YouGlish Helps ESL Students Improve Their English Pronunciation

YouGlish is an excellent website for ESL students and everyone else interested in learning English pronunciation. The way YouGlish works is simple and easy: you type in the word you want pronounced and hit ‘Say it’. YouGlish returns videos where the word is spoken in real communicative situations.

 As a multilingual educator and a former EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher, I know exactly how hard English pronunciation is. It is probably one of the most difficult features in English language learning. This was the case for my students and it was also the case for me. When I first started learning English in the mid 90s of last century, I used to spend a huge amount of time exposing my ears to Spoken English by listening to or watching BBC, CNN, and few other English channels that were available on my parent’s Satellite dish. Back then there was no Internet or YouTube. 

However, as I majored in English linguistics in university, the first course I took was phonetic transcription and I learned how words are phonetically transcribed.  From then on, every time I check the dictionary for the definition of a word I alway make sure I check the phonetic transcription of the word as well. Because English pronunciation (and intonation) is inconsistent and unpredictable (e.g., touch, enough, but though), I believe that phonetic transcription is key to English language learning. 

There are tons of web tools and mobile apps to help students improve their English pronunciation. One basic tool I  use almost on a daily basis is Google Dictionary. Just type in Define+ word (e.g., define avocado) and click on the Listen icon to hear the word spoken out loud.

YouGlish pronunciation

Alternatively, you can type in ‘how to say+word’ (e.g.,how to say avocado) in Google search box then click on the listen icon next to the phonetic transcription of the word. You can switch between American and British pronunciation ‘at the top of the pronunciation result’.

YouGlish pronunciation

The cool thing about YouGlish is that it provides several pronunciation types or English accents. You can choose among Canadian English, American English, Australian English, British English, Scottish English, Irish English, and New Zealand English. Or, you can choose ‘All’ to access all of these prunications. 

Another great feature that will help English language learners and especially ESL students is the fact that pronounced words are included in real language usage and not artificial language situations. In this way, students will not only learn the correct way to say a word but will also learn more about the context(s) in which the word is used. 

Learning the pronunciation of words is one thing and learning how these words are used in authentic conversations is another thing. Learning the pragmatics of language usage is just as important, if not more important, than learning stylistics and syntax. But this discussion is beyond the scope of this post, may I will cover it in a future post.

YouGlish also provides real time captions of shared videos coupled with the option to click on any word that appears in the caption to view its definition. In fact, the definition feature in YouGlish is excellent. When you click on a word you will get its lexical and syntactic definition, its synonyms, examples of usages from the web, and the ability to translate it to different languages. 

YouGlish English  pronunciation

ESL students can also use the Record button under the video to record themselves saying the word then they can download their pronunciation and share it with their teachers, parents, or peers. They cal also listen to it themselves and compare with native speakers pronunciation and see their mistakes. When it comes to learning nothing beats practice, and the recording functionality in YouGlish is definitely a great feature to use to this end.

YouGlish English  pronunciation

When you scroll down YouGlish pronunciation page, you will see ‘Nearby words’ which is a collection of suggested words that have more or less similar pronunciation to the word you searched for (e.g.,  homophones). Practicing these words is meant to help students improve their pronunciation of the word they searched for. 

In the Phonetic section, students learn about how the word is transcribed in English and at the bottom of the page YouGlish provides tips to help ESL students and language learners perfect their pronunciation of words. 

For instance, when I searched for the pronunciation of Avocado, YouGlish returned over 2000 YouTube clips where the word Avocado is pronounced. 

YouGlish English  pronunciation

It also provided me with a collection of nearby words to help practice the pronunciation of avocado

YouGlish English  pronunciation

In the section on tips to improve your English pronunciation, YouGlish shared a number of key strategies to help with learning the pronunciation of ‘Avocado’. These include: break the word into sounds, focus on the accent, record yourself saying the word, work on intonation and many more.

All in all, YouGlish is  a great web tool to use with your ESL students and in your language learning classes. It will definitely help students improve their pronunciation skills and become better language learners.

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