Thursday, August 29, 2013


Elision with Jokes

I love bringing some humor into the classroom. Too often do students equate English with boring grammar they only use in the classroom. Jokes have a way of making things more fun and these jokes help them sound more natural when they speak (a great plus for many students)

You can use any sort of jokes when teaching. Some prefer longer jokes so they can interact with more text (verbs, vocabulary, etc.).

Since this blog is for the 34th ELT Blog Carnival it will focus on using blog posts for pronunciation. With pronunciation I prefer using shorter jokes so the students don't need to understand or follow a longer sequence. They can hear the unexpected answer and react almost instantly. This instant satisfaction makes learning jokes (or puns) fun.

I think jokes can be used for many many different things, but this post will point out specific jokes we can use to highlight elision in English language speakers. 

Elision- happens often in English speech. In short, this is when we lose a sound to make it easier for us to talk. I think (and this has no merit at all) one of the most common elisions is when we drop the H.

  • So, let's check out these examples where we drop the H  
  • I suppose that is what an elephino would look like
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Ada. Ada Who? Ada bad dream last night. (HAD a bad dream.) 
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Adder. Adder who? Adder lot for lunch, so I am not hungry now. (HAD a lot. In this case we also see a shwa ə make an appearance)Knock Knock. Who’s there? Ooze. Ooze who? Ooze in charge around here? (WHO’s in Charge?)
    • How does the moon cut his hair? Eclipse it. (HE clips it)
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Betty. Betty who? Betty has friends who don’t make him stand outside! (Bet HE has friends.)
  • It's OK if you hate knock knock jokes, we can use other ones too!
    • What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhino? Elephino. (HELL if I know)
    • How do fleas travel? They itch-hike. (HITCH-hike)
Even though I favor examples of dropping the H sound, there are a lot of jokes that drop other sounds.
  • We drop A
    • What did one ball say to the other hand? Nothing he just looked round. (around)
  • We drop D
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Stand. Stan who? Stan away from the door I’m kicking it open. (Stand)
  • We drop T
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Juana. Juana who? Juana go to the mall with me?
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Iris. Iris who? Iris my case; I just can’t explain any more.
    • Who do vampires tend to fall in love with? The girl necks door.
  • We drop the Y
    • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Canoe. Canoe who? Canoe lend me some money I missed the bus and need to take a taxi. 
You can use jokes to teach more than one pronunciation concept as well. I'll be doing another post soon about catenation and jokes, but for now just know that catenaton is when one word merges with another word. These are jokes that have Catenation and Elision at once:
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Alison. Alison who? Alison to all sorts of music, and you?
    • We drop the /t/ in I listen and combine the two words.
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Thermos. Thermos who? Thermos be a better punch line than this!
    • We drop the /t/ in must and combine There and must.
  • Knock Knock. Who’s there? Howl. Howl who? Howl you know unless you let me in?
    • We drop the vowel in "will" and combine How and l.
  • When does a horse talk? Whinny wants to.
    • Here we drop the /h/ in he and combine Whenn and e together to make whinny. (Note: This is one of those jokes where you may want to pre-teach the vocabulary first (that a whinny is a sound a horse makes) otherwise your students probably won't find it so funny.) 
So the next time you roll your eyes at a silly pun or knock knock joke. Stop. Think about what it is manipulating in the English language and how you could use that with your students.

I'd love to know if you've ever used jokes in your class to work on pronunciation, or what your favorite joke is! Just drop a note in the comments :-)

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