Importamce of teaching english phonetics


This post aims to help first-year students enjoy studying English phonetics, acquiring standard English pronunciation.

The post consists of the introductory note with an explanation of its main aim and structure; seventeen units that concentrate on the appropriate theoretical points and exercises for practical training; individual work; individual research; questions to control comprehension; sources and further reading; glossary of phonetic terms; final tests on the course; the curriculum; bibliography; recommended phonetics and pronunciation on the WEB.

Suggested practical training of the textbook mainly centers on :

  1. hearing: physical demonstration, discrimination exercises e.g., ship or sheep? [ɪ] or [i:]?
  2. production – physically making sounds;
  3. expanded contexts – phrases and sentences as well as phonemes between closed consonants.

The importance of proper English Phonetics study is highlighted by the fact, that for many non-native English speakers a number of English vowels and even some consonants tend to sound the same – the qualities in 'bit' and 'beat, 'bid' and 'bead', and groups like 'bad', 'bud' and 'barred' are notoriously problematic.

Phonetics facilitates the ability to understand, hear and reproduce different sound qualities. Unfortunately, the pronunciation aspect of foreign language learning and teaching is very often overlooked, leaving the students almost deaf to the sounds from their additional, non-native language.

Apart from the pronunciation of the speech sounds themselves, another important aspect of phonetics that is often neglected in foreign language learning and teaching is intonation . Both learners and teachers often forget that intonation carries meaning, and expresses speakers’ emotions and attitudes.

When learning a foreign language, students tend to transfer the intonation habits from their native language into the second language, forgetting that when used inappropriately, intonation can lead to misunderstanding and even complete communication breakdown between speakers coming from two different linguistic backgrounds.

Unfortunately, students of English often believe that their top priorities are to know grammar well and to learn as many words and everyday phrases as possible, and many of them think that phonetics is a luxury that they can do without.

So, the teacher should stress that their phonetics is the way to deliver their knowledge of English to the listener. Speaking to people is the only way to communicate. One can exchange written messages, of course, or say with gestures. But life proves that how a person says things is as important as what he/she says.

Therefore, English phonetics becomes the means and one of the aims of teaching and studying English. Correct, standard English pronunciation should be acquired to understand other people and want them to understand you. High speed of speech is often the reason for mistakes in pronunciation not being as necessary as many students think. There are many native speakers who speak slowly. So, a teacher should also stress that normal, acceptable speed in conversation is not too fast and not too slow.

The modern teacher must essentially understand such concepts as students’ speech and language competence, phonological competence, communicative language teaching framework, i.e. those which largely determine the conceptual basis of non-native language learning.

Phonological competence (phonemic awareness) is a broad skill that includes identifying and manipulating units of oral language – parts such as words, syllables, onsets, and rhymes.

Phonemic awareness refers to the specific ability to focus on and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Acquiring phonemic awareness is important because it is the foundation for spelling and word recognition skills.

A systematic course of modern English literary language starts from «Phonetics» studying as it is the basis for further vocabulary, grammar, and word formation study. Without knowledge of phonetics, one cannot master the rules of pronunciation and spelling.

«Phonetics» as the discipline, is an essential component of applied linguistics training, the section of linguistics which studies the language sound system in relation to its semantic role and various sound changes that appear in conjunction with speech sound elements together.

The main objective of this course is to prepare students for the perception and other disciplines studying that make up the general course of the English language. Phonetics is closely related to other linguistic disciplines, particularly to orthoepy, graphics, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, stylistics.

In higher education, phonetics does not merely exist on its own as a subject, but is an important discipline employed by a variety of linguistic fields; the knowledge and understanding of phonetics come in useful – on courses such as literary linguistics, for example, when exploring varieties of poetic meter and rhythm and exploring sound patterns in poetry. Phonetic transcriptions also constitute useful data for exploration and reflection in psycholinguistics, pragmatics, rhetoric and communication analysis.

To achieve excellence in phonetic knowledge and skills both students in higher educational establishments and pupils in school must first of all:

  1. create orthoepic skills;
  2. improve diction;
  3. combine imitational orthoepic way of skills of norms of the literary language and conscious assimilation mastering;
  4. produce orthoepic «vigilance»;
  5. show the ability to create their own voice and play back tone different syntax;
  6. distinguish the correct spelling of orthoepic, i.e. written oral language forms.

The standard pronunciation that is the main aim of the course consists of:

  1. correct pronunciation of sounds;
  2. correct pronunciation of words, with special attention to stress;
  3. standard intonation in sentences, which includes such notions as sentence stress, rhythm, and rising and falling intonation.

In the process of theoretical material and practical lessons studying students are produced with skills and abilities:

  • to give a description of the acoustic, articulatory and perceptual nature of speech sounds, to be able to classify them;
  • to establish in which conditions speech sounds may act;
  • to distinguish between phoneme and its variants or allophones;
  • to reproduce the sounds of speech in writing;
  • to explain sounds, change in speech flow;
  • to establish the nature of these sound system elements: structure, stress, intonation.

Therefore, it is necessary to ensure not only scientific teaching but also practical application of the knowledge acquired, which should be the inextricable link between the university program of instruction and English language curriculum teaching that is also realized in the pages.