Department of Linguistics University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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ESL 504

Dept/Number/Title:ESL 504 - English Pronunciation for International Teaching Assistants

Credit: 0 hours/0 units

Contact hours: 3 hours


  1. Permission of instructor is required.
  2. Those scoring a 45 or less on the SPEAK or TSE exam are eligible for ESL 504.
  3. Potential and current international teaching assistants required or recommended to take ESL 110/410 by the Illinois English Placement Test (EPT) may take ESL 504 instead.

Course contents: The objective of this course is to help current and potential teaching assistants who are not native speakers of English to achieve a readily intelligible English pronunciation. The information provided will enable these students to perceive, predict, and pronounce the sounds, rhythm, and melody of English at the word and phrase levels. It also prepares students to be independent self-learners, enabling them to evaluate and correct their own speech. ESL 504 focuses on students' overall proficiency in the general educated vocabulary of the university classroom and the register and lexicon of their own academic disciplines. Students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in simulated instruction.

Representative Syllabus

ESL 504 is a comprehensive course in American English pronunciation. A full range of topics at the sound, word, and phrase level are covered. The course is divided into three five-week segments. Each segment includes work at all three levels and culminates in student presentations (a five-minute mini-lecture on a beginning level topic in the student’s field of study). The mini-lectures are recorded and students are asked to evaluate their performance and to attend a teacher-student conference.

Commonly covered topics (the order of introduction may vary)

Sound-level topics: Vowel and consonant work is determined by student need, but the following sounds appear regularly: /l/, /r/, clusters, theta, eth, yogh, d-yogh, script a, open o, /iy/.

Word-level topics: word stress (alternations), predicting word stress according to word endings, compound constructions (compound nouns, compound numbers, names)

Phrase-level topics: message units, alternating rhythm, fast speech phenomena (linking and trimming), primary stress, intonation, and rhythm and intonation in specific discourse domains, such as various question types and comparison-contrasts.

Sample Syllabus

Week 1 Introduction to the course and diagnostic testing

Weeks 2-5 Various topics at the sound, word, and phrase level.
Assignment: Mini-lecture 1

Weeks 6-10 Various topics at the sound, word, and phrase level.
Assignment: Mini-lecture 2

Weeks 11-15 Various topics at the sound, word, and phrase level.
Assignment: Mini-lecture 3