The importance of the vowel sounds in English language cannot be overemphasised. Its essence is so important that there is hardly a syllable in English without a vowel sound. Hence, the vowel is the nucleus – the life of any word in English. Similarly, a wrong pronunciation of a vowel sound can amount to a total alteration of the meaning of such word. However, if a student understands the qualities and quantities (length) of the English vowels, such a student’s speech pattern will improve to great extent. The ways to enhance students’ pronunciation of the vowel sounds include:
Using a phonemic chart is one of the proven ways of teaching English phonemes. The phonemic chart should be pasted permanently in front of the class for easy reference during teaching. As much as it is profitable to learn the phonemic symbols, teachers should help learners understand that the symbols are just visual hooks for the physical and auditory processes of learning the sounds. Adrian Underhill suggested that to make the most of the phonemic chart, the teacher should take the learners through a process of point then speak (a situation where students point to the sounds said by others) or speak then point (here, students say the sounds that are pointed to).
This is another way of teaching students the vowels of English. This can be in form of a listen and repeat session whereby the teacher, as the model, calls the sound and the students repeat what they hear. In a case where the teacher gives sample words where the vowels occur, it will be interesting if the students are made to pronounce the syllables starting from the last to the first. This way, the right pronunciation of the vowel sounds would not only have been achieved but the word’s also.
PRESENT PHONEMES IN ISOLATION
This requires that the teacher isolate and specify each sound. This will be more efficient than presenting the sound to be an intrinsic part of a word which might be confusing. The teacher should carefully pronounce the sound independent of others while the students repeat after him. Once mastery is ascertained, the teacher can then proceed to teach the sounds at word and then connected speech level.
This has to do with words that are different in just one phoneme. In the process of doing this, focus is a placed on the target sounds. For instance seat and sit; gap and lap; game and fame.
RECORD STUDENTS’ SPEECH
Introducing a recording device to record students’ speech during class activities can also help students get better at pronouncing English vowels. To do this, the teacher records the students’ speech and have them listen to it afterwards. This will help the students identify their mistakes and correct them in subsequent recordings. Comparing the recordings will also help both the teacher and students to monitor their development.