PhoneticsPhonetics and phonology are central components in being able to communicate properly in english
. Phonetics is a branch of linguistics, it looks into how sounds of speech are produced, combined, described and represented in the written word. Phonology deals with the study, science and analysis of the physical properties of sounds. It must be clearly understood by all users of the TEFL method how integral these aspects are to effective teaching of the english
is not a phonetic language. This means that the written language contains many words that are constructed very differently to how they are said. If a student tries to pronounce words like they are written, english
speakers would struggle to understand a word. Consider words such as tough, Chicago, yacht and queen, none of these are said the way they are written.
This means that students, who come from languages that are phonetic, may find it hard to pronounce english
words and may become quickly confused. Teaching phonetics and phonology is also vital for students who find it difficult to pronounce some sounds in english
that do not occur in their native language.
Students of english
should be taught the International Phonetic Alphabet as early as possible. Understanding the phonemic alphabet will mean that students will be able to correctly pronounce any word in the english
dictionary. This sort of knowledge will help them well beyond the classroom walls.
Once this groundwork has been laid, the teacher should endeavor to help his or her students with intonation, stress, rhythm and articulation. A knowledge of all of these combined will mean that even if the student only learns up to a lower intermediate language level, people will at least be able to understand the language he does know. This will cut down on frustration on both sides.
Teaching intonation means that the student’s sentence will have meaning and will show the correct emotion. Intonation in a sentence means having control of the volume and pitch throughout the sentence, and using it to make yourself understood. To teach this one can use techniques such as repetition, marks on the board, gesture, humming and singing.
Understanding stress, and how emphasis on a word can change the meaning of a sentence, is vital for effective communication in english
. There are certain, simple rules when learning stress and communicating these to your students will help them greatly. Using the exercise of stressing a different word each time in the same sentence, helps the class understand the importance of learning this skill. Teachers can use these techniques when teaching stressing a sentence and in a word:
- Contrastive stress
- By gesture
- Choral work
- The board
- Stress marks
- Linked speech and sound joining should also be taught.
Giving a brief lesson on articulation, how sounds can be made and what areas of the mouth and body are used to make different sounds will help students who come from languages that use dissimilar sounds immensely. It may seem like a boring, tedious task to teach this, but students who know how to use their bodies to make the correct sounds will make less mistakes.
Some teachers may feel that they do not have adequate training to teach phonology and phonetics, but having just studied the TEFL course myself, I know that this training would be sufficient to help any class. While a complete mastery of pronunciation will be rare amongst students, learning these techniques will be invaluable.
South Africa is a country where english
is not a first language to the majority of people. It is taught in every school but often, also by people who are not mother tongue english
speakers. A sound knowledge of english
phonetics and phonology would help many people find better jobs and earn promotions, as people would be able to communicate with them effectively. It is a tragedy when a person has a strong basis in the theory of english
language but cannot use it successfully as they have trouble with vocal communication. TEFL teachers should not forget the importance of these two spheres of learning and should make Phonology and Phonetics a priority in their classrooms.