paralinguistics. The instructor might consider playing
videotaped examples of speeches in order to show how facial expression,
gesture, posture, and action modify the meaning of verbal discourse.
Instructors might also wish to turn off the picture so that students
can hear how stress, intonation, rhythm, etc., are used to create meaning.
Because listening behaviors are culture specific, ESL students need
to learn listening feedback cues which convey attention and interest.
Instructors may wish to have ESL students identify specific behaviors
(i.e., eye contact, facial expression) that characterize listening behavior
in their cultures and contrast these with listening behavior in the
United States. Instructors might also assign an exercise in modeling
listening behavior in which two U.S. American students engage in a conversation
in front of the class. One student tells a story and the other expresses
interest or lack of interest through eye contact, body posture, gestures,
and facial expressions.
ESL students also need listening practice outside the classroom. A good
listening exercise for ESL as well as non-ESL students is to have them
watch the evening news for thirty minutes each night and keep records
of their listening in their journals. For example, they might be asked
to be attentive to the nonverbal aspects of the newscaster's speech.
You might also assign a speech built around a newscast format.
ESL students need help with listening comprehension because they often
do not have the language skills to process all of the information they
receive. Students may need to be taught how to facilitate discussions
by asking for information, clarification, verification, opinion, and
correction. Back to Top Asking for Information
Often ESL students need to be taught how to obtain information by asking
Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Many have a problem with the correct
use of the helping verb "do" when asking questions in the present tense:
How do you say . . . in English?
Back to Top Asking for Clarification
Where do I buy the book?
Where does she work?
Questions for clarification are used when an ESL student asks someone
to slow down, rephrase, repeat, or explain information that has not
Would you please speak more slowly.
Back to Top Asking for Verification
Would you please repeat that.
I'm sorry, I didn't understand you.
Did you say . . .?
What does . . . mean?
I'm not sure whether . . .
I heard that . . .
Questions for verification are used when a listener wants to check on
whether something is correct:
Did I hear you say. .?
Back to Top Asking for an Opinion
I heard that . . .
The information I read said that . . .
Is the article in Time magazine?
Questions seeking an opinion are used when a student wants to get someone's
views or position on a topic:
In your opinion . . .
Back to Top Asking for Correction
What do you think . .?
What is your position on . .?
Don't you think . .?
ESL students should be encouraged to ask more proficient students to
correct severe speech errors with questions such as the following:
Would you please tell me how to say . . .
Back to Top Using Modeling
Would you please help me with my pronunciation of . . .
Did I say that correctly?
Modeling is a teaching method based on learning through imitation. Hearing
appropriate speech provides ESL students with a type of understanding
that explanations only can approximate. Be sure ESL students have a
wide range of speech acts to model. Ask them to listen to weather reports
or the news to learn new vocabulary and pronunciation. Play tapes of
speeches far ESL students to model. Back to Top PRONUNCIATION
Pronunciation is a term that refers to how words are spoken in context.
It includes the articulation of the individual sounds of a language
as well as how those sounds are connected, accented, and varied in pitch.
It also includes the rhythm characteristic of a language. The accents
of ESL students usually follow the patterns of pronunciation of their
first language. Accents may be a unique and valued feature of an individual's
speech. However, if they interfere with communication, the student's
goal should be to soften the accent. Back to Top Should Pronunciation Be Taught?
A lack of intelligible pronunciation sometimes makes the speech of ESL
students difficult for others to comprehend. While some ESL students
may have an opportunity to take a voice and diction course, for others
the public speaking course may be the only place where they will get
help in this area. In recent years the focus of public speaking courses
has been more on the content of speeches than their delivery. As the
number of ESL students with pronunciation problems grows, one of the
central concerns of ESL speech instructors should be: "What can I do
to help ESL students with pronunciation?" In answering this question,
instructors should consider (1) their willingness and ability to devote
time inside and out of classes to pronunciation work; (2) the number
of ESL students in the class; (3) the severity of pronunciation problems;
and (4) the availability of language tapes and other materials.
