While reading aloud is one practical way for a novice or child to improve one's spoken English, it is not the only way to become a competent speaker of English, Mandarin or other languages (Reading aloud a good way to learn language, by Dr Thomas Lee Hock Seng, Oct 25).
One must also frequently listen to good speakers of the language.
The mind must be exposed to speech sounds that are clear and correctly pronounced and articulated. Therefore parents and teachers must communicate in such a way that their speech sounds are clear and distinct.
The school must also check and correct commonly mispronounced words. Otherwise, children may end up speaking the language in a "flawed or slovenly" manner.
It would be a good idea for primary schools to have two or more periods a week for children, especially those in the lower primary levels, to listen to recorded readings of story books and passages.
Being consciously exposed to good speakers is one sure way for children to assimilate and internalise their speech competencies.
Many adults may not be aware that one can listen to good spoken English online. It is equally important that children should be taught how to properly pronounce everyday words that are often mispronounced.
To sum up, learning new words (vocabulary) and active listening during English lessons can go a long way to enable a child or adult learner to speak with greater confidence and competence if one consciously listens to good speakers.
It is a long haul and perhaps more marks should be allocated to the oral section of national exams. That should give parents and teachers incentive to pay more attention to pronunciations.
Tan Teck Huat