DELTA Book Review: English Phonetics and Phonology

Following on from the popularity of last week’s DELTA Book Review on Teaching English Pronunciation I figured I’d write another book review before my DELTA kicks in; only one week to go.

Do you know what this is? Get the book and all will be revealed…

Book Details
English Phonetics and Phonology – A practical course – Peter Roach. Cambridge University Press. Second Edition. I read the version published in 1999 but there are newer versions.

What’s the book about?
English Phonetics and Phonology is different from Teaching English Pronunciation in that the book is designed as a course. As well as being a useful book for teachers of English and students of linguistics or phonetics, it’s also helpful for native speakers of other languages. Peter takes you through the basics of how we produce sounds including the vowels and consonants, short and long vowel sounds, diphthongs and triphthongs (yes they do exist), plosives, the phonemes, fricatives and affricates, and nasal sounds. Then he covers strong and weak syllables, stress in simple and complex words, aspects of connected speech and a lot on intonation. So, as you can see, he dabbles in most aspects of phonology and phonetics.

How has my teaching changed?
What I got most from this book is how to demonstrate sounds to students. I’ll be honest, I’m teaching an adult intensive group during August and time is limited so we haven’t done that many pronunciation activities, however I can explain how to pronounce words better. I know how to show the difference between short and long vowels, why it’s difficult for students to produce consonant clusters, and the importance of the schwa (ə). I’m hoping to apply more of what I’ve learnt from this book when term starts in September. I’m aiming to teach the phonetic alphabet to a couple of classes. I’m not sure exactly how yet (any ideas welcome), but I’ll have my notes from English Phonetics and Phonology handy when I do. 

New classroom activities
There are useful written exercises at the end of each chapter which test what you’ve just read. You could easily do these exercises with your students too. Most are about transcribing words in phonetic script so it’s pretty pointless me writing out a long list of words for you to transcribe. I’ll give you a quick example though.
This was one at the end of teaching long vowel sounds.

Write the symbols for the long vowels in the following words:
a) broad b) ward c) calf d) learn

Answers: a) ɔː b) ɔː c) ɑː d) ɜː

Would I recommend it?
I would. As I said last week, pronunciation is a vital part of teaching English and the more students learn the better they will get at speaking and listening. After reading this book I’ve got more confidence to show how to produce certain sounds and I can also understand why students make certain mistakes. English Phonetics and Phonology is a must book for English teachers who want their students to speak well. You can buy the version I read here, which is very reasonably priced, or spend some money and get the newer version complete with CDs below.

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