For instructors who decide to take on the added task of addressing the
pronunciation problems of their ESL students there are a variety of
approaches and strategies that can be used.Back to Top Diagnostic Testing
The first step in working with pronunciation problems is to identify
the major mispronunciations of each ESL student in the class. This may
be done through diagnostic testing. Have students record initial speech
samples on individual tapes and establish goals for improvement with
each student. As the term progresses monitor the student's progress.
The diagnostic should be kept until the end of the term so that progress
can be measured by the instructor and observed by the student. Diagnostic
testing enables instructors to personalize their instruction with each
Have students record a uniform speech sample from a pronunciation textbook
or a passage from the text used in the class. Having each ESL student
record the same passage makes it easier for the instructor to diagnose
the sample. However, because a reading sample does not capture spontaneous
speech, you should also have ESL students record their answers to a
series of questions about their education, amount of English study,
and motivation for learning English. You should also have them record
an impromptu sample in which they speak briefly on a topic which interests
In analyzing the sample, the instructor should write down the student's
strengths and weaknesses, problems they have with specific sounds, and
problems with rate, volume, intonation, stress, and rhythm. This diagnosis
should be kept throughout the term to update and monitor student progress.
Back to Top Setting Goals
When diagnostic testing is completed, the instructor should schedule
conferences with each student to identify problems and set goals for
improvement. Instructors should find out what the students believe needs
immediate improvement and work on these problems first. In selecting
which problems to monitor and correct, instructors should consider whether
the problem impedes communication, is recurring or isolated, affects
the student's ethos, or can easily be corrected. In the diagnostic conference,
the instructor should play the tape, stopping after each sentence, and
ask the student to identify errors. If the student doesn't hear an important
error, the instructor should point it out. The instructor and student
should target specific pronunciation problems and not try to correct
everything at once. Periodic monitoring and resetting of goals should
be done by the student and the instructor throughout the term. Back to Top Targeting Problems
The most common method used by instructors to address the pronunciation
errors of ESL students is to target six to eight problem sounds. In
selecting the sounds to target, the instructor should consider the frequency
of occurrence of the problem sound in spoken English. For example, t
is a frequently used English consonant and should be targeted if the
student has difficulty with its pronunciation.
The instructor with limited time will find that it is better to focus
on the articulation of consonants than vowels. Consonants are easier
to correct and are where the greatest problems with intelligibility
Most ESL students will experience some level of interference with the
following consonants: voiced th,
unvoiced th, r, ch,
g, p, t, d,
and k. Back to Top Using Audiotape for Practice
Students can be taught to monitor their production of target sounds
using audiotapes. Ideally students should be able to listen to and discriminate
target sounds on tapes. In sessions with the instructor, students can
learn to model the production of target sounds by watching the mouth
movements in a mirror and feeling the movements of the sounds. Students
can tape these sessions. During practice, students should be encouraged
to exaggerate the correct production of target sounds.
The mechanicalness of such drill work lacks the authenticity of spontaneous
speech and is not very motivating. Reading speeches and passages from
literature or poetry creates more interest than repeating sentences
out of context. Drills should be used as only one part of an overall
approach to pronunciation correction for individuals who want and need
such work. Ideally, pronunciation work is best done as a part of actual
speaking tasks. Back to Top Speech Patterns
While proper articulation of sounds is important, instructors must also
address problems of stress, rhythm, and intonation. The meanings of
speech are context-dependent, that is, the individual sounds are altered
according to their position within the flow of words as manifested by
stress, rhythm, and intonation. Back to Top Stress
Improper stressing of syllables is one of the major reasons why the
speech of ESL students is often difficult to understand. A key to successfully
speaking English is the student's ability to identify what syllables
should be stressed.
Stress indicates the important word in a phrase or sentence, as in:
I went to the party, YESTERDAY.
My friend SALLY'S party.
The stressed words identify the important information. In spoken discourse
stress is indicated by pitch changes, vowel lengthening, and volume.
Unstressed words are spoken at a more rapid rate, with less volume and
elided vowels. Back to Top Rhythm
Spoken English consists of regularly recurring patterns of stressed
syllables. Improper rhythm is a major reason why some ESL students are
difficult for U.S. American listeners to understand.
