Teach English in Yuzhoudi Zhen - Chifeng Shi

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The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is a set of symbols that is used to represent sounds that are used in spoken language. Each symbol or set of symbols in IPA represents a singular sound. This means that anything written with IPA symbols will have the correct pronunciation provided the writer both hears the spoken language correctly and writes the right symbols. The symbol combination /i:/, for example, always corresponds with vowel in “meat.” This is not always the case in other writing systems. The sets of symbols found within the many different writing systems are not always consistent. The English writing system, for example, sometimes uses different symbols to represent one sound. For example, the vowel /i:/ can be written as ‘ea’ or ‘ee,’ as seen in “meat” and “feet.” There are also times when words are written the same way, but are pronounced differently. This is the case with “read” in the following sentences: “I like to read” and “I read the book yesterday.” In the first sentence, the vowel in “read” is /i:/, while in the second sentence, the vowel is /e/. The reverse is also true, where two words that have different spellings are pronounced the same. For example, “main” and “mane” are pronounced the same despite having different spellings. This can make learning how to read English words extremely challenging for English language learners. Because the English writing system is so inconsistent, IPA symbols are now used in dictionaries to clarify the pronunciation of English words when this is not clear in the spelling. This is as much a useful tool for native English speakers as it is for English language learners. By learning IPA, learners can easily find out the pronunciation of a word without having the risk of guessing based on the English spelling. This is especially useful for words that have silent symbols, such as the ‘g’ and ‘h’ in “sleigh.” There are also cases where a learner will either mishear or be unable to decipher the pronunciation of a word. This is likely to happen if the sound is unfamiliar to the learner or has similarities to another sound in the learner’s native language. If they need clarification on the pronunciation of a word, they can check the IPA spelling. This can make it easier for learners to correct their mistakes and reinforce what they have learned. Sometimes learners will simply forget the pronunciation of a word and need to review it. Having the IPA spelling alongside the English spelling can give learners a quick reminder on how to pronounce a word. Overall, IPA can be used to make up for the shortcomings of the English writing system when it comes to representing how a word is pronounced. Native speakers considered IPA useful enough that it appears in many English dictionaries today. It is important to teach English language learners how to utilize this tool that they will encounter whenever they consult a dictionary. No matter what level of English they have, IPA will always be a useful tool for learning pronunciation and reading.