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Articulatory approach for teaching pronunciation

The Articulatory approach to teaching pronunciation considers learning how to pronounce a second language to be a motor skill which most students are not in a position to develop based on self-evaluation of their production. The role of the teacher is therefore to provide feedback on students' performance as part of coaching them in the movements of the vocal tract articulators (tongue, jaw, lips, etc.) which create speech sounds.

The Articulatory approach is an alternative to the imitative-intuitive and analytic-linguistic approaches, both of which involve the teacher providing a model for her students to imitate. The model might be her own voice or a recording. In the articulatory approach, the students are not asked to match a model but instead to experiment with making sounds, with the teacher acting as a source of ideas, encouragement and feedback on how close the students are getting to the target.

When learning a new language, students are not in a position to compare L1 and L2 sounds competently because the L2 sounds are evaluated using the categorical perception developed for L1. Trubetzkoy described the process as follows: "The phonological system of a language is like a sieve through which everything that is said passes ... Each person acquires the system of his mother tongue. But when he hears another language spoken, he intuitively uses the familiar 'phonological sieve' of his mother tongue to analyze what has been said. However, since this sieve is not suited for the foreign language, numerous mistakes and misinterpretations are the result. The sounds of the foreign language receive an incorrect phonological interpretation since they are strained through the 'phonological sieve' of one's own mother tongue."

Users of the imitative-intuitive approach, who simply give their students a model to imitate ('Listen and Repeat') believe that this problem will resolve itself with exposure to L2 over the course of time. Users of the analytic-linguistic approach address the problem explicitly through listening exercises, recently including high variability phonetic training. In both approaches, it is believed that as students improve their perception of L2 sounds, they will be better able to match their production of L2 sounds to the models provided.

Proponents of the articulatory approach argue that it is more efficient to begin by working on the production of L2 sounds directly (as a motor skill rather than an imitative task) and that this leads to improved L2 perception.



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