Back to Top Intonation
ESL students may have difficulty hearing the stress patterns of English
and understanding how its speakers create meaning. Have ESL students
listen to examples of recorded speech for stress patterns and model
these patterns on their dialogue tapes. They should also look up in
a dictionary the stress on syllables in words that they are unsure
Intonation is the musical pattern of pitch changes within speech. Most
ESL students transfer the pitch patterns and rhythm of their mother
tongue to English. They may need to learn to hear and reproduce the
intonation patterns of U.S. English to be more intelligible. English
intonation patterns are used to contrast new and old information and
show the beginnings and ends of thought units.
Instructors should concentrate on the most frequent intonation patterns:
Rising/falling intonation at the end of sentences: "It's
Back to Top Thought Units
imperatives: "Sit down!"
in questions: "Where is she?"
ESL students may need to be taught how to divide speech into thought
units and should understand how these units contribute to the meaning
of speech. Many ESL students pause in the middle of thought units instead
of at the end of them, speaking in a "halting style." They need to learn
how to link words within thought units so that their speech flows smoothly
to U.S. American ears.
Back to Top Formal Versus Informal Language
It is best to work on pronunciation as part of speaking assignments.
When students rehearse and record speeches on their tapes, they should
monitor their articulation, rate, stress and rhythm, and intonation,
along with selected sounds.
Vocabulary and word choice are an essential aspect of correct speaking.
ESL students may have difficulty with the appropriate language style
for specific contexts, for example, differentiating formal and informal
language. Some cultures, such as Chinese and Russian, place a high value
on formal language, while others, such as Hispanic cultures, use language
more informally. ESL students may not know that the informal expressions
they pick up in conversations with U.S. friends may not be appropriate
to public speaking. ESL students should be made aware that public speaking
generally requires a somewhat more formal use of language than conversation.
Chinese and Russian students, however, may need to work on using less
formal language so they do not sound stilted. Instructors should temper
their use of slang, idioms, and colloquialisms in class presentations
because these may be confusing to ESL students. Back to Top Listening and Pronunciation
Many students lack the ability to hear errors in their pronunciation.
ESL students need to develop a clear sense of target sound, stress patterns,
rhythms, and intonation. They should then learn to hear how their speech
differs from the target. Instructors can help students discriminate
sounds through modeling and taped practice. Tapes provide an opportunity
for students to listen for targeted pronunciation in their speech samples.
In conferences the instructor can play back the tape and pause after
each thought unit, asking, "Was that correct?" "How should it sound?"
At the end of the session, the instructor should summarize the student's
progress and set future goals. Back to Top Pronunciation Teaching Methods Based on Number
of ESL Students in the ClassSmall Number of ESL Students in the Class
If there are only a few ESL students in the class, the instructor might
do the diagnostic taping in class, then meet with the ESL students during
office hours to identify major speech problems and set goals for improvement.
Students themselves should be responsible for monitoring their progress
on tapes. Back to Top Large Number of ESL Students in the Class
For a class with a large number of ESL students the instructor might
do diagnostic taping to identify speech problems. Introduce the ESL
students to the equipment and the basics of pronunciation in group conferences,
then set up peer groups in the classroom to work on improvement. Back to Top Peer Groups
Peer groups can facilitate the teaching of pronunciation in a mixed
class of ESL and non-ESL students. Peer groups recreate the small schoolhouse
model of teaching in which students of varying ability levels are grouped
together, with more proficient students handling some teaching. Peer
group work should involve about twenty to thirty minutes of class time
every other week for work on speech problems.
A peer group might include two or three students whose spoken comprehensibility
is poor, five or six students with some severe speech problems, twelve
students with enunciation problems, and five or six U.S. American speakers
who need work on delivery. The instructor should distribute exercises
to each group with simple instructions, then facilitate and monitor
the work of the group.
The instructor should meet with ESL students individually or in small
groups to discuss problems, monitor progress, and reset goals. To assess
progress, the instructor should have students record a midterm and a
final passage on their tapes. Back to Top OUTLINING
Structuring is not a linear process for all cultures. Speech outlining
is difficult for many ESL students if they come from cultures with nonlinear
discourse patterns. Worried about their inability to organize their
ideas, many ESL students will want to write out their speeches.
