Importance of Phonetics and Phonology for Better Communication

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Importance of Phonetics and Phonology for Better Communication

What is phonetics and phonology? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, pho·net·ics, \f?-ne-tiks\, is the system of speech sounds of a language and pho·nol·o·gy, \f?-?nä-l?-j?, f?-\, is the science of speech sounds.

Phonetics is an important aspect of teaching in the English language, but is rarely taught at schools or universities. For a teacher to be effective, they need to view teaching pronunciation as an essential part of the course. Skilled pronunciation teaching can do much good. It can give life to a class because it can reveal feelings and reactions.

There are many areas in Phonology worthy of discussion: stress, rhythm, intonation, International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). We will first discuss stress and intonation. Stress is the volume and pitch withindividual words. Stress is important for a full understanding of what is being spoken and correct production. It can help the listener to know what the speaker is trying to say or imply. There are a number of ways the teacher can help students detect the stressed part in a statement: nonsense words, by gestures, humming/singing and the use of the board.

Next, intonation is the variation in volume and pitch in a wholesentence. Intonation is important for questioning, agreeing, disagreeing and confirming sentences, expressing emotions and feelings. The normal pattern of intonation is the rise/fall intonation. This is when the pitch slowly changes from rise and falls down, indicating the speaker has finished his/her statement. The second intonation is the fall/rise intonation. The fall/rise intonation indicates surprise, disagreement, or request of a response/confirmation from listener. The third and last intonation is the flat intonation. This intonation indicates the speaker probably does not want to speak.

Teacher should arrange adequate time for practice of pronunciation, stress and intonation to make the students aware of the importance of accuracy and clarity in effective communication.

Lastly, we will discuss the wonderful phonemic alphabet. Just by reading over George Bernard Shaw poem on “Hints on Pronunciation for Foreigners,” one can already see how closely spelling and pronunciation are in the English language. The fact is in the English language, spelling and pronunciation differs greatly…very much. Many words are spelled very closely, but pronounced totally different with no relevance/closeness. It is nice to know there is a pronounced method to help all students grasp the correct pronunciation of English words. This is by the means of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). IPA is a system of phonetic notation composed of symbols and letters. Its purpose being to create a standardized and accurate method of representing the sounds of the English language. Teachers need to keep in mind not to neglect the correct written spelling of words and only giving regard to the IPA in speech and pronunciation. When teaching and practicing the IPA have students ‘feel’ the difference of the sounds with their own hands against their throat. It will certainly help them better grasp the idea of the different sounds. Teachers can also use different activities to help students grasp the idea of phonetics and accurate pronunciation: peer dictation, teacher’s own mouth, visuals, phonemes, and tongue twisters.

Teachers taking the time to stress the importance of phonetics and phonology will help students to better communicate in the English language, enabling them to more fully express and understand the feeling and implications behind the words of the English language.

*Resources and information gathered from ITTT, “Teaching Pronunciation and Phonology.”

Thanks to Carmen Ching
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