Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Introducing international phonetic symbols to a mute girl

by Charles Roring
This afternoon, Cindy came again to my bookstore. She went directly to a table located in the middle of the bookstore where I put new arrival books. She took Pretty Road, a Japanese comic for teenagers. She gave it and asked me to keep it in my back shelf. Tomorrow, she would come again to pay it. Well, reading comics is her hobby. After that we began learning English.
Teaching pronunciation to mute girl is challenging for me. Today, I taught her how to read English words using International Phonetic Symbols. As the pronunciation system in Indonesian language is different from English, I must explain the easiest method. I don't want to write the English pronunciation using Indonesian words because different words have different pronunciations. Instead, I use international phonetic symbols.
How English vocabularies are read can easily be seen from dictionary.
Although Cindy is a fast learner, she finds that it is difficult to pronounce English words. It seems that she wants to give up when she cannot pronounce such words as nurse, teacher, and writer properly.  The letter e in these words is pronounced as ə. I have to find an Indonesian word whose letter e is pronounced as ə. Fortunately, I could find it. The word is enam meaning six.  To help her master the English pronunciation, I opened my Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary. On the last page of the book, there are phonetic symbols used in the dictionary. The consonant words are pen, bad, tea, did, cat, got, chain, jam, fall, van, thin, this. In addition, vowels, and diphthongs words are see, happy, sit, ten, cat, father, got, saw, put, actual, too, cup, bird, about, say, go, five, now, boy, near, hair, pure.
Many English learners in Indonesia do not really understand the phonetic symbols. I hope that English teachers can introduce them to their students.
Cindy also complained that the book which I use to teach English is too difficult because it doesn't have translations in Indonesian language. I use TRUE COLORS, an EFL course for real communication. It is a very good book for foreign students who want to study English. The book is colorful and fully illustrated. I had not finished the pronunciation lesson when her father came to pick her up.
Beginners who have just learning English will always say that English is difficult to learn. I believe that as she makes progress, she will enjoy learning English during this hard process. We'll see.
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