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Heads Up ESL – Native English Speakers Don’t Start Words With Vowels in Conversation
People are lazy. They would usually choose the most convenient way to get things done. This is especially true when North Americans speak English. The easiest way to speak is to start words with consonants and then alternate consonant and vowel sounds. Regardless of how words are spelled or printed, North Americans speak with as little effort as possible. As a result, spoken English bears little resemblance to how it appears, and regardless of how it appears in print, most spoken English words actually begin with a consonant, believe it or not.
The impact of ‘lazy’ speech on ESL – Sharini’s story
My adult ESL class was leaving the computer lab when a student turned to me and asked, “Teacher, what does noff mean?” he asked.
“Sherini, there is no word noff,” I said and asked where she heard it.
“You teacher. You say no.”
“Did I say no?!” I wouldn’t believe it. “Do you remember the sentence or when did I say it?”
“Right now.” He answered without hesitation.
“Did I just say? What did I say?”
“You say ‘Tur noff you compuda.’
He was 100% right. I said no! Who knew?
“Ah, yes.” I looked at my watch and shrugged. “Unfortunately, we don’t have much time for today. We’ll have to talk about office hours tomorrow.”
I had my work cut out for me. I had until 9:00 the next morning to figure out what happened to the mint.
Turns out the noff wasn’t as complicated as I first feared. It is a by-product of a process called Noff Linking. Coordinating is a three-part event in which speech flows regardless of whether the printed word is interrupted. It is wrong to label communication as weak or lazy speech, because it is the most natural way to talk to work.
Consonants are short ‘stop’ sounds and vowels are ‘go’ or stretched elastic sounds. The easiest and most natural way for people to speak is to alternate the sounds of “stop” and “go”, starting with the sounds of “stop”.
Many languages are built exactly this way – starting with consonants and consonants and vowels. Look at the names of these countries.
CA NA DA, CHI NA, GER MA NY PE Rhe JA PAN ME XI CHe…
Of course – English is different.
Groups of consonants
Includes thousands of words with consonant combinations as found in written English PLmonth or liSt. For example, sounds of three or four or more consonants are also common in English rlscl, ghtsbr, rchstr – although they are more easily recognized in their context: Earlsclife, Knightsbrid and Church Streeteat When speaking in English, interrupted sounds are pronounced consistently without any difficulty.
Double or short vowels are also common in English. with words like plese, frI meanetcaid, vowel pairs represent only one sound. In other vowel pairs pohm, lion, rect, each vowel makes an individual sound (this creates a new syllable). in beautiful, three vowels represent one sound, but serioetcuyet, three vowels make two. (There is no logic in this language.) Unlike vowel sounds, vowels cannot be pronounced one after the other. Something amazing happens between vowel sounds; follow us
Linking occurs in three predictable places
It is true that sentences and phrases can begin with vowel sounds, but the vast majority of words that begin with vowels occur within sentences where the three subconscious rules of “the easiest way to say it” take over.
C/C – Connecting consonant to consonant – When a word ends with the same consonant, the next word begins, the sound is pronounced only once.
for example, it is pronounced bus stop /this stop/a good day is declared /good day/
CV – Consonant Closure with Vowel – When a word ends with a consonant and the next word begins with a vowel, the consonant moves from behind the first word to before the second.
for example, is pronounced off /turn off/Pronounced North American /nor Tamerika/
V/V – Vowel-to-Vowel Relationship – When a word ends with a vowel and the next word begins with another vowel, a consonant (not printed) between them is automatically pronounced. Elastic sounds can’t be pronounced next to each other. Check it out.
for example, it is pronounced go away /get out of the way/; the poem sounds /po wem/I am pronounced /I am/; sounds like a lion /li yon/
English speakers do not consciously struggle with these issues. Most people have no idea that they avoid words that start with vowels. They may even deny doing it! English speakers learn vocabulary as distinct units for writing, then collate these words as they speak. For non-native speakers, it’s a different ball game.
Clusters of ‘stop’ or ‘go’ sounds in English, combined with Linking, pose many special challenges for learners whose first language is strongly alternative to C/V or C/V/C. Few of the words that the students discover during conversation correspond to the vocabulary they learn in school, and they cannot find words they hear like noff or waway in the dictionary.
English may be the only language where the alphabet is unrelated to the sounds of words, making some familiar propositions ridiculous.
Play this: /Son di dout/Look it up in the dictionary: /loo ki du pin the Dictionary/
Regardless of how English is written and by whom, spoken English strives to follow the easy consonant/vowel flow of natural human speech. Coordinating is a part of speaking English. With this information and a little practice, Sharini can decipher the code on her own.
When native speakers learn that words do not begin with vowels, they choose one of only two possible responses:
/Yes I do/ or /No I don’t/
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