Minimal pairs are pairs of words that have one phonemic change between them. For example: "let" and "lit". Using these pairs to help students recognize the minor differences between English muted vowel sounds can greatly help not only pronunciation skills, but also comprehension.
Improve pronunciation and recognition skills
The use of minimal pairs to help students distinguish minor differences between English vowel sounds
Pre-intermediate to upper-intermediate depending on students' capabilities
- Introduce the idea of "minimal pairs" by writing a list on the board of a number of minimal pairs. For example: but - boot, sit - set, caught - cut, sing - song, etc.
- Practice comprehension skills by using the provided lists of minimal pairs. Each list contains one minimal pair with a number of examples.
- Once students are comfortable with the sounds, read sentence examples (for example: The call took a long time to go through - for the first pair) using one word of the pair provided. Ask students to identify which word of each pair was used.
- Continue using the list of pairs by asking students to practice the lists.
- Ask students to identify two vowel sounds which they want to focus on, for example: 'eh' and 'uh', and have them create their own list of minimal pairs.
- Have pairs exchange lists and practice reading the others' lists aloud.
- If appropriate, continue lesson by a more extended look into the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet, see IPA Lesson)
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