Today, Angela, my wife of 14 years, set up our American Idol Encore 2 Nintendo Wii game by Karaoke Revolution. One of the first songs Angela sang was Sweet Escape, as you can watch by clicking here, by Gwen Stefani. During the song, Angela came to the most difficult and fast-moving lyrics of the song:
“Cause I’ve been acting like sour milk all on the floor
It’s your fault you didn’t shut the refrigerator
Maybe that’s the reason I’ve been acting so cold?”
Angela sang that and the rest of the lyrics flawlessly. With life-like graphics being displayed on our 50 inch Sony hi-def television, it was gut-busting fun: I was laughing and singing along, and baby Cade was swinging to the beat. American Idol Judges Randy gave Angela a nod of approval, Paula was dancing during the song, and Simon–well, he had a stone face during the song but didn’t boo her at the end, so I guess that meant he liked it.
Truly, we were in the moment, and I had almost forgotten about my TOEFL iBT Blog. However, it struck me, almost like a lightening bolt of inspiration from the sky: “if English learners played this game or a game like unto it, they could dramatically improve their pronunciation and hence get a much higher TOEFL iBT speaking score.” Most importantly, they would be able to talk like native speakers and have much clearer pronunciation.
Why do I think this? First, when you sing the song, you see the lyrics at the bottom of the screen, Second, using an effective technique called tracking, you sing the song at the same time as the singer. Third, you score points based on keeping up with the lyrics, having appropriate rising and falling pitch at various junctures of the song, lengthening and shortening syllables, and so on.
In a nutshell, this game indirectly teaches you every aspect of pronunciation that you need: vowel and consonant sounds, syllable division and grammatical word endings, sentence rhythm, word stress, intonation, thought groups, and blending. Additionally, you will intuitively learn the sound and spelling patterns of American English. Most importantly, after singing, you are scored on how well you sing the song, giving you valuable feedback about your pronunciation. A lower score means you need more practice, and a higher score means you are improving. Play this game a few weeks, and your pronunciation is sure to improve. And you will have a whole lot of fun!
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