Saturday, June 16, 2012

IPA (Intra-personal physical alphabet) basics for pronunciation teaching

Had a fascinating discussion with an ESL teacher recently who maintained that knowing basic IPA for English (international phonetic alphabet) was irrelevant--for him! Asked how students are to get the pronunciation of a new word, his response was simply ("All they have to do is consult . . . ": online audio from a learner dictionary or DVD.  (For some student populations, we could probably find some common ground there!) In phonics teaching there are probably hundreds of "body alphabet" schemas and dances. (I kind of like this one!) Where he actually had it right, I think, was with use of IPA with learners--when it is not used systematically in integrated instruction. If learners cannot accurately relate the symbol to the sound, (if it is not anchored well, in EHIEP terms) it is worse than pointless--at least those sounds that are especially problematic for a learner. As noted in several earlier posts, effective use of the dictionary for anchoring pronunciation, meaning and usage is generally essential to efficient learning beyond basic functional (primarily oral) usage, which requires at least orientation to a limited set of dictionary phonetic symbols. EHIEP work begins with physically anchoring of the vowel system, first lax (what we refer to as "rough" vowels) and then tense+off glide and diphthongs (what we refer to as "dynamic" vowels), something of an "Intra-personal, physical phonetic alphabet!" The best analogy is sign language. Here is a brief Youtube clip of me doing a  the "dynamic" vowels. That is representative of the entire EHIEP system, in fact. Before long, as soon as we get the complete EHIEP haptic-videos all edited and publicly available, the training of students--and instructor--can be done in IPPPA, as well! Keep in touch. 

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