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English Transcription Course (Hodder Arnold Publication) Paperback – 25 Feb 2000
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The ideal workbook for anyone wishing to practice their transcription skills.
...feature that is bound to please students in particular is the fact that the transcriptions are accompanied by commentaries.
Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses
Have you ever been confused by the fact that the words 'though' and 'bough' are pronounced differently, or frustrated by the realisation that 'hint' and 'pint' don't rhyme? It is well known that the spelling system of English is notoriously unhelpful as an indicator of how to pronounce English words. Spoken and written representations of English are mutually inconsistent, making it difficult to interpret the 'logic' of the language. Learning to transcribe English phonetically, however, provides an accurate visual interpretation of pronunciation: it helps you to realise what you actually say, rather than what you think you say. English Transcription Course is the ideal workbook for anyone wishing to practice their transcription skills. It provides a series of eight lessons, each dealing with a particular aspect of pronunciation, and introduces and explains the most important features of connected speech in modern British English - such as assimilation, elision and weak forms, concentrating on achieving a relaxed, informal style of speech. Each lesson is followed by a set of exercises which allow for extensive practise of the skills learnt in both current and previous chapters.Students can check their progress with the 'model' answers provided in the appendix.
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Although the book contains no actual speech, it's a good way to learn the foundations of transcription for normal speech so you can apply the knowledge when transcribing spoken speech.
Had my lecturers look at this (as doing English Language TEFL BA Hons) and they think it is a good book, so in theory....will update in a month or so when I get a chance to progress a bit more.
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Each chapter introduces the student to a different type of allophonic variation that speakers tend to be little aware of. The student must learn to 'hear' these processes and then to incorporate them into increasingly narrow transcriptions of the practice passages. The processes are described by the titles of Chapters - or 'Lessons' - Three through Eight: Stress, rhythm and weak forms (concentrates on reduced forms of function words [and, there, can]); Sandhi r (both regular linking r [car of my own] and intrusive r [draw it]); Consonant syllabicity (syllabic n [listen] and l [little]); Elision (alveolar plosive elision [can't think], schwa elision [history]); Assimilation ([is she, red book, don't you]); and Glottaling (replacement of t with a glottal stop [not now]. Lesson One introduces 'Symbols and terminology', Two gives 'Transcription hints', and Nine offers 'Further practice'. There is also an introduction, an appendix with answers to all the exercises, a glossary, and a short bibliography of textbooks, workbooks and pronouncing dictionaries.
Anyone who has assembled a book like this knows about the difficulty of finding suitable practice texts, mainly due to copyright laws. The authors solved this by writing all of their own material, a formidable task. Although students can easily find texts on their own for transcription, and the authors encourage this, the key is getting help with transcriptions, which is where these self-produced texts with answer keys come in. The texts include personal anecdotes, descriptions of nature and places, and some surprisingly successful examples of creative writing, e.g. science fiction and household drama. Below follows an excerpt (p. 51) from an anecdote about a group of Italians on a train who were puzzling over the author's IPA transcription work:
The man said, 'It's him! He's doing it again! I wonder what that funny lettering is.' They all collected around me, peering over my shoulder.' I couldn't resist the challenge. When I got off the train, I said in Italian, 'I hope you all have a pleasant day.' I wish I had had a camera to take a picture of the expressions on their faces.
It is surprising that there apparently is no accompanying cassette tape or CD with this book. This would be of tremendous value particularly for instructors and students outside the UK, including those in English-speaking and in non-English-speaking countries.
This is a carefully thought out, well-designed, and meticulously produced volume which will be useful and instructive to teachers and students learning to transcribe any dialect of English, though it is obviously most suited to those working in RP. Phonetics and ESL instructors who are serious about cultivating in their students good pronunciation and clear, solid concepts of what that entails would do well to take a close look at this book.