Author: British Council | Published on 1 September 2022


One of the most important factors in pronunciation is the initial shape and then movement of the mouth. So the shape of your mouth before you start saying the sound, and how your mouth changes shape as you saying the sound are key to the correct pronunciation. Making sure learners are aware of this is an important part of helping with their pronunciation.  

Using the phonemic chart is useful as the design helps you see how the mouth changes. 

For example, when saying the words ‘eat’ or ‘feet’ which both have the vowel sound /i:/ The mouth is wide, like a smile and the lips are close together.

[illustration showing mouth position for /i:/]

For the sound in words like ‘bad’ and ‘cat’ with the sound /æ/ the mouth is still wide but the lips are more open.

[illustration showing mouth position for /vowel sound in the word ‘bad’/]

Making learners aware is one thing, but to help them say the sounds correctly they need to practise. 

Demonstrate the activity. Mime a sound with your mouth (but don’t say anything). For example:

bread [illustration showing shape of the mouth for /e/]

four [illustration showing the shape of the mouth for /phonemic symbol for the vowel sound in ‘four’]

wet [illustration showing shape for /w/]

vet [illustration showing shape for /v/]

and say ‘What’s the sound?’ 

Put learners in groups and get them to take turns miming sounds.   


Aware: To know that something exists or is happening.

Demonstrate: To show and explain how learners should do a task. 

Initial: At the beginning.

Mime: Using movements of your hands or body to tell a story or communicate a message.

Phonemic chart: A diagram which presents all 44 sounds (phonemes) of English is a logical and straightforward way.

See also