Business language teaching tips

Business language teaching tips – pronunciation and accent reduction

Edited by Anna Sobell

Pronunciation is a notoriously tricky part of language teaching and learning, no matter how experienced a trainer is. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a rookie right out of a teaching qualification, tackling pronunciation can be a daunting and overwhelming task. However, once you take the leap, you’ll see that ‘little and often’ really does make a difference when it comes to pronunciation. In this article, we outline a few handy ways of incorporating some pronunciation practice into every lesson. The best way to do this is by adopting an approach which includes ‘drilling’. This article will provide you with a couple of handy take-away tips that you’ll be able to use immediately. Try them out and let us know how it goes!


Drilling is useful in the early stages of a lesson when presenting or practising new language, as well as during feedback/correction stages to correct utterances. Drilling is controlled and predictable. By repeating set patterns, input-response becomes automatic. Drilling, is of course, often associated with establishing correct pronunciation but it is also helpful in memorisation and practice/use of language e.g. vocabulary or grammar/functional language.

Choral drills > individual drills

Also know as ‘listen and repeat’, choral drills are mainly used for modelling target language. The trainer says a word or sentence out loud and learners repeat it verbatim with pronunciation, stress and intonation as close as possible to the model. The trainer may employ a variety of visual tools e.g. mark the utterances on the board with phonemic script, stressed syllables, linking, silent sounds and rising or falling intonation etc. (the possible foci will depend on the language being taught) and even tap or clap out the rhythm of the language, while enunciating. It is important that the trainer gives a clear visual cue so that the whole class repeats at the same time and this will normally be a hand movement.

The goal is accuracy and the standard should be high. Therefore, the trainer needs to carefully listen to each individual in the class when drilling chorally. Then individual learners are drilled (not focussing on any one learner too obviously) to improve accuracy. The trainer can remodel the language again him/herself of use a stronger learner to remodel the language. Although the goal is accuracy, remember there will naturally be variations in pronunciation…

As well as choral and individual drills, learners can be drilled in pairs/groups for variation, or learners can try drilling each other to make it more learner-centred.

Listen and repeat choral drills can become very boring and demotivating fi they go on too long. A selection of the difficult sentences may well be difficult for learners so, one useful technique is to have learners repeat one extra phrase at a time starting from the back of the sentence. This is called ‘back-chaining’.

For example: the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Trainer: the quick brown fox

Learners: repeat

X 2

Trainer: jumps over the lazy dog

Learners: repeat

X 2

Trainer: the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

Learners: repeat

X 2

This is a very mechanical form of drilling, and as such learners may be able to do it without much thought or understanding of what they are repeating. It is useful as long as the meaning of the sentence is clear before it is drilled. An obvious alternative is ‘front-chaining’, which may be preferable, depending on target language.

Substitution drills

In a substitution drill the trainer gives an example sentence, then asks the learners to change (substitute) one or more words for other words.

Trainer: difficult

Lerner 1: I find negotiation difficult

Trainer: enjoyable

Learner 2: I find holding meetings enjoyable

Trainer: challenging:

Learner 3: I find giving presentations challenging

Flash card drills

Flash cards are mainly used for drilling vocabulary, though they can also be applied to substitution drills. Basically, they provide a visual, rather than oral cue for learners to respond.

At Language Services Direct, we provide bespoke language training designed with our particular learners’ needs and objectives in mind. We also provide MasterClasses link to  in several topics, including Pronunciation and Accent Reduction. Get in touch today to see how we can help you and your organisation.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to take a look at these too:

Why pronunciation is key for language learners

Pronunciation & accent reduction – benefits

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