10 Signs that You Need Phonetics to Improve Your Communication
Phonetic instruction gives us all the physical and motoric features of our target sounds and is a vital key to pronunciation clarity.
It’s time to play matchmaker, speech pathology style! If improving your pronunciation clarity is one of your goals, we think you would be a perfect match with the dashing, the irresistible, the oh so well put together…phonetics! Excuse us while we collectively swoon.
Here’s the hard truth: if hearing alone were enough to integrate a foreign accent, we’d all be able to perfectly imitate anything and everything that we hear in any language. Lucky for us, this reality is much easier to accept (and work around) when we have phonetics on our side!
Still not convinced? Here’s a list of reasons that might help you realise that phonetics has been your missing piece until now:
10 Clues that suggest You Need Phonetics to Improve Your Speaking
#1 Your only way of giving yourself pronunciation feedback is by listening
Picture this: you say a word, you hear that the pronunciation wasn’t what you were hoping for, and then you suddenly travel back in time 3 seconds to try again. Sounds like science fiction 🛸 because it is!
Listening to ourselves can only ever happen while we’re in the process of saying a word or sound. With phonetics, on the other hand, we don’t need a time machine! Phonetic instruction gives us all the physical and motoric features of our target sounds that we can put in place and (the best part) check that everything is ready to go before we produce the sound.
What better way to increase confidence?!
A branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds.
#2 People frequently ask you to repeat yourself
If the human body is capable of producing a particular sound, who are we to say that sound can be ‘wrong’? One thing that we can definitely comment on, however, is whether or not a sound is familiar or expected.
Take the example of a native speaker of Scottish English who attends a conference in the United States. Even though variants of the same language are being spoken, we wouldn’t be surprised if the communicators experience a bit of comprehension delay when hearing sounds that they are less familiar with.
This is a nice way to frame our pronunciation goals: our aim is to learn to accurately offer listeners sounds with which they are more familiar, that is, sounds they expect to hear, so that comprehension is a smooth and speedy process.
#3 You feel an imbalance between your comprehension level and your pronunciation clarity
When listening to a native speaker talking, can you hear the difference between word pairs like
- ‘basis’ and ‘bases’?
- ‘bet’, ‘bat’ and ‘but’?
If the answer is ‘yes’, next ask yourself if you feel equally as confident saying these words yourself.
If you answered ‘no’ to this one, this is completely normal! And the solution?
You guessed it, phonetics! And suddenly we have no doubt how to differentiate
- ‘basis’ /beisəs/ and ‘bases’ /beisəz/!
#4 Pronuncing words in English feels like guessing and hoping for the best
If we picked up a bow and arrow with no experience or instruction, shooting a bullseye on the first go would feel like an absolute fluke! Sure, it’s not impossible, but the odds are definitely not in our favour. We might improve a bit by ourselves, but that would take time and lots of trial and error. Now let’s imagine that an expert trainer is there with us, adjusting how we stand, hold the bow, take aim, and release the arrow. Training will still require dedication, but we’ll have a much stronger sense of direction and growth.
Take everything you’ve just read, and replace the idea with speech sounds (the target), a speech pathologist (the trainer), placement cues (how to hold the bow and arrow), and phonetics, phonetics, phonetics!
#5 You rely on English spelling alone to guide your pronunciation
Learning to read and write are so common to modern life that we feel it’s a natural instinct. Here’s a surprise: literacy is not innate like learning to speak is! So what does this mean for us when we’re learning a foreign language? Consider our reliance on textbooks, subtitles, vocabulary lists; we’re using text to teach us to speak, which actually takes us in the complete opposite direction of human nature! Even though this does make complete sense for us as adults, we need to go back to our roots and think of sounds as sounds, not as written letters. Phonetics to the rescue! Let’s get our pronunciation out of written captivity and learn how sounds occur naturally in the wild.
#6 You don’t understand how you’re getting it wrong
At times, it’s hard for us to tell that features of our pronunciation sound different to native speakers. At other times, it’s as clear as day! In the latter situation, even when we’re extremely aware that we’re producing a different sound, we may have no idea what adjustments to make! We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again:
We interrupt this love letter to phonetics to remind you that you can make phonetics work for you, you don’t have to become an expert, the Speech Pathologists at Voice Science have done that work for you!
