PRONUNCIATION and SPEECH SOUNDS

3423700788?profile=RESIZE_710xEnglish Sound System

A learner’s effort to master the pronunciation of English words could be hampered if there is no proper understanding about the English Sound System”, if you ask me!
 
You may argue that there are other factors which are the real obstacles in accomplishing this quest, for example…
      
         2346286114?profile=original  Mother tongue influence,           
         2346286114?profile=original  The ineffectiveness of the English syllabus used in schools
         2346286114?profile=original  Lack of opportunity to speak in the language,           
         2346286114?profile=original  The perception of the local community towards the usage of a foreign Language

               (English), etc. 

Though you are absolutely right,  don’t  you think we have  been talking for too long  about these, the so called  “problems”?  My  view about the issue is completely  contrary.  We  already  know what  the  problems  are!  What we  actually need now is a solution!  Not  any solution  but  THE SOLUTION that works,.which is learning the “English Sound System”..If you are serious to work on your pronunciation, the study of English Sound System is your best bet!  

I  am sure you will agree with me that  “correct.pronunciation is important when we speak. But how can we know just,  which is correct pronunciation?  (Let  us not  forget  that  English can be spoken in a variety of accents.)  A .foreign  learner,  to  whom  English is perhaps only a second language,  wants .to learn  a type of  pronunciation  which  has  been  widely  accepted  wherever English is spoken. Is there such a type that is understood not only by fellow countrymen, but also rest of the world…? 

The answer is,  “Yes there is!”  The accent of  Standard British English  which best fulfils this requirement  is  known  as “Received  Pronunciation” or .RP” in  short.  It  shows  no  regional variation. .It is worth .learning  this  accent  as  almost all  the dictionaries use it as  the  standard pronunciation for their headwords. 

Now I know which accent could work for me.  What’s  next?,  I could  hear you  asking this question!  Well, like many other languages, .English is a method of human communication that consists of WORDS.  So, it goes without saying,  the  basic units that make up words  should be the area of focus

As  matter of  fact, only  two kinds of information  are  needed .if a word is to be appropriately pronounced.
.
       1)  We need to know about the individual sounds that make up the word.

        2)  We need to know about stress on that particular word or syllable.

Let 's look at  “WORDS”  in general first!  (I’ll talk about the stress  some other time  if  I get .the chance.)  As we all know,  English  Language can be divided into  two forms: .Written  English and Spoken English. In both cases we use WORDS to relate our thoughts. But do you know the difference between the words in Writing and Speech? .If you want to know what MY ANSWER is, I’m afraid we have to get back to basics! 

WRITTEN WORDS

Written  words  are  made  up  of  letters.  There are  26 letters  in English. This set of letters is known as the “English Alphabet”.   

If you want a word to be  written correctly,  you must know the. individual letters that make up that particular word. For example, the letters *h - i - r - s - t (arranged in alphabetical order) are used to form the word “shirt”.  Can we use the same letters but in a different order, “tirsh” or “risht”, as we like and still call it shirt?  Of  course,  we can’t!  Instead,  we must follow the rules;  each word should be written using the right letters, in a specific order! 

Now,  who tells us what the  right  letters  are and which is that  specific order?  The “spelling” does! Thus, if you know your spelling, you will not go wrong with your written words    

SPOKEN WORDS

Unlike written words, spoken words are made up of small units of sounds. There are 44 sounds in  British  English  speech. This  group  of  sounds  (also  known  as  phonemes)  is  called  thephonetic sounds”. I am sure you would have heard about it! 

If you want a word to be pronounced correctly, you must know the individual sounds that make up the word. For example, when the wordshirt” is pronounced, we will not hear the names of the *letters at all but a combination of sounds, instead: /ʃɜ:t -- / ʃ, ɜ:, t/ --  /ʃɜ:t/.  If you are curious to know what these symbols are, they represent the speech sounds that make up the spoken word “shirt”! Such symbols are called the “phonetic symbols”.

Now, who tells us what are the speech sounds that make up each word?  The “dictionary” does! Thus, if you know how to read the phonetic spelling, you will not go wrong with your spoken words.   

I encourage every non-native speaker of English, who has been struggling desperately, to learn the speech sounds and their corresponding symbols to arrest his/her pronunciation issue once and for all. 

Written Words  vs  Spoken Words 

To recapitulate briefly, the predominant difference between written words and spoken words is what they are made up of: written words are made up of letters, whereas spoken words are made up of small units of sounds or phonemes. 

                                written word        spoken word

                       shirt                    /ʃɜ:t/

                        (normal spelling)    (phonetic spelling)                                          

                                5 letters                3 phonemes

Once your mind is clear about this, make an effort to learn the phonemes and you will be pleasantly surprised to see how things start to fall in place. Good luck!  

~* GS *~

Originally posted on 12 September, 2011 as a blog. Now I'm sharing it here!

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