"For effective phonics instruction, it is crucial that coaches possess the ability to map words orthographically. Utilising the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) can greatly enhance coaches' understanding of orthographic knowledge."
What is the IPA? How can phonetic symbols be used to guide learners in developing phonemic and orthographic awareness? Orthographic knowledge is crucial for those learning to read and spell in English. The IPA assists teachers of phonics in learning phoneme mapping, as the 'phoneme' element in 'grapheme to phoneme' and 'phoneme to grapheme' conversions is challenging for many teachers, even for those who have been teaching synthetic phonics for ten years.
The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and Received Pronunciation (RP) are intrinsically linked in the field of phonetics and linguistics, especially in their application to understanding and teaching the pronunciation of English in a British context.
The International Phonetic Alphabet is a system of phonetic notation devised to provide a standardised set of symbols for representing the sounds of spoken languages. Its primary purpose is to offer a consistent and accurate method for transcribing the sound patterns of any language. This makes it an invaluable tool for linguists, language teachers, and students. It is even mentioned by Stanislas Dehaene in his book Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read.
The IPA includes a wide array of sounds found in languages globally, encompassing those used in various accents and dialects of English.
Received Pronunciation, often abbreviated as RP, represents the present-day version of the accent that has been used as the standard in phoneticians' description of the pronunciation of British English for centuries. It is sometimes known as "BBC English" or "Oxford English" due to its association with education, formality: the great majority of native speakers of this accent are of middle-class or upper-class origin, educated at private schools. This does not mean that the accent cannot be acquired by others: indeed, many have acquired an accent or can easily speak with this accent over many years of teaching the phonetics of English!
The Department for Education (DfE) in the UK outlines the pronunciation of phonemes using phonetic symbols, aligning with the practices of synthetic phonics programmes. These programmes teach grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs), with the phoneme element closely aligned with RP and represented through the IPA. This approach ensures that learners are exposed to a standardised form of pronunciation, which is crucial in the context of reading and spelling in English.
In the context of teaching and learning English pronunciation, the IPA's role becomes particularly prominent when based on RP models, especially in non-native settings. Using RP as a standard accent provides a clear, consistent model easily transcribed using IPA symbols. For students learning English as a second language, understanding the IPA allows them to accurately interpret the pronunciation of words in RP, beneficial in academic and formal settings. Moreover, the use of IPA in teaching RP allows for a precise understanding of the accent's distinct pronunciation features. Learning to read IPA transcriptions enables students and language practitioners to accurately reproduce RP sounds, leading to enhanced pronunciation skills. This is particularly useful for actors, linguists, and language enthusiasts who aspire to achieve a native-like British English accent.
In summary, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and Received Pronunciation (RP) are closely interconnected through their roles in the transcription, teaching, and learning of English pronunciation. The IPA serves as a universal tool for accurately depicting RP sounds. It is widely utilised within the Department for Education's (DfE) documentation related to phonics, guiding teachers to use these specific correspondences. Currently, it is uncertain if Key Stage 1 (KS1) teachers of phonics have been trained in using the IPA. To address this, Miss Emma has included IPA training in the Level 1 Award program.
Miss Emma is reaching out to preschools to introduce research laboratories. While government-maintained schools, compelled to teach using synthetic phonics, may not endorse 'experimental classrooms,' private schools have the opportunity to implement research laboratories. These schools could set up Ortho-Graphix learning rooms in collaboration with Miss Emma and researchers in psychology, neuroscience, and psycholinguistics, aiming to develop a more unified science of reading.