July 15th 2013

My Passion for Pronunciation

Since I began teaching I’ve been particularly enthusiastic about pronunciation, and in particular the phonemes.  A friend recently asked me why this is – aside from the fact that I see it as both an incredibly important and extremely useful tool for students.

BardoAs a young child, my Dad used to read me poetry, rhymes and limericks, and I loved listening to the sounds change, follow and dance around each other in his voice.  I spent my early years in North Wales and when my mother took us to Kent at the age of 8, I had a noticeable Welsh accent.  Later, at around thirteen, because I wanted to get involved in theatre, my mother sent me to elocution lessons.  For some months I was tutored by an eccentric elderly lady who entered me for LAMDA exams in Verse and Prose, where I would read speeches from My Fair Lady and recite extracts of Winnie the Pooh in my finest RP.

Perhaps these experiences have influenced my passion for pronunciation, but for as long as I can remember I’ve experienced joy in the plethora of different sounds that come from words.  From Lewis Carroll to Linton Kwesi Johnson, words are fun, and the sounds they make when we speak them aloud can bring such pleasure to the mouth and the ear.

Before I did the CELTA, my (ever supportive and encouraging) partner taught me the phonemic symbols using song lyrics, and inspired me to do the same with my students once I found myself in a classroom.  Since then I’ve developed more activities and lesson plans and have come across some wonderful resources for teaching pronunciation along the way.  My knowledge and understanding is still growing and I have so much more to learn.

Confident with all the sounds in Adrian Underhill’s phonemic chart, I recently began digging a little deeper and started looking at the International Phonemic Alphabet in all its glory.  At first glance it’s pretty daunting, but my mission in the next year is to understand it all.  Wish me luck!


Top image: Bardo. Topography of the inbetween
a performance of Judith Egger, 2012
with Michael Northam (sound) and Maria Rilz (camera)

Bottom image: The International Phonetic Alphabet,
From The International Phonetic Association

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