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  1. #1
    javier1 is offline Newbie
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    Default The Phonetic Alphabet

    Hello,

    I am reading here that the phonetic alphabet is very useful in teaching pronunciation to beginners, however I can't seem to get my head around it, I just don't understand it, what is the general consensus on this, is it being taught or not?
    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: The Phonetic Alphabet

    I don't think there is any consensus. It seems to me that not many native speaking teachers use it. That's a pity in many ways, in my opinion, because it's a very useful tool. It takes the average native speaker less than an hour to be able to recognise the English phonemes , and not a great deal longer to be able to use them with a reasonable degree of confidence.

    I don't think that many of those of us who use it actually teach the phonetic alphabet. We use it. Those learners who are not already familiar with it soon pick up the ability to read it, and they recognise its value. Learners don't normally have to write it from memory. They may copy it if they keep lists of new words and phraases.

  3. #3
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: The Phonetic Alphabet

    But there are plenty who don't teach/use it.

  4. #4
    Esgaleth's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Phonetic Alphabet

    Some believe this could be fun to have for vocabulary activities, like grouping and organising.

  5. #5
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    konungursvia is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: The Phonetic Alphabet

    I think it's very useful, especially when teaching people who aren't familiar with the sounds of English. The trick is to learn/teach them no more than 3 symbols/ sounds per day.

  6. #6
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Phonetic Alphabet

    Some teachers I have observed, particularly non-native speakers, have used the IPA most creatively in activities, and the learners have benefited.

    Personal opinion only:

    Whilst I have used IPA in most of the lessons in which I have had occasion to write on the board, I am wary about placing too much emphasis on 'teaching' it to students who use the Roman alphabet in their own language. I see my job as a teacher as enabling students to use the language (sorry about the platitude) for the purpose for which they need/wish to use it. I see no value at all in burdening learners with grammar rules, mastery of the IPA, labels for grammatical structures or parts of speech as ends in themselves, though acquaintance with some of these may help some students learn to use the language effectively.

    I have asked learners to "listen to this recording, and underline the schwa sounds in the italicised words in this written version of the passage." I have devised activities for , for example /p/ - /b/ discrimination for English learners of Czech and Czech learners of English, for /l/ - /n/ - /r/ discrimination for Chinese learners of English, and for /y/ - /u/ discrimination for English learners of French. I have done this only to help the learners hear the different sounds and produce them accurately, not to help them learn the IPA symbols. I have never asked learners to transcribe words phonemically or to read phonemic transcription, though I have with trainee teachers.

    When I have taught learners who have used either Arabic or Chinese script (my only two experiences of teaching learners whose written language does not use the Roman alphabet), I have taught them to read and use the English phonemic symbols. The benefits they appear to gain from this outweigh, for me, the disadvantages of an additional learning burden.


    ps. I use different techniques depending on the learning styles of the learners I am working with. One thing is sure, however: every learner I have worked with since my return to ELT nearly fifteen years ago knows the word 'schwa' and the symbol /ə/

  7. #7
    konungursvia's Avatar
    konungursvia is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: The Phonetic Alphabet

    I don't entirely agree. For me the first job of the language teacher is to propel the students into a world of speaking and listening; but people raised in a different language which doesn't share the sounds of English are actually quite deaf to the subtleties of English; it's like choosing to teach over the phone (with bad audio quality) when the person is in the next room and can be approached by opening a door.

    They can't hear what they don't expect to hear, in other words. An effort to become aware of the phonology of the language is the a priori condition that opens the door to the study of that language (except in children, who can hear strange and unfamiliar phonemes).

    If it will take your students 3 years to notice that "sat" and "set" are not the same, it's worth taking 2 to 3 weeks to study the phonetics, through games in my view.

  8. #8
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Phonetic Alphabet

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    If it will take your students 3 years to notice that "sat" and "set" are not the same, it's worth taking 2 to 3 weeks to study the phonetics, through games in my view.


    I over-simplified in my post(s).

  9. #9
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: The Phonetic Alphabet

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I don't think there is any consensus. It seems to me that not many native speaking teachers use it. That's a pity in many ways, in my opinion, because it's a very useful tool. ...
    I'm afraid many native speaker teachers feel that all they have to do is speak, and 'what they say goes'.

    b

  10. #10
    Teacher Judy is offline Newbie
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    Post Re: The Phonetic Alphabet

    I believe it is important for learners be able to identify and create the individual sounds of English (among other things)
    I used to teach IPA but the students found it too confusing so I developed a simple new phonetic alphabet called the English Phonetic Alphabet (EPA). It uses only keyboard symbols and the best part is the vowels. By happy coincidence the names of the colors in English contain one vowel sound. Students remember vocabulary by color:
    /Ay/ is Gray - made, great, eight, rain, hey...
    /a/ is Black - mad, calf, laugh, plaid...
    /Ey is Green - we, feet, meat, piece, people, ski...
    /e/ is Red - bed, head, said, guess, friend...

    It's magic. ("sat" is Black and "set" is Red)

    Students dont have to rely on crazy English spelling to figure out and remember how every word in English is supposed to sound. Their confidence goes way up. EPA works for all levels of students and it takes teachers about 10 minutes to learn.

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