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The Phonology of English and the Phonemic Script

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Describe a pronunciation problem you had in learning a foreign language. How did you overcome that difficulty? What did your teacher do to help you with pronunciation?

Explain why the English alphabet alone is not a very good guide to the pronunciation of English. Give examples (beyond what you may have seen here).

What are some of the advantages of using the Phonetic Chart in class to help your students with their pronunciation problems?

Describe a specific student/teacher interaction in which it would be used.

When I learnt French I had quite a few pronunciation problems. I would listen to how the teacher would pronounce a word and try to copy the teacher. Practice made perfect in pronouncing the word. Nasal vowels were challenging and I would push air though the nose and mouth and it sounded like I had a stuffy nose! The trickiest were the silent letters for e.g. letters m and n are usually silent however, they cause the vowel preceding them to be nasal. French is not a phonetic language and so they have letters that can be pronounced in different ways and sometimes not at all. My teacher would let us listen to a recording of two people speaking and we would hear how they pronounce words as well as writing and listening exercises to help us with spelling and the meaning of words. This helped me tremendously, after a few weeks my pronunciation was one of the best in class.

My weakest part of learning the language at one point was writing and I overcame that difficulty by reading some passages and articles in French that started off as simple conversational passages and articles relating to various contexts such as learning how to order food in a restaurant. I then progressively read tougher articles. It gave me a confidence boost especially when we had to do a mock template for a hotel reservation by email. The English alphabet alone is not a very good guide to the pronunciation of English because English is not a phonetic language. We do not always have to pronounce the word the same way it is spelled. For instance, the words read and read can have the same spelling but different meaning. The former, “I have read the latest book of Paulo Coelho”. The other example is “I like to read’. There is also different spelling but same pronunciation in the English language for example “The colour of my shoes is red”, “I have read that book’. The English alphabet alone is not a good guide because although we have 26 letters of the alphabet, it has double the number of sounds which is possible 52 (44 and more).

To know and recognize the sounds will help students and give them a phonetic chart which in turn will help with their speaking skills. Some advantages of using a phonetic chart in class to help my students with their pronunciation problems would be to express the sounds of the English language. It will aid in explaining pronunciation and allow both students and teachers to be more confident. Students can learn to use their dictionary better and teachers can correct the students. If students keep the phonetic chart in their notes, this will help them tremendously when learning new vocabulary items and encourages the independence of the student. The teacher can anticipate some problems.

When students want to hear how they sound they can record themselves and a phonetic chart guides with the recording of vocabulary. A student/teacher interaction in which it could be used is when I would make my own wall charts and put symbols I want them to learn on the board and drill them. I will then ask the students to match the flashcards with symbols. For example /i/: can be matched with a picture of cheese. I would then ask the students to get into teams and each team is given 10 words on cards they can stick on to the posters with a correct symbols and with a time limit of course. I would check how many they got correct and I would use the words they are familiar with or words I want the class to revise. The class can end up with a colourful wall display rather than a dull phonemic chart.

Teaching Stress and Intonation Patterns in English

Where does the primary stress fall on the following words: government, happy, enthusiastic, personal, personnel, radio, building, parade, lamp, basement, ballgame, tremendous, boring, yellow, paper

Look at the following sentences. Explain whether the intonation is rising or falling at the end of the sentence. Who is he?
Is she here?
You´re going aren´t you?
You aren´t going are you?
Why did you do it?
That´s so nice of you!
Tim said that?


When people talk to us intonation is an important part in understanding their thoughts and how to express our own thoughts when we have a conversation with one another. Using intonation we can know the attitude of the person and how they feel about what they are saying. Normally there is a rising intonation for a question. Most questions expecting a yes-no answer use rising intonation. Information questions such as (what, who, why where, when, how etc.) use falling intonation. Falling intonations include question tags that expect information. Question tags showing less certainty are rising.

Who is he? is a falling intonation at the end of the sentence. Is she here? Falling
You´re going aren´t you? Rising
You aren´t going are you? Falling
Why did you do it? Falling intonation
That´s so nice of you! Rising intonation
Tim said that? Rising intonation

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