Today I realised, whilst skipping between numerous ELT websites, blogs and tweets (as per usual at the moment!), that I will probably benefit from a far greater knowledge of the International Phonetic Alphabet than I currently possess, in order to help clarify the pronunciation of new words to my future students if it might help them. I’ve asked on numerous CELTA forums to what extent knowledge of the IPA is useful on the course and general consensus seems to suggest that, while not at all essential, a general working knowledge would certainly be beneficial.
To that end, I went to work (at Routledge academic publishing house, for those who might not know) and had a dig in my email archives to find messages from the wonderful Inger Mees, a phonetics scholar with whom I worked very closely on an introductory-level textbook called Practical Phonetics and Phonology (third edition) when I first started at Routledge on the linguistics list back in 2012.
I emailed Inger to tell her about my situation and asked for her advice on books I could read to learn a little bit more about phonetic transcription, and she has suggested the following:
I imagine “Transcribing the Sound of English” (written by Paul Tench, who is an excellent phonetician) should be exactly what you want. The other book, “English Transcription Course” by Maidment and Lecumberri is older (2000), but John Maidment (retired — used to teach at UCL) is a great practical phonetician, so I think this would be a good choice as well. It’s published by Arnold.
And then, a wonderful addition to her email, as part of an ongoing joke that the book didn’t have to be published by Routledge, and that I would still read it if it wasn’t:
If you want something published by Routledge, it might be worth consulting Unit A3 in “Practical Phonetics and Phonology” (Collins/Mees, as you know!). There are transcription exercises on the accompanying website.
I have now got the first book and the last chapter she suggested. The latter was especially easy and cheap to acquire since it was actually one of the books propping up my computer monitor at work (oh so publishing!) because it’s a keepsake from my first job, as it’s the first book I got a mention in from the authors.
I look forward to trying to master the basics of this symbol language in the hope that it’ll serve me well on the CELTA. I shall report back!