Pronouncing G and J (Spanish learners)

Below is the text of an attempted article for IATEFL Voices:

Pronunciation can drive you to drink.

Among my adult students are designers,engineers and project managers. This being Spain, single gs and js in English words cause frequent pronunciation difficulties and unfamiliar letter clusters like dg in edge render some students speechless. It’s not that they don’t know how to pronounce the sounds, it’s that often they don’t know that they do know.

If your students are d-sih-ners, en-hineers and proyect man-ahers try the following:

Write Gin Tonic on the board, not gin and tonic that is about culture, this is about pronunciation.

Ask the students to read the words aloud, usually one or more will say Gin /ʤɪn/ , if not model the word, chorus and then go round the table asking students to say the words.

When you are happy with their pronunciation write the letter G under the G in Gin, utter the /ʤ/ sound and then ask the students to repeat. If the pronunciation drifts from the target sound point at Gin Tonic and start again.

Then write engine on the board – make sure the g aligns vertically with the other Gs – I underline the letter, or write it in a different colour for emphasis. Then model engine and continue as before.

At some point it is necessary to move from g words to j words, I try to use words that are useful to my students, or familiar or both. Write a number of j words on the board, one under another, then starting at Gin Tonic run through the list, emphasising the /ʤ/ sound each time, chorus and student rounds as before.

The next stage is to tackle mid word /ʤ/ sounds. As before align the relevant letter(s) vertically and chant the words, encouraging the students to join in.

When students are having difficulties with the word written in English I supplement the word with a [this is what it sounds like] collection of letters. I use anything that is familiar to the students so in Spain c becomes s or k , th sometimes becomes z, and I will say theta, sion, tion, cian become shun and so on. Do emphasise that anything between the square brackets is not a correct English spelling, just something that helps some students pronounce the word correctly.

Tell the students that in all English words the letter j* has the same pronunciation and then move to the alternative /g/ sound, which is used in Spanish in words such as Gloria.

I have found it is necessary to give students a few familiar /g/ sound words to prevent them trying to /ʤ/ everything.

Finally when a student next haitches a j write Gin in a corner of the board and the offending word underneath, they will very quickly self correct ( and correct each other) as you reach for the gin.

Please let me know if gin works for you, or if something else works in your context.

Gin

G

engine

general

gel

gyroscope

jitter

jolt

joist

judder

jerk

edge

gauge Gloria followed by Gin

enjoyment

injection [in jek shun]

inject [in jekt]

project [pro jekt]

jam, jib, juice, January, June, July, Jesus, Jew, gypsy, Egypt, agent, Germany

Gloria – gain, gas, gauge, gear, girder, ground, gradient, grind, guarantee, aggregate

*junta, in English, can be pronounced /ʤ/ or/h/

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One Comment

  1. Posted 17/06/2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Shining on as ever.

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