The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA): Why We Use IPA Charts During Accent Modification Training

Image of IPA vowel chart - accent instructionWhen an accent modification student first sees the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) charts their eyes somewhat glaze over…they do have a pretty sterile, oddball look to them, I acknowledge that. Hmmm…are they really necessary for the learning process? I suggest, yes, they are really necessary. I refer to these charts frequently during lessons. I roll them out starting in the very first lesson, after the assessment. I teach the students the lay of the land of those charts – both vowel and consonant charts – and students relate to them, with increasing curiosity and ownership of their learning. It really does help.

The symbols are the merest bit unusual, but it always heartens me when a student starts warming up to the process, and voluntarily learns the symbols that are key to their individual accent modification. In studying together, the charts become a focal point for movement between and among sounds. A goal, an adventure, an effort supported by the documented reality called “pronunciation.” It seems to offer students the support of knowing they are not alone in this learning process, this strenuous effort for change. 

I look forward to meeting with you, the student, or with your family member, friend, neighbor, or colleague, who is making the effort to modify their accent. Looking together at this system, these charts, these tools of reference and learning. 

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