Should the use of K.K. be restricted?

That’s right; the same in Scottish. A very valid point.

I would have thought it was the same sound, so that RP speakers would in fact be unable to distinguish between ‘loch’ and ‘lock’. They’re always talking about something called the ‘Lock Ness Monster’.

That would indeed be interesting.
I seem to remember that one of the tutors on my Cert. TESOL mentioned that there were 46 phonemes in Scottish English. I wonder what the last one was?

By the way, has anybody come up with a term to replace RP? Only a tiny minority of people still speak with a real RP accent; do you remember a while back some researchers found that even the Queen’s accent had ‘drifted’ over the past thirty years towards a more “estuary” version of RP? (Note for non-Brits; Estuary English refers to an accent common in south-eastern England which is not RP and in past decades might have been considered as being more working class, although now it’s fashionable and even posh people affect it).

KK is not IPA, any more than Tongyong is Pinyin. :wink:

Interestingly, too, the same parallels should apply. KK is unknown outside of Taiwan; IPA is internationally accepted. Hmmmm…did the Communists make up IPA??

One problem here, though, is that posters are mixing two things together. There is the idea of pronunciation – which has to do with being able to make the right sounds for the language – and there is the ability to know what the word sounds like by seeing it in print – that’s more like phonics. One is a simple physical process: you get the tongue, lips and articulatory equipment in the right position and do the right thing, and the sound will come out. The other is more complicated in a sense because of the irregularities in English spelling. You would also expect young children to excel at the first but not at the second – they are quite plastic in their willingness to “accept” new vowels, for instance (and research shows that this actually involves building neural networks to be able to distinguish between the new vowel and an old one – vowels are tough because you only basically have three “formants” or peak bursts of sound to work with, so the exact frequencies at which the three occur is unique, within a range, for each vowel you recognize as being distinct). But very young children wouldn’t be expected to have the literacy needed to be able to make connections between written symbols and sounds, particularly exceptions.

Of course, without some kind of written system to give homework about, test on, and send home, how could the kids “learn” English pronunciation? say the Taiwanese. Especially if their teacher can’t pronounce English himself.

The Chinese do it too, you know. I was forced to sit through a “correct pronunciation class” with the famous broadcaster Pai Yin. Her “method” to eliminate that awful lack of retroflexes in the Mandarin of the students in the class (30 Chinese and me) was to yell the correct pronunciation in their faces, louder and louder each time they failed to make the right sound. Oh so effective. Of course she had no idea how the sounds were produced in an articulatory sense.

So for me the qualifications to “teach” pronunciation is NOT a background in phonics – that’s for teaching phonics. For pronunciation, it’s a basic understanding of the articulatory mechanisms that make the sounds the human voice can produce, and that usually means a course in phonetics (not phonemics), instrumental phonetics, or the like. Or maybe work in speech therapy – they do a lot of the same kind of stuff, because one of the problems they are concerned with is children who do not develop certain sounds in the native language correctly or on time.

[quote=“ironlady”]KK is not IPA, any more than Tongyong is Pinyin. :wink:

Interestingly, too, the same parallels should apply. KK is unknown outside of Taiwan; IPA is internationally accepted. Hmmmm…did the Communists make up IPA??

That was a clarifying post, Ironlady. However, I still have a question about IPA/KK. In the popular Oxford E>C dictionary (the thick one that seems to be the most popular with English students in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), the publisher included IPA and KK. No surprise there since they want it to sell well in Taiwan, but what is strange is how they lay it out on the inside of the cover. In the table of all the symbols, they refer to KK as IPA. There are two columns of symbols. One is labelled “Jones” while the other is labelled “KK.” They are both referred to as IPA. The “Jones” symbols are what all of us here would call IPA. I thought that was really strange for the Oxford E>C dictionary, of all dictionaries, to call KK IPA. I don’t have a copy with me here in Dongguan, so I can’t look back at it, but I am 99.9% certain that this is what is in the Oxford. Does anyone have a copy handy to check?

If my memory serves me correctly, when I arrived in Taiwan in 1975 there was also a DJ phonetic system in use . . . . . I think the J was for Jones . . . . . .

I hope I am remembering this correctly. Over the years, I didn’t learn that system or the KK system, so I am illiterate in both.

The comments in this thread up to now are quite intelligent and informative. What most of the posters have missed (or “not taken adequate consideration of”) I believe is the need to establish standards for “standard English”. Ironlady of course touched on this when she said

The Taiwanese are most comfortable with a system which lends itself to testing. It is immaterial (I regret to say) if the system is so nit-picking that is makes students scared to speak the language.

In summary, I suspect that the implementation of a more westernized methodology here in regard to teaching English pronunciation will be more difficult than calling for a referendum on Taiwan independence. This is not to say that those of us who want to push phonics instruction have our heads and our hearts in the wrong places. It is just a matter of the existence of significant institutional, pedagogical, and psychological impediments here in Taiwanese society.

