Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Practicing IPA

This is a quick little dirty hand out I made to help people practice IPA in three different ways: reading the symbols to create the sounds, reading the language and anatomy of the sound to create the sound, and taking words to practice hearing the sound to transcribe as well as transcribing your own pronunciations.

IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) as a Tool in the SCA
Katrusha Skomorokh

Here are some fun ways to practice IPA.
Reading IPA Practice
[ist kɪŋdəm]
[ɑɪ lʌv beɪkən]
[lɜt ðɛm it keɪk]

[mæri hæd ʌ lɪtl læm

ɪts flis wʌz wɑɪt æz snoʊ

ænd ɛvriwɛɚ ðæt mæri wɛnt

ðʌ læm wʌz ʃɚ tʌ ɡoʊ]

Understanding the Language of IPA Practice
Try to understand the language we have used in describing the consonants and vowels to decipher what sounds each of these descriptions make.
Bilabial voiced plosive
Open back lax
Velar unvoiced plosive
Palatal voiced fricative
Closed tense front

Pick something off of the chart that is not normally a sound you would hear in English and see if you can use the language to create the sound. Here are some examples:
Uvular voiced trill
Close front lax
Bilabial unvoiced fricative
Listening and Speaking IPA Practice
I want you to look through this list and try and write the IPA for how you would say these words, and then listen to other people speak them and write the IPA for their pronunciations. You may be surprised at the differences.
bowie knife
IPA Advice:

IPA is a physical activity as well as an aural one. You will make many silly faces, especially as you begin to understand how you form your own words and it will make you feel quite silly for a time, but pay attention to what your articulators are doing so that it will help you begin to explore new sounds. Experiment by placing your articulators in unfamiliar positions and try to create the sound using a description off the sound list. This is how you begin to explore and learn the sounds used in other languages around the world. Soon you will be able to hear 'fricative alveolar, voiced' and know that the sound you are making is a [z] simply by the language used to describe the sound. So just as you can experiment and wonder where the sound you just made fits on the charts, you can work the other way and find a sound on the charts and try and figure out how to make it.

Of course, the best way to learn IPA is to practice, practice, practice. Bring paper with your to court and see if you can transcribe names or interesting (to you) accents. Try and transcribe things you say and have a friend who is also practicing read them back to you. Transcribe words to your favorite song. Play games. Have fun. IPA can be a lot of fun, but it is going to take practice to learn it. Enjoy it, have fun with it, and soon you will be able to use it for the useful tool that it can be.