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QUESTION 3 : Phonological knowledge permits a speaker to produce sounds that

form meaningful utterances. Why is this knowledge important? Discuss and


justify your answer.

Picture a primary school pupil asking his peer Do you /kn/ (know) that
my /ft(r)/ (father) is working on an /slnd/ (island) ? Due to the mispronunciation,
supposedly, that particular peer should not be able to answer the question asked but
what if I told you that he actually managed to answer it without a single doubt! What
does it imply here? Students are making major pronunciation mistakes in English
unconsciously and are actually getting by it without any guilt! Picture how English would
sound then, in the ten years to come. It is certainly not fair to blame the little ones solely
for this big mistake when phonological ignorance has long been a part of our lives, for
many of us. Ironically, we are all living in a world which now believes that language is all
about deciphering and knowing the meanings of words by heart, but sadly not much
attention is given to the pronunciation of words. This particular wrong perception of
language has to be changed immediately! Why is it so important for all of us, be it
beginners, or even good speakers themselves, to learn phonological knowledge? How
does it actually benefit us in life?
Only with phonological knowledge, can we improve our pronunciation. Like it or
not, it is the only way. You can never rely on a person, even your teachers, as a matter
of fact, in order to help you with the pronunciation of every single word. Everyone is
constantly in the process of learning after all. According to Paul Fords article titled,
Three English Pronunciation Mistakes dated 27 th October 2011, speakers of Asian and
European languages, including native speakers themselves face the common difficulty
of pronouncing the phoneme th. However, this could easily be corrected by identifying
the exact place of articulation of the phoneme through the guidelines and pictures
provided in phonology. It is through discreteness, a property of the English language,
one actually learns that each letter produces a different sound and thus, the phonemes
should be pronounced accordingly to avoid any distortion of meaning. This is how we
would be able to identify the different pronunciation of the minimal pair, dip and tip,

even though there is only one letter which is different in each word. Has it ever occurred
to you that the ignorance of phonology causes a student to use the same phoneme for
the particular letter in each word they come across? For instance, the words apple and
alike. This is why many are unable to maximize the usage of a dictionary. Since only
correct pronunciation helps one to memorize newly learnt words easily, how is one able
to do so without the capability of reading phonetic symbols? The true benefit of using a
dictionary which is to widen our vocabulary and writing skills can only be experienced
with good phonology. Likewise, when we stumble over heteronyms, the ability to
differentiate their phonemes happens to be the sole way of learning them without mere
confusion. For example, the words present (verb) and present (adjective/noun).
Apart from that, phonology boosts a persons self-esteem to face the public. With
good pronunciation, we would fret no more to have visits to the banks or offices where
English is used as the main medium nowadays. This is very vital, especially for those
who are in a top position of an organization. Besides giving people the impression that
we are not one who can easily be taken for a ride, we would also be acknowledged with
a higher level of standard. Not only that, confidence also serves as a motivator for us to
self-improve ourselves. How? Well, the capability to pronounce complex words by
reading its phonetic symbols will definitely boost our spirit and make us look forward to
learning more words. Automatically, this will cultivate our interest in the English
language. By mastering phonology, we will never ever hesitate and end up skipping
from pronouncing complex words such as remuneration and deleterious again, during
a read-aloud session. Simultaneously, this will result in the increase of ones
presentation and performance quality. Bear in mind that a presenter might be well
equipped with facts and knowledge but his pronunciation also plays a major role in
making sure that the audience gives its fullest attention to him. When you yourself know
for sure that you are well-prepared with a splendid presentation and good pronunciation,
all anxiety and nervousness is sure to disappear into thin air! The same applies for
students who enroll in language based competitions such as debate and public
speaking. Master phonology and you are sure to receive overwhelming support and
attention from your audience! Who knows, you might even land yourself a secret
admirer amidst the crowd!

