by Mike McHugh
Like it or not, people are often judged on the basis of how well they speak the common language of the culture in which they live. Numerous studies from the realm of business have consistently reported the tremendous advantage that verbally savvy businessmen have over competitors that lack a good command of the language. The simple fact is that those who can speak well will usually be more successful in whatever profession they choose to enter. This well-established principle is likely based upon the truth that individuals who possess the ability to speak clearly and skillfully tend to inspire respect and confidence when they communicate.
A large and comprehensive vocabulary is often cited by communication experts as the most important skill for students to acquire on the road to verbal competency. While it is undoubtedly true that vocabulary skills are important to language students, it is equally true that most people do not correctly pronounce or articulate many of the words that they already know. Sad to say, those of us residing in the United States live in a time when the English language is routinely butchered, sometimes beyond recognition. Listen carefully to the average politician, grocery store clerk, or, dare I say it, preacher and you will soon discover how often English language terms are mispronounced. With each passing year, the gulf between those Americans who have the interest and ability to speak English well, contrasted with those who do not, is growing steadily wider and deeper.
For this reason, it is imperative for home educators to re-double their efforts to teach their children how to properly articulate the vocabulary terms that they are learning throughout the year. Students should be directed to read their new vocabulary words aloud each week so that their parents can have the opportunity to ensure they are properly pronouncing each word. If home school instructors are having difficulty scheduling time to evaluate their student’s pronunciation skills, they can direct their students to read their vocabulary words into a tape recorder so they can be reviewed at a later date. Instructors would also do well to encourage their students to get into the habit of reading several of their literature lessons aloud into a tape recorder in order that they might evaluate the quality of their own articulation skills. Very often, students do not recognize that they have a problem pronouncing a particular word until they can hear it for themselves.
Errors in articulation occur most often from one of four causes:
- From the omission of one or more elements in a word; as,
An’ for And
Sof’ly for softly
Chick’n for Chicken
Blin’ness for blindness
- From uttering one or more elements that should not be sounded;
Ev’en for ev’n
Heav’en for heav’n
Sev’en for sev’n
Shov’el for shov’l
- From substituting one element for another; as,
Set for sit
Sence for since
Momunt for moment
Singin for singing
Childrun for children.
- From the habit of speaking too quickly; which is often due to the desire to express everything on one’s mind while others are listening. As a young man, George Washington wrote the following advice in his "Rules of Behavior": "Think before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too hastily, but with order and distinction."
Home educators will naturally have a profound effect upon their children’s articulation skills for the simple reason that youngsters tend to pronounce words in the same manner as their parents. If parent educators do nothing more than model/encourage correct pronunciation skills before their impressionable offspring, this will still go a long way toward helping them to become competent speakers. In the end, it will be the steady efforts of diligent parents that will enable a new generation of articulate leaders to emerge in the spheres of business, politics, and the church.
Copyright 2006 Michael J. McHugh
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