One of my main complaints from my ESL/ELL students is that people cannot understand them when they speak. Grammar books and bilingual dictionaries don’t help them when they want to converse with native speakers or simply go about their lives in the United States.
I sympathize with my students greatly and empathized with them slightly. Too many high school and college Spanish courses have taught me that I sound like a dummy when I speak to my native-speaking professor.
Thus, I searched to find materials that will actually help them reduce their accent in a meaningful way. There are too many pronunciation tools out there that have students repeat words and sounds without telling them how to make those sounds. A student can hear “dog” over and over, but if they don’t know to drop their jaw to produce the vowel sound, it will always be said with an accent (discounting children…their brains are wired for language differently than adults).
Enter in Charles Becker and his podcast, English Pronunciation Pod. I found this podcast several years ago and have used it over and over again with numerous students. They love it. They love it because it tells them how to speak English, including: what they are probably doing wrong, what “wrong” sounds like, and common mistakes for some languages. Students have found his pronunciation easy to understand and like listening to him. Of course, some of the really novice students have too much of a difficulty understanding him so this podcast is best used with students who know English but want to improve their pronunciation.
I really like that this podcast has transcripts on its website for students to follow along. However, he could have used a better editor…there are some glaring problems that Microsoft Word can fix quite easily and quickly. I like to copy and paste the web transcript into a Word document, fix the errors (save it so I only have to do it once!), and print it off for my students to use while they listen to the podcast. This allows them to read and hear at the same time. Unfortunately, the transcript isn’t a word for word transcription. It seems to be the podcast in visual form. It leaves out some digressions. It does confuse my students at first, but then they get used to his format and appreciate the succinctness of the transcript for future reference.
Podcasts can be downloaded via iTunes to an iPad or iPhone. I have them all downloaded to my iPad. However, it is also possible to listen to podcasts on the web. You can listen to the podcasts on the archive page or the transcript page.
The most unfortunate thing about this podcast is that it is no longer being updated. I do not know why. Awhile ago I emailed Charles Becker telling him I used this podcast frequently and would love more podcasts. He did reply back indicating he would publish more podcasts. However, only a couple podcasts were published in 2012. Most of the podcasts were published in 2008-2011.
You can also purchase his “full pronunciation course” (Best Accent Training MP3s) that you hear an advertisement for at the end of every podcast (I usually stop the podcast before that…my students understand and appreciate it). I’ve looked into it before. It costs $75 and consists of most of the same material that is presented in the podcast. Thus, I have not purchased it. Let me know if you have purchased it and find it to be vastly different from the podcasts!
Overall: I love this podcast. I have learned more about my own language while listening to this podcast. It has helped me become a better teacher and has helped my ESL/ELL students reduce their accent and sound more like an American.