Outlining provides a procedure that approaches how people really organize
their ideas. The key ingredient in successful outlining is providing
ESL students with a way to organize, analyze, and revise their outlines.
Outlining practice helps the ESL student develop ideas through collaborative,
group work and peer review. Back to Top Skills Needed
There are five skills ESL students may need special help with: (1) topic
selection, (2) research, (3) outlining, (4) peer review, and (5) revision.
Outlining provides: Back to Top Topic Selection
Generating topic ideas can be carried out by the whole class, in pairs,
in small groups, or by the student working alone. Topic generation methods
include charting interests, brainstorming, or idea mapping.
Once ideas for topics have been generated, students can select specific
topics and analyze them using the guidelines set forth in Chapter 5
of the text. After topics have been analyzed, students should select
one topic based on criteria questions such as: Am I really interested
in the topic? Do I know anything about the topic? What do I need to
learn? Does the topic satisfy the assignment? Why do I want to speak
on the topic? Will my classmates be interested in the topic? What do
they already know about it?
At the end of the class session, students should share their selected
topics with the class to further refine and clarify them.
Topic generation, analysis, and selection as a collaborative group effort
provides input which helps ESL students to understand what is required
of them and to assess potential interest in suggested topics.Back to Top Research
Using the materials in the text and IRM, have students list their experiences
with and knowledge of the topic. Interviewing is a good way for ESL
students to gather information for their speeches. It also encourages
ESL students to explore the world outside the classroom and improve
their English fluency. Consider assigning an interview of a classmate,
an authority, or a family member to gather supporting material for a
All students should be encouraged to use the library for research. Back to Top Outlining
Students should outline their speeches as a series of drafts, developing
from the early stages of working outlines to the final formal outline.
Along the way they should be given guidelines for revising their outlines
and feedback on their work. Back to Top Peer Review
Peer reviews involve having students listen to or read each other's
outlines and prepare oral or written responses based on a set of specific
questions. Peer reviews help students with the difficult tasks of organizing
their speeches, developing their listening and critiquing skills, and
developing audience awareness.
Peer review involves the following process:
Back to Top Revision
- Students listen to or read outlines of speeches to which they
respond orally or in writing based on a set of questions that focus
on specific aspects of the student's work. For example, the students
assist each other with things like phrasing the specific purpose
or thesis statement and designating the main points.
- Students then respond to the peer reviews of their outlines and
revise them accordingly.
- The instructor checks revised student outlines in relation to
the focus questions and makes written or oral comments to the student.
Students review each other's final outlines. The revision stage should
also involve a grammar check and considerations of the outline format
as well as questions on content. Back to Top ADDITIONAL READINGS
Arapoff, Nancy. The Writing Process: 20 Projects for Group Work.
Cambridge: Newbury, 1985.
Avery, Peter, and Susan Ehrlich. Teaching American English Pronunciation.
New York: Oxford UP, 1992.
Baker, Ann, and Sharon Goldstein. Pronunciation Pairs: An Introductory
Course for Students of English.
New York: Cambridge UP, 1990. Includes
Beisbier, Beverly. Sounds Great: Beginning Pronunciation for Speakers
Book 1. Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1994. Includes
Beisbier, Beverly. Sounds Great: Intermediate Pronunciation and Speaking
for Learners of English.
Book 2. Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1994.
Includes cassette tapes.
Benesch, S. ESL in America: Myths and Possibilities.
Benesch, S., ed. Ending Remediation: Linking ESL and Content in Higher
Washington: TESOL, 1988.
Blum, Lila. Tuning in to Spoken Messages: Basic Listening Strategies.
New York: Longman, 1990.
Brown, Douglas H. Principles of Language Learning and Teaching.
Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Regents, 1994.
Buck, Joyce, and Irene Alterbaum. Listenspeak: Pathways to Better
2nd ed. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 1991.
Celce-Murcia, Marianne, and Janet M. Goodwin. "Teaching Pronunciation."
Ed. Marianne Celce-Murcia. Teaching English as a Second or Foreign
Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1991. 136-153.
Celce-Murcia, Marianne, ed. Teaching English as a Second or Foreign
Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1991.
