The role of pronunciation in CLIL

April 16, 2018


Pronunciation as a vital element of CLIL

A couple of months ago I received a mail asking me about the role of pronunciation in CLIL. Or, to be more specific, phonetics. The write mentioned he could not find any specific content about this topic in relation to CLIL.

I have to say, this surprised me, as I think pronunciation is an important part of language learning. And a CLIL teachers, we are language teachers, aren’t we?

Why is pronunciation important?

Let’s start with looking at the importance of pronunciation.  To illustrate, let’s have a look at two different types of CLIL teachers:

  1. Teacher A: This teacher is great at pronunciation and fluency. His grammar is lacking, but he makes up for it with his easy way of talking with both students and teachers.
  2. Teacher B: This teacher is great at grammar and understand his subject really well. His pronunciation and fluency is lacking.

Which teacher do you think is considered a better teacher? Both by students and colleagues?

Actually, I can think of colleagues who fit in either category. Maybe you can as well.

In my opinion, pronunciation is vital for good communication.  Yet, when we focus on teaching English through CLIL, this might not be clear immediately.


Because that suggest teachers can (and maybe even have to) provide feedback on the pronunciation of students.

Which leads to the next question:

Do you have to pay attention to this?

Let’s look at this rationally:

  1. CLIL teachers are language teachers.
  2. Language teachers focus on a variety of language skills, including speaking
  3. Pronunciation is an important part of speaking a foreign language.

I would almost say: Q. E.D. These statements prove my point. However, providing (good) feedback requires:

  • knowledge of the language, sufficient to provide feedback
  • time

The common phrase “I don’t have time to do that” is also used in this context, which is a shame. I have also heard teachers say they did not feel secure enough about their own language skills to be able to provide feedback to the students.

Allow me to share some ideas to tackle these challenges:

Activity 1: Peer to peer feedback

I quite often ask students to present something in front of the classroom. Not just because I want them to improve their language or presentation skills, but also because I want to train the other students to provide feedback.

Whenever a student presents the solution to a problem, I ask a couple of students to pay attention to the language used and provide feedback. This is a bit scary for both the presenter and the students at first, but I noticed that over time they get used to it. And they sometimes even hear ‘mistakes’ I did not!

Activity 2: Correct the teacher

You probably know that rather not-very-funny teacher joke “I was just checking if you paid attention” whenever students find a mistake in your work.

I sincerely hope you do not use it that often.

However, we could actually do this on purpose and allow for our students to learn something language related.

Last week, I posed a few challenge problems for my students, all of the Mathematics related. However, after I introduced the three problems, I also mentioned there was a language mistake in one of the problems. I simply asked them to find it.

They immediately started looking for the mistake, and eventually it was a great learning moment for them as I taught them about a grammar rule.

I have to be honest, they also corrected another mistake I did not write on purpose, so that helped me to stay sharp as well.

Activity 3: Repeat after me

The last activity I often use when introducing new phrases that might be tricky to say is simply: Repeat after me. That way make them say tricky words like “Quadrilateral”, “Perimeter” or “Isosceles”. It might seem a bit childish, but I simply use it as a way to help them remember certain words.

Believe me, if students have to say these words on their own a couple of times, they will remember them better next time around.


I hope these activities and thoughts on pronunciation in CLIL motivate you to make this important element of language learning part of your lesson as well. As always, feel free to comment or respond!

And feel free to correct any mistakes in this post if you find them ;).

Illustration designed by jannoon028

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