Speaking and listening is one of the elements that builds up an effective


communication. Miscommunication, on the contrary, always occurs due to the
mispronunciation of words by either party. Let me shed some light by giving you an
example of a situation where things go haywire due to the ignorance of phonological
knowledge in daily life. Imagine a man going to a furniture shop and asking the
shopkeeper the price of a cupboard but pronounces it as /kpb(r)d/ instead. The
shopkeeper will certainly get confused and might misinterpret the word cupboard as
cardboard or even as a cup and a board perhaps! Good pronunciation always saves
a whole lot of hassle and confusion when communicating with others. In addition,
mastering phonological knowledge would allow one to converse with native speakers
without any doubt or hesitation. To make things clearer, let us have a look at a
conversation between a school student and her English teacher who originates from the
United Kingdom. Imagine what would be going through in her teachers mind when she
asks her You /met/ (made) this yourself?, upon seeing a bookmark on her table. Her
incapability of pronouncing the phoneme d has brought an entirely different meaning to
her question. Since English happens to be the only language which can connect these
two beings, would it not be very much confusing and puzzling for the teacher? If only
the student pronounced the phonemes correctly, it would certainly ensure an effective
two-way communication. Now, in Malaysia, we learn the British English. However, as
ironic as it may seem, even those good in English tend to rely on subtitles when they
watch an English film, due to their incompetency in understanding the pronunciation
uttered by the cast! Is this not a big loss to our people when they actually learn British
English in schools but fail to understand the dialogues in films, just because they lack of
phonological knowledge? That is exactly why it is important for us to learn this
knowledge. By doing so, rest assured that you would not only be able to watch English
films with ease, but you would also be able to identify World Englishes when watching
movies of cultures worldwide, besides improving your listening skills.
As future educators, it is also of great importance for us to have phonological
knowledge at our fingertips, the minute we step into the teaching world. An educator is
looked upon highly and trusted with the huge responsibility of educating our generation.
Likewise, an English teacher should have a good foundation of phonology to

understand accents and the language variation of students in order to teach them the
proper and right pronunciation instead! However, try and picture how things would be for
an educator who failed to see the importance of phonology before she graduated. Not
only would she face tremendous stress in juggling time between learning phonology
from scratch, teaching, and attending school meetings, but she would also be haunted
by a guilty conscience of whether or not she is efficiently teaching her students. This
sounds like a serious case of depression which apparently would lead to psychological
imbalance in the near future, does it not? Not only that, since students, especially
primary school students idolize their teachers, how do you think their perception of them
would be when the teachers are not able to clear their doubts on pronouncing a
complex word, or worse, mispronounce words in class? Teachers would definitely face
the worst nightmare of being an educator when their students look low upon them and
lose their trust on them. It does not just stop there. Even parents and the whole school
management would start talking behind their backs, questioning their credibility as
teachers. It is unanimously believed that only a teacher who believes in the importance
of phonology herself would be able to open her students eyes on this matter. By
carrying out activities that reflect the importance of phonemes and correct pronunciation
in class, students learn the vitality of this element in life, and thus end up mastering it,
just like their teachers. Therefore, students who do not only excel in written English but
also in spoken English with the right phonology can be produced. This directly improves
our education quality where our younger generation is able to exchange thoughts and
ideas with people worldwide through international programs with ease, as they are now
capable to converse in good English, just like any other native speaker. The true
objective of education will then be achieved whereas teachers on the other hand, get to
carve a name for themselves in their noble profession!
On the whole, every Tom, Dick, and Harry should take phonological knowledge
seriously as it is very important in the learning process, as well as in daily life. Bear in
mind that the importance of phonology is not just to memorize rules, but also to help
everyone understand the systematic relationship between letters and the sound they
produce. Never be lackadaisical and make sure that you start learning phonology from
this very second as one is sure to miss out on a whole lot of things when it is ignored.

With a strong foundation of phonological knowledge, I guarantee you that you will never
marvel again at how good native speakers can converse, because you too, can now
speak English as good as them or even better, at times!