Ayako joins an Online TOEFL Course to improve her speaking and pronunciation proficiency.

Like many students who join a TOEFL Online Course called “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT,”  Ayako is not actually interested in improving her TOEFL score. In fact, she has already met the requirements at UC Berkeley, where she plans on completing her graduate studies.  Instead, she is interested in improving her intelligibility of American English; that is to say, she wishes to speak clearly enough so that native speakers can understand what she is saying. She is not in Japan anymore, and everyone with whom she is hanging around needs to understand her.

The first thing that Ayako did after joining her Online TOEFL Course was to join Michael’s Voxopop Discussion Group. Becoming part of this groups allowed Ayako to complete her pronunciation pre-tests and post-test so that her TOEFL speaking and pronunciation mentor could listen to, evaluate, and even recommend specific pronunciation lessons on which she should focus to get better.

The second thing Ayako did was to record her first pronunciation pre-test so that her TOEFL pronunciation and speaking mentor could evaluate her vowel and consonant sounds. After all, speaking Japanese as a first language, Ayako was having trouble getting used to the new vowel and consonant sounds of American English.

The third thing Ayako did was to listen to her pronunciation mentor’s suggestions and then begin studying the recommended lessons.  Moreover, at the end of each of her lessons, Ayako recorded two self-study exercises designed to help her practice the targeted sounds in her lessons.  The whole process–studying the pronunciation lessons, completing the self-study exercises, and getting additional feedback from her pronunciation and speaking mentor–covered 50 hours of instruction.

Finally, after Ayako had studied all the lessons relating to the vowel and consonant sounds,  she completed her second pre-test so that she could have her pronunciation evaluated in the following areas: syllable division, grammatical word endings, word stress, sentence rhythm, word stress, intonation, thought groups (pausing), and blending. Like the last pre-test, Ayako’s TOEFL speaking and pronunciation mentor listened to, evaluated, and recommended lessons to help improve her pronunciation. Ayako was not surprised to find out that she had a lot of difficulties with intonation because her first language is a monotone language unlike English, which is characterized by varying tones.

Well, despite her pronunciation challenges, at least Ayako knew how to solve those problems and her mentor, who has an MA TESOL Degree with more than 18 years of teaching experience, was well-qualified to coach her so that she has near-native speaking and pronunciation proficiency of American English.

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