Teaching pronunciation using jazz chants

Carol Graham trains teachers how to use jazz chants to teach pronunciation. They’re great energizers and get learners speaking faster than they can think – one of the elements of fluency.

I’ll be doing some jazz chants in the telephoning part of a compact course next week, first giving them some jazz chant minis (see below), and then having them notice stress patterns as we start using each phrase (i.e. finding the onset and tonic syllables, trying out how the meaning changes when patterns change). Carol Graham says it’s very difficult for non-native speakers to put together jazz chants, so if they do discover rhythm patterns on their own, going as far as making their own chants, that’s very impressive.  Anyway, I’ll give them short chants, like these:

  • Hold on, __ I’ll put you through. OK, I’ll get back to you.
  • I’ll fax it to you. I’ll give you a call. I’ll call you right back. No, I’ll wait for your call.
  • Let me see if he’s in. I think he’s gone out. He’ll be back at 1. Shall I have him call you?
  • I’ll make sure she gets your message. Let me see what I can do. I’ll make sure she calls you back. Let me read that back to you.

I like having learners get up and clap their hands or snap their fingers, or do arm movements to go with these.

Vicki Hollett recently made a lovely jazz chant video that includes karaoke, for the language of making appointments here.


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Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

2 thoughts on “Teaching pronunciation using jazz chants”

  1. Oh, many thanks for the link, Anne and so glad you liked the video. I’m hoping to make some more.
    I hadn’t seen these videos with Carloyn Graham and loved them. Inspiring!

  2. I really hope you do. I like the “Warning!” one I linked to – it’s a dialogue! :)
    PS: Oh, and Vicki, I’m rather confused by something:
    I really like jazz chants for their ability to show English as a rhythmic language (to show “stress timing” as opposed to “syllable timing” in French). Now, Jennifer Jenkins in her article “Community, Currency and the Lingua Franca Core” says that stress timing “does not exist except in nursery rhymes, poetry and the like. It is impossible to speak in a stress-timed manner in conversational speech while attention is focussed on meaning.” I really think she is mistaken. There seem to me to be many phrases that we use without needing to focus our attention on meaning, set phrases that perform essential functions in discourse and certainly do have a strong rhythm. “How are you doing?” comes with its rhythm, as do standard telephone phrases like “Hang on, I’ll put you through” or “would you like to leave a message?” These are the kinds of phrases I’d use in jazz chants. But Carol Graham’s jazz chants go far beyond such set phrases.
    Yet another difference between American and British English, this stronger rhythmic element?

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