I have to say I’m not sure what “phonics” is. I’d never heard of it until last February. I looked on the National Right to Read Foundation website, and saw this. So it is a method for instilling in pupils the relationship between the written word and the spoken word ?

But then they go on to say this. But I thought “phonics” was not about teaching people to read as such, but to make a link between the spoken word and the written word. This is of course important if one is to write down what one hears, or to read something aloud to someone else. But I can read, and often have to, words I can’t pronounce, or decode from my knowledge of sound-spelling relationships, nor from my schoolboy Latin or French. I’m not 100% sure how to pronounce “Parvobacteriaceae”, but it doesn’t prevent me from reading it. I used to buy the drug “oxymetazoline hydrochloride” for Hay Fever years ago - I couldn’t say it, but I was fit to recognize it on a label.

So is the theory then, if you can’t pronounce it, you can’t “read” it ? Proponents of that theory should come to Ireland (or Wales) and have a go at “reading” some signposts. I guess they’d get lost pretty quick.

Anyway. I’m sure someone will put me right.

Forgetting any technical definitions, I would define ‘phonics’ as it relates to ESL education in Taiwan, as learning to say a word you read (even if you’ve never seen it before) through the use of certain rules about how the letters and their combinations are pronounced. Basically it’s ‘sounding out’ the word.

Although there’s a huge resistance to abandoning KK, there is a growing popularity in schools for ‘ziran fayin’ - natural pronunciation - which is just this - learning to pronounce words by reading the letters (after knowing the rules) without resort to KK.

Interestingly as far as I know (as of about 5 years ago) this is not the most popular system in NZ schools now. Back when I was a kiddy it was. We weren’t taught all the rules, but we were basically taught to sound out words. From what I gather, kids are nwo taught to recognise whole words, and/or figure out what they are from context.

I think when teching kids to read here you shoudl use both systems, and have readers for both. With the ‘phonics readers’ you should build up their phonics knowledge with books like “Look, a frog. Look a hog. Look a log. The frog sat on the log. The hog sat on the log …”. Students shoudl be able to read words out of order and out of context, You should also have books where the students are ‘reading’ (and remembering) whole words and using the context to help them.


You are talking about two different types of “reading”.

If you’re a native speaker, usually learning to read means learning to figure out which symbols go with what words you already know. In Chinese, you memorize a couple thousand characters and Bob’s yer uncle. When you see one, you “hear” the word or the sentence in your head and you know what it means.

If you’re not a native speaker, you’re usually being forced to learn everything at once – comprehension of the word by recognizing its spoken form, how to say it yourself, how to write it and recognizing its written form. So it’s a bit more complicated.

I believe the latest conclusion in the US is that a combination of phonics and sight reading (that is, recognizing words as words instead of by sounding them out) is the way to go. Most native-speaking adults read by sight, not by sounding out every single word, but I think most find it helpful to have some clue about how to sound out a new word. Would you like to be taught Chinese if no one ever bothered to explain to you that there is such a thing as radicals, and some of them carry phonetic and even semantic information?

I got an email a few months ago from a teacher in Ireland with this text:

True enough I suppose for native speakers, or at least of my generation.

My First Graders are using this year’s Scott Foresman books. There’s a mix of “phonics” and “sight words” in there. I’m not impressed with their suitablility for an EFL classroom, though - they assume a large pre-existing vocabulary, and that students simply need to be taught to read and no more. However, the “bat, bit, bot, but” stuff seems to work up to a point (the words “sledgehammer” and “nut” come to mind). But - and it’s a big “but” - an endless diet of meaningless contrived phonics stories is boring my students (and me) to tears. I’m pretty sure my students would rather have the “hop, top, mop” gibberish drilled from the board, and then read an interesting real story in which these words appeared and would be pointed out by me.

My kids are six or seven. I know this is designed for US Grade School, but what age is First Grade in the US ? Surely this babyish mumbo-jumbo isn’t indicative of the reading standard of kids aged six or seven in the USA ? Such unnatural parrotting could possibly entertain a four-year-old for a few months, but is interest in it sustainable throughout the years during which a kid learns to read ?

[quote=“joesax”]But on the Underhill chart (thanks for the source, Hexuan!) as shown near the bottom of this page the /e/ symbol stands for the more open ‘e’ of ‘bet’: … ysical.htm

That page is basically exactly how the phonetics part of my CELTA was taught. The monothhthtongs on his chart (top left quadrant) are arranged so that a move from left to right, top to bottom, or vice versa, along the vowel sounds results in a gradual changing of the muscles producing the sounds, as he says: “[gliding] between /i:/ and /u:/ like this /i: i: i: i: … u: u: u: u: … i: i: i: i: … u: u: u: u:/.”

So a student who hasn’t a baldy how to make one of the sounds in the middle, can start on the left with the “extreme” sound, glide towards the other “extreme”, and stop himself in the middle, noticing as he does, where all the sound producing parts of his mouth, larynx, etc. are at that precise moment. I think that’s quite useful. (Am I making any sense?)