Phonetics in motion

© photo Pierre LinguanattoWhat do the English and the German language have in common phonetically?
Although English and German differ from each other in terms of phonetics, French learners of these languages are faced with similar pronunciation problems — with the stress of different words and phrases (in French the last syllable is normally stressed), as well as the melody and rhythm of speech. With regard to vowels, learners must make the distinction between long and short vowels, and recognise the lack of nasalised vowels in both languages. In the case of the consonants, German and English continue to differ from French, notably in the pronunciation of [h], in the combination of consonants, and in the pronunciation of the “R” sound.

© photo Pierre Linguanatto
Why should movement be used in the teaching of phonetics?
For several reasons:
  1. When we speak the whole body is involved: rhythm, emphasis, emotional elocution, tension and relaxation are all, more or less, visible throughout the whole body. We can see this clearly in the movement of the torso, head, and the rhythmic gestures of arms and hands while speaking.
  2. The movements of the body, e.g. the arms and hands, help with the integration of phonetic features. Given the fact that certain body movements are visible and thus controllable, they are more easily controllable than speech movements, which are not visible. Body movements can therefore be used to correct pronunciation. For example, if a German long vowel is too short, a long hand movement can be used to change the pronunciation, adjusting the sound to the movement.
  3. Methods of pronunciation-learning become more varied with the implementation of exercises involving specific movements — and children love to move. By linking the target with fun, learning outcomes can be achieved more quickly.
A detailled article with a short bibliography of Prof. Ursula Hirschfeld concerning the subject “Aussprachetraining französischer Schüler im Deutschen und Englischen” you can find in this PDF-file:

Download SymbolBewegte Phonetik (pdf, 352 kb)

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