Pronunciation Games for ESL


Pronunciation games can be played to teach ESL students to improve their speech and to help pronounce difficult sounds. Pronunciation games are used to practice speaking in English while teaching students a lesson at the same time. Each game can be tailored to students learning different levels of English by altering the difficulty of the target words.

Minimal Pairs

  • Minimal pairs are words that differ by only one sound. Examples include the words "fourteen" and "forty," "ferry" and "very," and "climb" and "crime." These words can often be confusing for students trying to learn English.

    Students are paired and given flash cards with a minimal pair of words on each card. One student says one of the words written on the flashcard, and then shows his partner the flashcard. The partner must then determine which word was spoken. The person trying to figure out the word can ask the person speaking to repeat the word as often as she wants.

Word Stress

  • Words with more than one syllable have different intonations or stress on a certain syllable. Stress on certain syllables can completely change the word itself, so knowing how words are properly stressed helps not only with English pronunciation but with understanding the meaning of words as well. For example, if the stress is on the first syllable for the word "record," the word becomes a verb; if the stress is on the second syllable, the word becomes a noun. For instance, "Please record our conversation" (verb) versus "We are listening to this old record" (noun).

    For the word-stress game, divide the class into two or three groups. On the blackboard, draw a table with three columns, marking each column with the numbers one through three (representing which syllable should be stressed). Read a word with three or more syllables out loud and have the first team to start write the answer in the correct column. For example, if you say the word "happily" the team should write the word under the first column; if you say "understand" the team should write the word under the third column. Each team should be given different colored chalk to differentiate among teams so you can check how many answers each team got right at the end.

Tongue Twisters

  • Tongue twisters can be used to help ESL students with improving their pronunciation of vowels and consonants as well as practicing minimal-pair words and word stress. Tongue twisters use a sequence of words that begin with the same letter, and should be read quickly and correctly.

    A tongue-twister game can be played by choosing a tongue twister such as, "She sells seashells by the seashore" and having each student say it correctly as fast as he can. If the student makes a mistake, she's out; the last student standing wins.

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