Teaching the "Th" Sound to Young EFL LearnersCamran Shirvani
Islamic Azad University, Qaemshahr (Qaemshahr, Iran)
EFL learners often mispronounce the "th" sound. What follows is an effective technique (a tongue exercise) for in-class practice. This is especially effective in case of young EFL learners since it is entertaining and produces near-immediate results.
IntroductionMispronouncing the "th" sound by making a simple "s" or "t" sound is very common among English language learners, and the case has been discussed for several decades. Carr (1967) in her article "Teaching the "th" sounds of English" in the first number of the first volume of TESOL journal begins as follow:
"There is nothing boring about teaching the ancient and honorable the sounds of English – the phonemes which are so characteristic a part of the stream of the speech in English but so rare among other languages of the world. If instructor and learners keep even a few bit of information about the structure of English in mind, these lessons can be the most successful effort of a semester."
Since then, besides keeping "a few bits of information about the structure of English in mind", several teachers introduced various techniques to prevent students saying "sink" instead of "think" because of the transfer the "s" from their mother tongue (Soullier, 2005).
What follows is a technique which I found to be successful, especially for young learners.
The TechniqueThe technique I discovered to be effective has the following merits:
- It involves all students in the classroom;
- The whole job is accomplished in a few minutes, so teachers don't have to spend the entire class on practicing the sound;
- It is entertaining, so young learners don't feel bored.
Second, the teacher makes sure that all of the learners can stick their tongues out. Checking students, the teacher should keep his/her tongue stuck out. He should ask learners to stick their tongues out for a few seconds and repeat the action several times.
Third, the teacher devises a drill based on some familiar words with "th" sounds. He/she can choose a number of words from the learners' textbooks and ask them to repeat the words in groups or individually. This raises their consciousness towards the "th" sound.
Follow-up ActivityFollowing the third stage exercises, practicing words with the "th" sound, it is important that learners practice these words in sentences and in contrast to the "s" or "t" sound. Once they have succeeded in pronouncing the words, the teacher provides the learners with some sentences that include redundant "s" sounds and asks the learners to replace the "s" sound with "th". This is exactly the reverse of what students do in a normal situation mispronouncing the "th" sound. The following are examples of such sentences:
- Sally sings a song on Sundays.
- Sam saw a horse and a mouse.
- The above-mentioned reverse direction can increase learners' awareness and makes them notice their mispronunciation of the "th" sound.
- The teacher can stick his/her tongue out as a corrective cue in the proceeding sessions.
- What adds to the effectiveness of this technique is the repetition of the follow-up activity in the proceeding sessions.
- This technique can be entertaining for learners if the teacher include the follow-up activity. This helps him/her to improve classroom climate.
- Carr, E. B. (1967) "Teaching the th sounds of English." TESOL 1 (1)
- Soullier, R. (2005) "Teaching the Th Sound to ESL/EFL Learners." The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XI, No. 11 November (Retrieved from: http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Soulliere-TH.html)
The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XIV, No. 2, February 2008