Cummings, Martha Graves. Listen, Speak, Present: A Step-by-Step Presenter's
Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1992.
Dale, Paulette, and Lillian Poms. Pronunciation for International
Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Regents, 1994.
Dauer, Rebecca. Accurate English: A Complete Course in Pronunciation.
Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall Regents, 1993.
Dunkel, Patricia. "Listening in the Native and Second/Foreign Language:
Toward an Integration of Research and Practice." Ed. Sandra Silberstein.
State of the Art TESOL Essays.
Alexandria: TESOL, 1993. 261-287.
Gilbert, Judy B. Clear Speech: Pronunciation and Listening Comprehension
in North American English.
New York: Cambridge UP, 1993. Includes
Grant, Linda. Well Said: Advanced English Pronunciation.
Heinle & Heinle, 1993.
Gungle, B. W., and V. Taylor. "Writing Apprehension and Second Language
Writers." Ed. D. M. Johnson and D. H. Roen. Richness in Writing:
Empowering Language Minority Students.
New York: Longman, 1989.
Hahner, Jeffrey C., Martin Sokoloff, and Sandra Salisch. Speaking
Clearly: Improving Voice and Diction.
4th ed. New York: McGraw Hill,
1993. Includes cassette tapes.
Horowitz, E., and D. J. Young. Language Anxiety.
Johnson, Karen E. Understanding Communication in Second Language
New York: Cambridge UP, 1995.
Kayfetz, Janet L., and Michaele E. F. Smith. Speaking Effectively:
Strategies for Academic Interaction.
Boston: Heinle & Heinle,
Keefe, J. W. "Learning Styles: An Overview." Student Learning Styles:
Diagnosing and Prescribing Programs.
Reston: National Association
of Secondary Principals, 1979. 1-17.
Kroll, B., ed. Second Language Writing: Research Insights for the
New York: Cambridge UP, 1990.
Larsen-Freeman, Diane. Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching.
Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986.
Matthews, Candace. Speaking Solutions: Interaction, Presentation,
Listening and Pronunciation Skills.
Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall
Morley, Joan, ed. Current Perspectives on Pronunciation.
Morley, Joan. "The Pronunciation Component in Teaching English to Speakers
of Other Languages." Ed. Sandra Silberstein. State of the Art TESOL
Alexandria: TESOL, 1993. 310-349.
Nilsen, Don L. F., and Alleen Pace Nilsen. Pronunciation Contrasts
Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1973.
Orion, Gertrude F. Pronouncing American English: Sounds, Stress,
Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1988.
Oxford, R., H. Ehrman, and R. Z. Lavine. "Style Wars: Teacher-Student
Style Conflicts in the Language Classroom." Ed. S. S. Magnan. Challenges
in the 1990s for College Foreign Language Programs.
& Heinle, 1991. 1-25.
Oxford, Rebecca. Language Learning Strategies.
New York: Newbury,
Pierpont, J. Second Language Students in the Writing Class: A Manual
New York: Cornell UP, 1991.
Porter, Patricia, and Margaret Grant. Communicating Effectively in
English: Oral Communication for Non-native Speakers.
Purves, A. C., ed. Writing Across Languages and Cultures: Issues
in Contrastive Rhetoric.
Newbury Park: Sage, 1988.
Raimes, Ann. "Out of the Woods: Emerging Traditions in the Teaching
of Writing." Ed. Sandra Silberstein. State of the Art TESOL Essays.
Alexandria, TESOL, 1993.
Raimes, Ann. "What Unskilled ESL Students Do as They Write: A Classroom
Study of Composing." TESOL Quarterly 19
Raimes, Ann. Keys for Writers: A Brief Handbook.
Reid, J. M. "The Learning Style Preferences of ESL Students." TESOL
21 (1987): 87-111.
Riggenbach, H. and Anne Lazaraton. "Promoting Oral Communication Skills."
Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language.
Celce-Murcia. Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1991. 125-135.
Rivers, W., ed. Interactive Language Teaching.
Tickle, Amy. The Writing Process: A Guide for ESL Students: A Workbook
to Accompany the HarperCollins Concise Handbook for Writers.
York: HarperCollins, 1996. Back to Top