Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mary, Merry, or Marry?

Say the above words out loud.... do you pronounce each differently? Do you pronounce two, but not three the same? Or do they all sound alike? Are you looking at me like I'm nuts right about now? If you're wondering about why I would even care, one answer lies in a story told today:

A missionary to Central America had a mechanical issue with his car. He brought in a mechanic to look at it, and in explaining the problem thought he said in the local language, "My car won't start, so can you add these points." What he really said was, "My car won't give birth, so can you add these bananas!" Least to say, he was known from then on as the man whose car just refused to give birth.

This just goes to show how slight changes in pronunciation can be at best hilarious, and at worst offensive. The point was made today that all of us will always (and already do!) have our own personal accent. The goal is to make that accent as understandable and pleasing to the people as possible, and that can only be done through careful, intentional listening and hard work in making that culture's sounds.

With that goal in mind, we got to dive into right into our phonetics drills! This basically looks like a small group of us sitting a circle repeating sounds and staring at our mouths in a mirror. I can say this for sure, I certainly haven't been more familiar with the shape of my tongue than I am now! The goal of all these drills is to allow us to go beyond hearing and using the 44 sounds found in the English language to hear, recognize, and execute all of the possible sounds of other languages.

After my first day of PILAT, I'm even more glad I took language and phonetics classes at Moody! Today was far less overwhelming to me since I already have a bit of training in phonetics. You almost have to learn a new language just to learn the different mechanics and possible sounds of speech; words like fricative, alveolar, and velar all describe the types of sounds we're accustomed to saying daily but don't ever stop to evaluate. Everything about this area of study fascinates and excites me! That is as long as I can overcome my own personal apprehensions and fears about doing well enough. I've been seeing how much of my previous SPLICE training is playing into how I view myself and my own language learning. I'm so grateful for the work the Lord has already been doing in me that is allowing me to willingly make mistakes, laugh at myself, and just learn!

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