5 Minimal Pairs Activities for Your ESL Pronunciation Class

Minimal pairs are one of the most helpful tools for any pronunciation teacher. They have been proven to help significantly with the perception of unfamiliar phonemes. And since perception of a phoneme is required before production can occur, minimal pairs can also help students when they are ready to speak.

Before you dive into minimal pair training, you should have first done some kind of needs analysis of your students. This could be a done with diagnostic test, or something as informal as listening to the phonemes that your students mispronounce. It’s also possible to predict what types of phonemes your students will have problems with based on their native language – Arabic speakers will often have difficulty with the /p/ phoneme, Japanese speakers will often struggle with /l/ and /r/, etc.

Once you’ve identified phonemes that you want to practice with your class, then you’ll want to either create or find lists of minimal pairs. Here are a few different sources:

I like to gather pairs from different lists for my classes and it’s best if you can incorporate vocabulary that students are already learning.

So once you have your needs analyzed and have some good lists of pairs for the relevant phonemes, it’s time to start practicing. Here are my favorite minimal pairs activities.

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6 Teaching Tips from Fluent Forever.

I’ve been reading books with the word “fluent” in the title. First, I reviewed Becoming Fluent. Then Fluent in 3 Months.

This time, I’m looking at Fluent Forever, a book by Gabriel Wyner, who was an opera singer before he became a polyglot and language hacker.

Like the first two I reviewed, this book is aimed at adults who are thinking about learning a foreign language. And again, I’m going to be reversing the point of view and looking at how it can be applied to teaching English as a foreign language.

So let’s take a look at the aspects of this book that are useful for ESL teachers.

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