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Top Tips for the CD-ROM
Use SoundSearch to explore pronunciation and spelling
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onestopenglish.com

 

Top Tips for the CD-ROM
Using SoundSearch to explore the relationship between sound and spelling

by
Jane Bottomley

The SoundSearch tool of the Macmillan English Dictionary CD-ROM allows you to search for words by the way they sound. This tool is ideal for practising pronunciation and raising students’ awareness of the relationship between sound and spelling in English. In this issue of the magazine I will give you tips on how you can search for and practise diphthongs and vowels using SoundSearch.

1 Diphthongs

Diphthongs are amongst the most difficult sounds for learners of English, not least because each diphthong can be spelt in a variety of ways.

Tip

  • Students can use SoundSearch to find examples of the different spellings in preparation for, or as a follow-up to a lesson.

  • Teachers can use SoundSearch to find examples of the different spellings for use in the classroom and in worksheets.

Using the one-symbol wildcard (?)

  1. Click on SoundSearch on the title bar.

  2. Select the diphthong you want to work on and click on this.

  3. Use the one-symbol wildcard (?) before the phoneme, or before and after the phoneme, in order to restrict the search. Diphthong + ? is less productive but worth a look for some phonemes. For example, insert ?? in the search box and click on Go.

This search generates the following range of spellings:

beaux boat bode
both bowl doughy
folk gauche goes
kohl sewn

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Using the multi-symbol wildcard (*)

The multi-symbol wildcard (*) can be used, especially with the less productive diphthongs such as // and // but the single-symbol wildcard isolates the spelling combinations more clearly by restricting the search to mostly monosyllabic words.

Tip

  • Students can use SoundSearch to find, if they can, more examples of each spelling, noting which are the most productive, and which one-offs.

  • This type of wildcard search also works well with long vowels.

2 Creating activities

SoundSearch, using wildcards as above, is an efficient way to find examples when creating your own activities. The exercises below practise a range of vowels and diphthongs, with examples selected from lists generated by the wildcard searches outlined above, but teachers could base activities on sounds that their students find particularly tricky. Students can also use this facility to check their answers.

Contractions cause particular problems, with students attempting to insert an r, instead of forming a diphthong. The third activity pays special attention to this.

A Which sound?

Aim: To practise the pronunciation and spelling of diphthongs.

Activity: Students have to match words with the correct diphthongs.

See the activity and the answers.

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B Odd man out

Aim: To practise the pronunciation and spelling of vowels and diphthongs.

Activity: Students work in pairs and find the word that doesn’t rhyme with the others.

See the activity and the answers.

 

C Rhyming pairs

Aim: To practise the pronunciation and spelling of vowels and diphthongs.

Activity: Students have to match pairs of words that rhyme.

See the activity and the answers.

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