For most musical instruments, you create sound through motor movements of the hand and fingers. For language, you are creating sound through precise motor movements of the articulators in your speech organ.
People tend to mystify language because all the motor movement is hidden inside of your mouth. So the only people who have any idea what’s going on in our mouths when we speak are the few people like myself who study linguistics and phonetics.
Language learners very rarely study phonetics.
If you think about it, this is absurd.
Imagine learning the guitar without ever learning where to place your fingers.
It’s the same thing trying to learn a foreign language without having any idea how the mouth is supposed to make the sounds. That’s why I find it helpful to develop functional knowledge of phonetics for language learners.
To start, we will familiarize ourselves with the anatomy of the speech organ, which is made up of all the parts involved in making speech.
To help you become aware of the different parts involved, I will walk you through the consonant sounds of English.
A single speech sound has three features to it:
We will cover manner of articulation in the next post. In this post, we focus on place of articulation and phonation.
In the chart, the vertical columns represent the “place of articulation,” the horizontal columns represent manner of articulation, and the (+V/-V) represents phonation – or use of the voice.
In the video, I give you the chance to repeat after me and develop a physical awareness of your own speech organ.
Pay close attention, as most of these sounds will come up again in your target language. Knowing exactly what the sounds are is extremely useful for identifying the component sounds of foreign speech.