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Bangla Phonetic Alphabet for Better English Pronunciation

Online Desk | November 07, 2013
BPA for English Pronounciation

BPA for English Pronounciation

BPA stands for Bangla Phonetic Alphabet which, it is believed, can be used for improving English pronunciation of the native Bangla speakers. We have to use IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) to notate the pronunciation of any oral languages. It is interesting that no language is pronounced as it is written. Learners and speakers of a native or a foreign language have to use a standard dictionary and thus have to learn the right pronunciation of a particular word. For example, the pronunciation of ‘But’/bʌt/ and ‘Put’/p t/ is different where there is no reason why they are dissimilarly pronounced. It happens in case of all the languages of the world. Moreover, every single language does not have all the sounds used by the speakers of different languages of the world. For example, Japanese does not have ‘l’/ল/ sound, and that is why they cannot pronounce ‘Bangladesh’ as we do; they utter it like ‘Bangradesh’ or similar to it. The definition of oral language says that a language is an arbitrary vocal sound that the people of a certain community use for communication among the members. Not only the sounds, but also the meanings are also arbitrary, illogical in the sense that there is no reason why we say ‘BOI’, the Arabs call the same thing ‘KITAB’, and the English call it ‘BOOK’. However, if not uttered properly, it becomes a matter of laughter among the erudite listeners and the use of bad language, whether diction or pronunciation, tells others about the education and personality of a speaker. Besides, wrong pronunciations hamper understanding a speaker and sometimes the incorrect pronunciation may convey misleading meaning. It is a rule of a language that a word must be pronounced in a way as written in a standard dictionary of that particular language. However, right pronunciations of some words of a foreign language become challenging when a sound is absent in native language of a learner.

In order to help Bangladeshi English speakers to learn better pronunciation, Amin Rahman, a Bangladeshi expatriate in Australia has innovated a way which is believed to contribute to improve the English pronunciation of the native Bangla speakers. He ran a three day workshop at Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka from 3rd to 5th September last to introduce the idea of BPA and to train 12 teacher trainers and secondary English teachers from across the country with a hope that these trainers will disseminate BPA among the English teachers and students. Rahman discussed the English phonemes (sounds) such as [f], [v], [z], [ʒ], [ə], [ʌ], [ʒ:] which are not directly present in Bangla language. As a result some of the native Bangla speakers’ pronunciation sometimes does not go close to the pronunciation made by the learned native speakers of English. If the speakers who speak English as a second or an additional language are not well aware of the earlier stated English sounds, they are not easily understood by the native speakers of English. As a formerly secondary school English teacher and as a practising teacher educator, my experiences show that most Bangladeshi English language learners cannot differentiate between the pronunciations of the words 'Zoo' and 'Jew', for instance. There are some other words, for example, 'very’, ‘thief’, ‘van’, ‘fat’, ‘zebra’, ‘zone’, the pronunciations of which can be learnt easily and rightly using the BPA symbols. BPA is a customised phonetic alphabet which is a combination of IPA and Bangla letters, kars, and folas. What do the BPA transcriptions of words look like? They look like, for example, very/‡vwi/, van/v¨vb/, fat/f¨vU/, zone/‡zvb/ etc (pronunciations in BPA have been shown in slanting lines).

The team, under the guidance of Amin Rahman, is working to compile all the words used in the English for Today books from class one to ten plus other English words used in everyday life to make a dictionary for the use of school students and teachers. The dictionary will contain pronunciation in IPA and BPA side by side and synonyms of the words so that the users can easily understand the genuine pronunciation from the transcriptions and meanings using BPA. It is a difficult task to accomplish but we believe that the proposed dictionary will be a valuable asset for the primary and secondary level students as well as the teachers improving the quality of oral English in Bangladesh. The three organisers, Obaidur Rahman, Asst English Teacher, Ghorasal Pilot High School in Palash, Samia Zaman, Superintendent, Sea Breeze International School in Gulshan, and one willing to remain unnamed funded the three-day residential workshop. The arrangers have a plan to hold more workshops and training with more teachers and trainers in the country in coming November and December when Rahman will be in Bangladesh again to work on the dictionary. Rahman has published a pronunciation CD containing 14 lessons for the general users. The contents of the CD are also available in https://sound-cloud.com/zamosc free of cost. If one practises those lessons, it is expected that their English pronunciation will improve. The team is also trying to find ways to help the maximum number of teachers and students of the country in developing their English pronunciation. It has become a big question to the organisers 'who will fund the coming training workshops'? 'Will it be possible on the part of the current organisers to run further training workshops with personal contribution'? Probably not. Then, where will they get fund from to continue the project? Will any project in education come forward to take this initiative to a certain height before the enterprise dies out in want of patronisation? শিক্ষা সংক্রান্ত খবরাখবর নিয়মিত পেতে রেজিস্ট্রেশন করুন অথবা Log In করুন।

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