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The Importance of HVPT

Being able to hear the sounds of a second language is important, right?


For listening, pronunciation, and phonics!!


I mean, how can you teach phonics, which is the correspondence between sounds and letters, if the students cannot distinguish all the sounds?


And, how do you teach the sounds to students who cannot distinguish them?


Use  High Variability Phonetic Training. HVPT


This is just a fancy name for minimal pairs on steroids spoken by a numerous people. If you want to learn about it, I suggest:


“High Variability Phonetic Training as a Bridge From Research to Practice” from the CATESOL Journal, Jan. 2018. Written by Barriuso and Hayes-Harb, it will tell you what you need to know about HVPT. Find it here:


The article starts with the history of HVPT and describes the  groundbreaking study, Logan, Lively, and Pisoni (1991) which discovered that minimal pairs with several voices are more effective than those with only one voice.


So the idea is simply to make the sounds salient, exaggerate them so the learner can hear  them and do this with several voices. THIS IS THE PROVEN WAY TO TEACH THE DIFFICULT SOUNDS.


And it can improve pronunciation. From Barriuso and Hayes-Harb:


Of crucial importance is the question of whether perceptual learning via HVPT results in more target like pronunciation. Bradlow, Pisoni, Akahane-Yamada, and Tohkura (1997) studied whether HVPT that did not involve explicit pronunciation training resulted in better pronunciation … The results showed that native English speakers not only strongly preferred the posttest pronunciations of trained participants, but they were also significantly more accurate in their identification of posttest productions.


Barriuso and Hayes-Harb concludes with this: HVPT… has great potential to help language learners form robust L2 sound categories with minimal extra effort on the part of the teacher …


Use it as homework. You can assign, or suggest, the “free practice” at


Contrast, exaggeration, numerous voices… that is what b4 does.

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