The Use of Phonetics in Speech Class

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Show students how to become aware of the most basic elements of their speech.

Speech class allows an instructor to guide students as they grow in their understanding of English as well as other languages. Phonetics is the scientific study of speech, including tongue position, air flow, speaking posture and mouth position. An effective speech instructor can help students at every stage during their native and foreign language development.

  1. Correcting Problems

    • Once a speech instructor isolates a specific speech problem a student is having, the challenge becomes explaining how the student can correct the issue. The study of phonetics includes a comprehensive examination of the way the human mouth is positioned for the sounds of each letter or group of letters. By studying these positions, a speech instructor is able to articulate the necessary movements to the student. For instance, if a student has trouble saying the “v” sound, the instructor can explain the precise mouth position and air flow the student needs to make to create the sound.

    Preventing Problems

    • As each spoken letter involves a specific group of mouth movements and air flow, once a speech instructor identifies one problem, she can use phonetics to isolate other potential problems with letters using a similar position or air flow. As an example, a student who has trouble making the “n” sound may also have trouble pronouncing nasal stops, like the “m” sound, or difficulties pronouncing alveolar sounds, such as the “d,” “f” or “l” sounds. By knowing how these sounds are related to phonetic mouth positions, an instructor can identify other speech problems from which a student may suffer.

    Language Acquisition

    • Different languages use different phonetic sounds to form words, and a speech instructor can use her understanding of the various phonetic sounds as a transitioning tool, preparing students to work from an understanding of English to learn other languages. This involves teaching students the new vocal sounds used in the second language, as well as teaching methods for incorporating the sounds and letters from student’s original language into the new language.


    • Teach strategies to help students improve their speaking techniques. By holding a mirror in front of student’s mouths as they speak, students can observe the position of their mouths as they speak, watching their tongue and learning to develop clear phonetic speaking patterns by making the necessary alterations to their positions. Additionally, teach the phonetic alphabet, which indicates each letter sound a human mouth can articulate. This gives students a reference of the mouth and tongue positions needed to create each sound.

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