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PHONETICS- The Sounds of Language

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

Phonetics is the study of spoken sounds and their physiological and acoustic properties.

It is concerned with the vocal tract configurations used to produce speech sounds (articulatory phonetics), the acoustic qualities of spoken sounds (acoustic phonetics), and the method of combining sounds to form syllables, words, and sentences (linguistic phonetics).

How well do you know the English pronunciation of /ˈɒf(ə)n/?

Do you understand the notation I used in the previous sentence?

Let me tell you a few more easy examples where we must use similar reasoning - recommendation, combustion, education, and so on.

For example, the Indian/British pronunciation of "alternative" emphasizes "alterNAtiv," but the American pronunciation emphasizes "alTERnative."

Isn't it amazing how a minor difference can have such a big impact?

In today's world, British and American English are used interchangeably.

For example, our CBSE or ICSE courseware is in British English.

However, we are inundated with programs, blogs, magazines, news, and other media that use American English.

The irony is that this can cause a lot of confusion in young brains.

The notation I chose for the word "frequently" is the Phonetics notation.

Now try saying it out loud and see what happens:

Do you emphasize the letter 't'?

Or do you say it with a silent 't'?

Let me reveal a little secret to you.

Both methods of pronouncing "frequently" are correct.

The first is correct in "American English," whereas the second is correct in "British English."

In British English, the phonetic symbol for "often" is "/ˈɒf(ə)n/ ".

Identity of Speech Sounds

Our linguistic knowledge allows us to ignore nonlinguistic differences in speech (such as individual pitch levels, rates of speed, coughs).

We are capable of making sounds that are not speech sounds in English but are in other languages – The click tsk that signals disapproval in English is a speech sound in languages such as Xhosa and Zulu where it is combined with other sounds just like t or k is in English

The science of phonetics aims to describe all the sounds of all the world’s languages

– Acoustic phonetics: focuses on the physical properties of the sounds of language

– Auditory phonetics: focuses on how listeners perceive the sounds of language

– Articulatory phonetics: focuses on how the vocal tract produces the sounds of language

If, as a nation, we want to speak English with the right pronunciation, even a basic knowledge of Phonetics can play a major role.


Note: We use Phonetics and Phonics interchangeably. Phonics is a simpler form of Phonetics and we usually use it with beginners and kids.

Children's English Pronunciation Issues in India

During our investigation, we came across several examples and causes for the difficulties that children in India have with English pronunciation.

Let me summarise a few of them.

  • Having difficulty distinguishing between different types of sounds - Pronouncing 'Street' as 'e-street,' or adding an unstressed vowel as in 'film' as 'filam.'

  • The problem of "devoicing" - Devoicing occurs when the difference in voice between two separate but similar sounds is not clearly defined. This is also true for other sounds, such as "v" pronounced as "f," "g" spoken as "k," and "b" pronounced as "p."

  • Differences in syllable stress — English-speaking youngsters in India prefer to focus on rhythm rather than syllable stress. According to the example in the Introduction section, the Indian/British pronunciation of "alternative" emphasizes "alterNAtiv," whereas the American pronunciation emphasizes "alTERnative."

  • The impact of "mother tongue" - In the case of a child whose mother tongue is Telugu, the pronunciation of "road" would be "roddu." If you're a Hindi speaker, you've probably always pronounced "January" as "Janwary."

The Influence of "Mother Tongue" Pronunciation on English Pronunciation

India is a country rich in languages, with over 2000 dialects of the languages we speak.

I can name at least five different dialects of Hindi.

According to a fast Internet search, there are over 20 dialects.

These dialects might sound very different from pure Hindi at times.

The same rule applies to all of India's major languages. Because English is not our native or mother tongue, we strive to apply the laws of the languages we are familiar with to English as well.

Unless we are in a professional setting, this is not a problem.

I had a similar issue and worked hard to improve my pronunciation.

Learning Phonetics is a fun task for Children

Here are some simple and enjoyable ways to teach phonetics that we have devised:

  • Children enjoy producing unusual noises.

  • If you teach them Phonetics, they will be able to make a wide range of intriguing unusual noises.

  • Reading them a phonetics-correct narrative also helps them pick it up quickly.

  • Phonetics games are also a lot of fun.

Wait, this was a basic introduction about phonetics but now we have a special course for you “Certification In Phonetics”.

This online course for teaching English Phonetics can assist teachers in learning the technique of producing appropriate articulation of the English language after overcoming the impact of the mother tongue.

Know more about the course by clicking the link here:-

You are now super excited to join the course, let us make it easier for you to get back to us. We have attached a google form below, fill that and hurray your details are now with us, we will get back to you asap and help you enroll for the course easily.

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