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Review ~ Clear Speech from the Start

Step-by-step guides to and practice of the phonetics of North American English, starting with the basics and increasing in difficulty with every chapter.
Reviewed for TEFL.net by Kayla Noel
Clear Speech from the Start

Clear Speech from the Start

Clear Speech from the Start is the second edition of a text that focuses on basic pronunciation and listening comprehension of North American English. The goals of the book include appealing to a lower-level ESL demographic than the original Clear Speech book, which caters to intermediate level ESL learners. It aims to aid students in understanding the relationship between speaking and listening in English, recognizing the rhythm and melody of English and it has been designed to be used in “a wide range of teaching situations”, allowing teachers to customize their lessons with the aid of this book. This is a review of the Student’s Book. The other components of Clear Speech from the Start include the Teacher’s Resource and Assessment Book, the class audio and assessment CDs, the electronic application (app) suitable for the iPhone etc, and the corresponding website.

The Student’s Book offers a vowel and consonant chart with the appropriate IPA phonetic symbols for reference that correspond to each sound in North American English. In this edition, more support for sound rules is given, using sound symbols in specific tasks to help students associate the pronunciation of sounds with spelling rules. In the back of the text, you can find appendices that offer mouth diagrams and additional sections for practice with more difficult consonants and vowels. Clear Speech from the Start works with six basic principles:

  1. Topics that are the most important are taught first.
  2. Teaching points are designed to help students with both listening comprehension and intelligibility.
  3. Spelling and phonics rules are presented to help students guess pronunciation.
  4. Visual and kinesthetic modes emphasize key points.
  5. Signals of spoken English are combined into simple, memorable phrases and sentences.
  6. Student pairwork in emphasized.

Each unit presents a new challenge in listening to and understanding oral English, and each chapter is broken down into various listening sections that allow for students to practice certain North American English sounds that are difficult to decipher for non-native English speakers. Unit One starts with the alphabet and the fundamentals of vowels and the book progresses to chapters that increase in difficulty. Each chapter builds upon the previous one. The units are easy to follow and are aesthetically pleasing, which is also essential for learners. The examples given are relevant and the vocabulary used isn’t abstract, being instead high-frequency words in English. Pairwork is encouraged throughout the book in order to provide more authentic interaction, rather than relying heavily on a recording to be the students’ source of input.

Personally, I would use this text as a supplement to my classroom rather than recommend it for self-study use as there needs to be teacher or real-world interaction in order to provide more than just gapfills etc for practice. It has authentic practice materials and exercises for the lengthy list of phonetic challenges that learners have to face. I wasn’t given the CD-ROM that went with the student manual but from reviewing the content I would say that it is a very thorough source for an educator to use in the classroom. The text Clear Speech from the Start claims that “…it is psychologically important to help [learners] speak clearly from the beginning” and the content matches this goal very well.

Reviewed for TEFL.net by Kayla Noel
August 2013 | Filed under Pronunciation

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