My name is Chris Opall. I am the designer of AEASP.com.
To make a long story short…………….
A few years ago (January, 2006), I began working with my local community ed center as a volunteer ESL tutor. I was in the middle of a master's degree in adult and distance education and wanted to expand upon my practical teaching experience.
It was not long before I was approached by an adult ESL student who had asked if I could help her to improve her American English pronunciation. The best that I could do at the time was to engage this student in some rather ineffective shadow learning. You know the drill. First I would pronounce a word and then she would attempt to duplicate my pronunciation. If her attempt was unsuccessful I would pronounce the word again and then wait for her next response.
Round and round we went. Progress was slow.
I needed a more efficient way of helping her with her pronunciation. I needed a more formal method of describing her mistakes and for making suggestions as to ways in which she might improve.
I needed to learn more about pronunciation and how to teach it!
What did I do? Since I am an advocate of self-directed learning and information literacy, I googled.
I soon discovered a number of free internet learning sites that were designed for ESL learners yet provided me with the information I needed to begin devloping a teaching plan.
Could the student that I was working with use the same sites to improve her pronunciation on her own?
The one drawback to such a self-directed approach is that the internet sites that I myself had learned from all seemed to assume a basic understanding and familiarity with the concepts and terminology which frame articulatory phonetics, prosody, and IPA spelling.
Given an introduction to articulatory phonetics, prosody, and IPA spelling, could my student then use these internet sites to improve upon her pronunciation skills on her own?
These questions all led to the development of American English as a Second Pronunciation as a learning program intended to support ESL students who wish to use any of the free pronunciation learning resources available across the Web.
Students (and teachers) who complete AEASP.com will:
- Learn the basic vocabulary associated with articulatory phonetics and prosody.
- Develop a meta-awareness of how their articulators can be used to produce American-English phones (basic phonetic units).
- Learn how to use IPA spelling to analyze the correct phonetic pronunciation of American-English words.
- Learn how to use internet-based resources to improve upon their American-English pronunciation.
Applying AEASP.com to your teaching/learning situation
The content and instructional strategy behind AEASP.com was first tested in an informal classroom setting and later adjusted for delivery via cd-rom. While response was overwhelmingly positive, it is only fair to mention that the pilot program was tested against a unique set of ESL learners.
I live and work in State College, Pennsylvania, which is the hometown of Penn State University. A majority of the individuals who participated in the pilot program were:
1 Post-secondary learners
2 Computer/information literate
3 Highly motivated
4 Recruited from intermediate and advanced
level ESL classrooms
I’m sure your students represent a broader demographic. Those I taught only needed a nudge in the right direction. Perhaps your students would need more learning support, more one-on-one assistance with not only the materials but also with how to operate a computer. Perhaps your students don’t even have regular access to a computer or the internet.
Regardless, AEASP.com can still provide you, and therefore your students, with a shared vocabulary which can support a more formal teacher/learner dialogue centered around American English pronunciation. Even if your students are not prepared to interact with AEASP.com on their own, you can use the materials to develop a more effective and efficient instructional plan.
Perhaps your students are completely new to the English language and lack the literacy skills needed to work through the materials.
If so, why not take the first year or so of their ESL training to slowly introduce them to the main concepts and vocabulary encapsulated within AEASP.com. Planning a lesson on the human body? Introduce the names of the articulators. Planning a lesson on directionality (up, down, forward, back, etc…)? Introduce your students to the different tongue positions for the vowel sounds.
Whether you are looking to learn enough about American-English phonetics and prosody to become a better pronunciation coach, or would simply like to introduce your students to a free learning product that they can then tackle on their own, AEASP.com can help.
Program content & web design by Chris Opall © 2011. Page last updated May 5, 2012