A new series of sound stories…..

I’m going to tell the inside story of the sounds of English. These stories will be inside since I’ll tell about their character, about how and what and where they are. I’ll introduce them from the inside so you get to know them close up, and walk in their shoes and have no reason to fear them.

It’s also an inside story since I’ll tell it in everyday words without technical terms which may sometimes distance the experience, making cognitive what should be physical. But, while we are ‘on location’ with each sound and I am pointing out the landscape around it I’ll also offer some of the technical terms as an extra, and they will pose no problem since you will already have experienced their meaning.

However, my stories are really about your inside, since that is where each of these sounds resides. The stories are to be heard with your body, and one of the benefits will be the physical learning and insight you gain using your body and its sensations as the primary learning tool. I have often said that learning pronunciation is like learning dance, a subtle choreography of physical movements having an intended impact. And just as dance is the movement between postures, so speech is a subtle inner movement between sound postures (phonemes).

And I’ve called it the story of individual sounds since I will introduce them from their own particularity, their own uniqueness, although in reality no sound is an island as they all exist in relation to all the other sounds of a language. They all belong to the phonemic set of the language which is why they are best learnt together as an emergent whole, a gestalt, and not as separate items in a disconnected learning sequence.

Yes, all sounds are connected, many directly and the rest indirectly. Like a rabbit warren you can disappear down one sound and with one or two easy moves surface again through another sound….When you see this you begin to know how to get a student from the sound they make to the sound they need in one or two simple moves. And it applies in connected speech too.

I hope that these stories will illuminate this warren, give you vivid images of what is happening in this internal mouthscape so that you can assist your students not just with your knowledge, but with your own vivid image of the internal physical postures and movements between them.

And the first story will concern /n/, one of the unsung heroes on our ‘periodic table’ of sounds. Not often talked about, and not even foremost of the three nasal consonants, nevertheless /n/ has a secret….. A secret of great value to English learners and teachers. Join me next time for Episode 1