Wednesday, February 9, 2011

phonetic phrustration

When my students try to pronounce "would," they say "gwould." We spent almost 10 minutes practicing the "w" sound versus the "g" sound. To get technical, one is a bilabial glide (translation: smooth sound made with your lips--at the front of your mouth). The other is a velar plosive (translation: explosive sound made at the back of your tongue). So we practiced the sounds. Front of the mouth: would. Back in the throat: good. Would. Good. Would. Good. Etc. It took quite a while, but most of them got it.

The best part about it? Almost all of them can say "wood." I think I'll pull my hair out now.

Let's move on to orthography.

While teaching present progressive (I am writing, She is running), one of my students asked why you have to add a "t" when you make "put" into "putting." She was obviously discouraged by the fact that I couldn't give her a good (simple) answer at that moment.

I could, in a matter of words, tell her this tomorrow:

With words that end in consonant-vowel-consonant and whose stress/accent falls on this last syllable, you double the consonant before adding "-ing."

pat -- patting
grin -- grinning
can -- canning
run -- running
begin -- beginning
occur -- occurring
forget -- forgetting

And then she would ask why.

And I would say "Perhaps it's for phonetic reasons, because if you wrote pating, grining, or caning, you'd change the short vowel sounds (ham, bed, lip, rot, gun) to long vowel sounds."

And then she would ask why you can change "have, give, and live" to "having, giving, and living" and still pronounce them with the short vowel sound.

And then I would tell her that English is messed up and change the subject.


Anonymous said...

Don't worry, I've definitely been pondering this all morning. My guess is that it has to do with that word final 'e' which normally would mark a long vowel (cane v. can) and therefore when you add the 'ing' you don't need that marker anymore, so you drop the 'e'. So, even though the 'e' in have, live, give doesn't perform that same function when they started standardizing spelling rules they had it follow the same pattern. (whoever 'they' are)

But that just leaves me wondering why those 'e's are even there in the first place.

Molly said...

Ha! Julianne--I'm glad I could count on at least one person out there to be as much of a grammar nerd as I am. :) The "drop the final 'e'" rule definitely wins out here over the "add a letter to keep the short vowel sound" rule. Just seems a bit ridiculous, don't you think? ;)

Sally Teeple said...

On a similar note, I have a student whose nickname (she's Vietnamese) is "Bonie". I haven't had the heart to tell her that we normally spell that name "Bonnie", and that if you use only one n, it is actually very funny sounding. I should tell her, right?

Molly said...

That's a hard call, Sally. Yes, you should tell her. No, I would not have the guts to tell her. :)

Tamra said...

Wow. I had this up on my Reader, and looked at it several times before I realized that the last word of the title was spelled wrong. Our English language is a mess!

Emma and Dan said...

It sounds like you are doing a great job! I loved teaching ESL when I was at BYU because I had never thought so much about the mechanics of English (or Spanish for that matter) in my life. I would study and prepare a lesson, but then they would ask questions like that and throw me off. :)

webster said...

Love it, this is what I do at my job with kids tha
t aren't on grade level! I get your language..well I guess we use a little differnt terms for the little kiddos in regard to the positioning of sounds in their mouths! So fun!
ps-your boys are adorable!

Braden and Cheri said...

my absolute favorite part of this post is that they can say "wood". I can't describe the laugh that is inside myself right now!