Pronunciation-based Listening Exercises

pronunciation-based listening exercises


MINIMAL PAIRS (e.g. bet/bat or very/ferry)

1. Minimal pairs, identification: student sees a written pair; identifies which the teacher (or recording) says

2. Minimal pairs, discrimination: hear two words; tell if they are identical, or a minimal pair (do vowels and also consonants, e.g, ch/sh using chair, share, sheet, cheat, sheet, sherry, cherry, watch, wash

3. Minimal pairs, isolation: hear 4 words, in which 3 are identical and 1 is the minimal partner (bit, beat, beat, beat). identify the different one.

4. Minimal pairs, sort: given a set of models (e.g. beat, bit, bait, bet, bat), sort new words into matching vowel sounds and add to column below model word. put “mit” under “bit”; “sheet” under “beat”, etc.

5. Minimal pair sentences: see two minimal pair sentences, e.g. John bit the dog. John beat the dog. Listen to teacher and say which sentence was spoken.

He wants to sell/sail his boat. Show me your bag/back. He loves sweet yams/jams.

Source for examples: Gilbert, J.B. 1984. Clear Speech, Pronunciation and Listening Comprehension in American English., Cambridge Univ Press   Another source: Manual of American Pronunciation, by Prator and Robinett.

6. Picture identification: provided with pictures of minimal pair objects, listen and respond to directions using the words. Circle the pen. Put a line under the pin. etc.


1. SCHWA identification: students see a list of two syllable words, and listen to teacher read them, then cross out the schwa/reduced vowel.

2. STRESS identification: teacher says polysyllabic words in random order and students write the word in a column headed by first/second/third stress. E.g teacher says music, and students write it in the FIRST SYLL STRESS column. Musician goes in Second Syll Stress column. Sympathetic goes in 3rd Syllable Stress column. etc.

3. STRESS discrimination: teacher gives student list of PAIRS of polysyllabic words, who indicate whether they have the same stressed syllable, or different. e.g. purpose/prevent=different; possible/vegetable=same.


1. REDUCTION identification: Telegram Speech (prerequisite-understand difference between content vs. function words.) Teacher provides full-text 2-3 sentence note. Students create shortest possible telegram. Then have them reconstitute the note and read it, adding pitch change and vowel reductions to function words.

2. REDUCTION identification: teacher provides sentences comprised of content words only, and students must fill in the function words.

prepositions: come (for) tea (at) four.

articles: (the) bus was late. Give me (an) apple.

modals/aux: They (have) (been) running for 10 minutes.

conjunctions: he seems tired (but) happy.

pronouns: give (him) the boot. give (her) a break.

3. SENTENCE STRESS: teacher reads a list of sentences aloud; students indicate which words are stressed and which are not.

4. INFERENCE discrimination of intent: teacher says a sentence with +/- reduced function word, and student must respond correctly:

T: Mary (can/can’t) speak French well.

ST: a. Where did she learn French?

ST b. She should take a French course.

5. WORD COUNTING Teacher provides a highly reduced sentence, then gradually adds more information until students can correctly identify all the words in the sentence.

Whenjacum? > When didja come? > When didya come? > When did you come?

when dye wanna go?

Ja know whatcha gonna do?


1. Final rising intonation-recognition and response: teacher speaks short declarative sentences, varying intonation so sometimes they’re statements and sometimes they’re yes/no questions. e.g. You’re coming. Students show pitch drop with hands, but respond with answers if they hear a pitch rise.

2. Non-final rising intonation recognition: prepare lists and take turns reading them, showing continuous pitch rise on list items until the last one, which drops.

3. Tag questions—recognition and response: discuss tag questions used in social small talk.

a. stating a fact, i.e. expecting an affirmative response, with falling intonation    (It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?)

b. genuine request for information, with rising intonation (You’re not hungry, are you?)