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So, How Many English Phonemes Are There?

2 Apr

Open a book on English phonics based on the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and you will learn there are 40 phonemes (sounds) in the English language produced from either a solitary letter or combination of the 26 letters in the alphabet.  However, there is some debating this number of phonemes, 40, and the discussion can be quite “phonemenal.”

English phonology is the study of the sounds that make up the English language.   Very important stuff to ELL’s and ESL teachers concentrating on helping eager students improve their speaking and pronunciation.

Masha Bell mentioned there being 44 phonemes in an article written two years ago (March, 2011) by Masha Bell for The English Spelling Society.

And in a discussion prompted by the suggestion of strictly 40 phonemes, a participant wrote,

“One hears numbers ranging from 36 to 46 for the number of phonemes in English. In teaching or learning English, one can disregard the exact number and simply teach the potential phonemes that participate in the greatest number of minimal pairs or sets first, and then work down from there.”Mxmanic

I hope you’re not reading this post to once and for all find the definitive answer – how many phenomes are there, anyway?!  Because, I am not giving an answer.

Personally, I believe an answer of how many phonemes there are may vary depending on which Nation’s English in reference.   Australian English varies in pronunciation from Canadian, and then there’s Britain to consider.   I’m sure there’s a phoneme count difference based on culture.

Despite there not being a general consensus across the globe on phonemes, I agree with “Mxmanic” when he suggested forget about the exact number and teach the ELL’s what they need to know!

Great advice, anyway you pronounce it.

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Create a daily writing plan to improve your English

16 Jul

For English learners, writing can really be a great way to study when you’re not in class or with a tutor.  Committing to write every day helps your vocabulary, spelling, grammar and even your conversation abilities (because often people write something as they would try to say it!).

I suggest my students keep a notebook and spend about 30 minutes each day writing.  It doesn’t matter what you write about, it can be anything, it’s the act of writing and committing to the process.  Writing by hand is better than by computer, as it supposedly activates more memory retention.

Daily Writing Log Plan:  Spend 15 minutes writing about anything.  (below are some ideas to motivate your pen^^).  Don’t take a break and keep your pen moving for the whole time.  Don’t worry about grammar, spelling or making mistakes – simply write.  At the end of your writing time, spend another 15 minutes correcting some of your spelling mistakes, adding in vocabulary words that you need to look up in a dictionary,  and fixing grammar.  Don’t worry about correcting it all, just do what you can in 15 minutes.

Writing topics to get you started:

  • Describe the weather
  • Talk about how to cook your favourite food
  • Tell about your last vacation
  • Describe your dream wedding/vacation/date
  • Talk about your family’s history
  • Describe a school subject
  • Tell about your study plans for the next year
  • Outline the plot and characters of a book you just read
  • Describe your surroundings – especially good in a coffee shop!
  • And in case that’s not enough, here’s 1000 ideas for writing.

The Daily Writing Log is a tool that my students have found helpful.  If you’d like to join in one of my classes or have private tutoring lessons here in Mok-dong, Seoul, please contact me for more information.

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