English Pronunciation: Improving with Nursery Rhymes

Published: 24th September 2009
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How can children's nursery rhymes help adults improve their pronunciation of English? For some of the same reasons they help English-speaking children learn the rhythms and rhyming patterns of their first language.

Nursery rhymes draw children's attention to important features of language, and have been demonstrated to help children learn the rhythms and intonation patterns of English pronunciation. They also help children learn to articulate different sounds because they often use repetition within the nursery rhyme.

While adults learn language differently from the ways that children do, learning and repeating nursery rhymes can still be of great benefit to adult learners of English. Nursery rhymes provide short chunks of language that can be easily learned and repeated. They provide a manageable piece of connected language for practice and review. In addition, nursery rhymes provide access to a part of English speaking culture that is shared across countries. As there are many references to nursery rhyme characters, having knowledge of the more common rhymes gives English-language learners insight into an important part of the culture, and pronunciation.

Another advantage of nursery rhymes is that they are very easy to find. Any bookstore that carries English books for children will almost certainly have some kind of collection of nursery rhymes. English public libraries have many different versions of the familiar rhymes, and an internet search of "nursery rhymes" or "Mother Goose" will bring up many useful links. Some of these will have audio files so that adults can listen and repeat the rhymes. YouTube even has a series of American English pronunciation lessons for ESL learners based on nursery rhymes.

It's clear that nursery rhymes are not just for children! They are an effective way for English learners to improve their pronunciation.

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