Poetry Festival

Today we finished Adrian Underhill’s two-week course, ‘Pronunciation, Performance and Poetry‘. Everyone had a poem they’d chosen and had been working on over the last week, crafting the stress, pauses and intonation. One student, Lauretta, made a poster, found a performance background image and compered the event. Everyone performed. It was a beautiful way to finish the course. Continue reading

De-mystifying the Phonemic Chart

When I started teaching the chart seemed practically incomprehensible to me. Even as I grew to understand it (and Adrian Underhill’s layout is the only one that seems to make sense) it felt like a great cognitive load to place on students (‘Think English spelling is hard? Now learn all these symbols!’). The DELTA, if anything, made it seem less accessible (unvoiced bilabial plosive, anyone?).

Adrian Underhill, though, strips all that away through use of gesture and mime, by focusing on the chart as a ‘geographical map’ of the mouth which helps locate the physical movements we make in production, using simple prepositions of place to describe movement. Continue reading

Performance: Humanizing the Classroom

On this course with Adrian Underhill we are preparing a poetry festival for the last class. Each day we start each session with a poem read by Adrian or another student.

I confess when I first read this on the course description I was a little wary. I love poetry but was unsure about its place in the classroom. It appeared to me perhaps as a bit of a throwback to those 70s EFL texts I was so obsessed with when I started out as an idealistic 19 year old – Mario Rinvolucri, Pilgrim’s, NLP in the classroom etc. All these years on I guess I’ve become more cynical and jaded.

Continue reading

Knowing and knowing

Two kinds of knowing:

‘Knowing’ as in a cognitive, intellectual knowledge.


‘Knowing’ as in ‘knowing in your bones’, ‘lived experience’ perhaps, or realization.

Adrian Underhill offers a neurological term: ‘proprioception’ to contrast with cognitive knowing in pronunciation. Proprioception is a perception and awareness of the position and movement of the body. This kind of knowing we can only learn from physical practice. And it is this kind of knowing which will release a learner from the habits of the L1. Continue reading

CPD Course 1: Pronunciation with Adrian Underhill

I’m in the first week of a 2-week course with Adrian Underhill! Although I’ve read his book and various articles, and watched his workshops online, it is a different experience working with the man himself. As if I’d had a sketch and he’s added shading and colour. He is a generous, humanistic teacher who answers all our questions thoughtfully. Continue reading