A Personalised Pronunciation Audit with our team is such a powerful pronunciation tool on the journey towards pronunciation clarity. It will allow you to finally understand where your pronunciation sits, while also providing clear direction in terms of which specific speech sounds and features would benefit from increased precision. Our pronunciation programs are then your next step, to be guided through the areas of the wonderful world of phonetics that are specifically relevant to you.
Clear pronunciation is a wonderful goal, but a fairly vague one until we assess our current situation and implement concrete steps to move forward!
#7 You’re fascinated by the English language
We can’t forget to make mention of the sheer passion that many of us feel for learning languages. As we dive further and further into them, we not only crave more information, we want the quirks! Some of our favourite parts of our pronunciation sessions at Voice Science are seeing our clients’ faces light up in surprise and wonderment when we reveal a subtle feature that has sneakily been floating into their ears the whole time they’ve been engaging with English. And then to see them learn to pronounce that correct sound: priceless!
#8 Silent letters feel like the enemy
Knife. Write. Friend. Do you notice how in each of these words (and many more) there is a spelling letter that isn’t pronounced? What if we told you that phonetics, in all its glory, doesn’t transcribe anything we don’t pronounce. It’s a visual way to capture exactly what we do (and don’t) pronounce, and we know you’ll love it.
Let’s take it up a notch. A native Australian English speaker asks you “What’s today’s date?” You understand them with no problems, but you’re left wondering where the /t/ sound in “date” disappeared to. You try to imitate them by leaving the ‘T’ off completely, and everyone thinks you’re saying the word ‘day’. Phonetics also explains these mind-boggling subtleties and shows us exactly how we can produce them ourselves!
#9 You find yourself avoiding “dangerous” words
Imagine you’re down by the coast and you see a newspaper get blown out of someone’s hand. Within seconds, the sand is covered in loose pages. In your shock you exclaim, “Look at all the sheets on the beach!” If saying this phrase would make you nervous, we don’t blame you! It’s a fine line between saying this accurately and accidentally swearing twice in a row. Phonetics is the key to making those fine lines thick enough for us to walk along confidently, so we have no doubt that we’ll say the words we mean to.
Let’s not forget the hard words that aren’t rude ones. Maybe you’re talking about a medical procedure and have no other way to say the word ‘anaesthetic’! If you ever feel yourself desperately trying to think of an easier word to use instead, you need phonetics in your life!
Phonetics is the key to making those fine lines thick enough for us to walk along confidently, so we have no doubt that we’ll say the words we mean to.
#10 English pronunciation feels laborious and tiring
Speaking in a foreign accent asks a lot of our muscles and coordination. The same way we’d train for a sport, this can become easier over time, but imagine a football player who was inadvertently practising and reinforcing an inefficient kicking style. They’d be capping their own potential!
Earlier in this blog we mentioned that the human brain is very efficient. Enter “economy of speech”! We hope you heard a trumpet fanfare when you read that! Economy of speech talks about the linguistic tricks that we naturally develop to make speech easier, faster and flow better. Say the word ‘in’ and then say the word ‘ink’, if you feel your tongue start to pull back on the ‘N’ before the ‘K’, congratulations on your efficiency! Phonetics has so many more tips and tricks like this to share with us, and by learning why they occur and how to apply them, you’ll go with the flow like never before!
Well, there you have it!
10 reasons why it’s time to have some ‘phun’ with /fənɛtɪks/! If any of them resonated with you, our Personalised Pronunciation Audit is the perfect place to make a data-driven start towards your pronunciation goals. Our team of clinicians will not only assess your pronunciation with razor sharp detail but also use a strength-based approach to provide feedback on what you’re already doing well!
One more thought to share with you…
Our speech is a very personal expression of our identity and a vessel for the ideas we want to share with the world.
This means that our confidence and emotional well-being are so often tied up in how we communicate with the people around us. We’re only human! The Personalised Pronunciation Audit combines a global assessment of the mechanical aspects of English with important consideration of any emotional impact that may be holding you back and reducing your confidence.
Your Personalised Pronunciation Audit from Voice Science
Find Out Exactly How to Progress Your English Speaking Strategically
Ever want an entire roadmap to pronunciation success?
There’s no second guessing if you have a Personalised Pronunciation Audit because we will diagnose and prescribe exactly what your English speaking needs at the moment to move forward.
Your Personalised Pronunciation Audit leads you by the hand.
We will identify which one of the 5 Bottlenecks to Pronunciation Clarity you need to overcome now.
It’s simple, clear and clean. It’s fun & engaging.
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