Saturday, 18 December 2010

bedtime without bats

Children's bedtime stories shouldn't have bad endings.
credit: Peter Harakaly

This was one of the sentences my German EFL students had to read out last week. As you may guess, what most of them said was
  1. bet time
  2. bat time
  3. bad time
  4. bed endings
  5. bet endings
  6. [ˈstɔrɪ ]
I then pronounced the two words 'bed' and 'bet' in isolation and asked them to describe the difference(s) they heard. They recognised the difference in vowel length (= pre-fortis clipping as the experts call it). I had them read the sentence again - with little success. Next, I pronounced 'bed' again accompanied by a long horizontal hand movement (roughly 3 feet) and 'bet' along with a much shorter movement of my hand. That seemed to help.
In a German context 'story' is normally pronounced [ʃtɔʀi] or [stɔʀi] as in 'Erzähl keine Stories!' (~ don't tell any (made up) stories!). British customs officers shouldn't let this version in.

credit: Peter Harakaly


  1. The late, and sorely missed, Adele Miccio devised a phonological therapy technique (stimulability therapy) that combined pictures and hand movements to provide clients with visual and movement cues to sounds or sound classes they were finding difficult. This seems as if the same strategy may help in second language teaching!

  2. @Martin: Very interesting parallel!