Publication Details

Playsted, S & Burri, M 2021, ‘The vowel matrix: enhancing literacy development through an innovative approach to teaching pronunciation’, English Australia Journal: the Australian journal of English language teaching, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 32-44.

Link to publisher version (URL)

English Australia Journal


The development of effective oral communication skills is a high priority for beginner-level, adult English language learners, and clear pronunciation is an essential part of this development. The perception and production of English vowel sounds can be a particularly challenging area of pronunciation for beginner-level learners. If adult learners are also preliterate, this aspect of pronunciation may require explicit teaching, as phonological awareness can be linked to literacy development. However, relatively little has been documented on teaching pronunciation to lower-level proficiency learners. Inspired by haptic (movement + touch) pronunciation instruction, this paper describes the Vowel Matrix, an innovative means used to teach aspects of pronunciation to a class of preliterate adult learners from Arabic- speaking backgrounds in Australia. We discuss how the Vowel Matrix can support learners’ literacy development by drawing their awareness to short vowel sounds in newly learned vocabulary using gesture, movement, and touch. Following this, practical teaching suggestions are made to enhance literacy development.