Letters and sounds
My earliest memory of learning the English alphabet for the first time is the song – a b c d, e f g… h i j k, l m n o p… l m n o p q, r s t… u v w, x y z. For a long time, I did not realise that the song used the letter names and not necessarily the letter sounds. It is only after my involvement in learning and teaching English through Phonics at NumberNagar®, I realised the difference.
What does this mean? A letter is a written representation – also known as grapheme. A sound is a distinct vocal expression – also known as phoneme. In the English language, there are two peculiarities in the letter-sound relationship. One – the letter name may or may not be the same as the sound made by the letter. Two – the same letter can make multiple sounds.
In most Indian languages, these two peculiarities are absent. The letter names and letter sounds are the same, and usually, one letter makes one sound. The languages where the letters and the sounds have a one-to-one relationship are said to possess ideal phonemic orthography. The English language deviates significantly from an ideal phonemic orthography. This fundamental difference between English and Indian languages makes English learning challenging for Indian learners.
Therefore, learning English using the Phonics method is highly beneficial to master the fundamentals of language learning. That is the primary objective of the NumberNagar® Phonics methodology.
Sounds of letter ‘a’
Owing to the non-ideal phonemic orthography of English, the letter ‘a’ makes more than one sound. In fact, it makes five different sounds. Let us look at these five sounds, shall we? In the following paragraphs, the sound is denoted using both International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD) notations.
Sound 1 –
‘a’ as in apple – short vowel sound – æ (IPA) ă (AHD)
Other examples: bat, cat, cap, man
Sound 2 –
‘a’ as in snake – long vowel sound – eɪ (IPA) ā (AHD)
Other examples: cake, bake, gate, made
Sound 3 –
‘a’ as in father – broad sound – ɑː (IPA) ä (AHD)
Other examples: car, bath, ask, grass
Sound 4 –
‘a’ as in ball – o sound – ɔː (IPA) ô (AHD)
Other examples – call, war, fall
Sound 5 –
‘a’ as in many – e sound – ɛ (IPA) ĕ (AHD)
Other examples – any, anything, anywhere
This is not a common sound for letter ‘a’. Can you think of any other examples?
Listen to the five different sounds made by the letter a, in this audio.
Is it not interesting to know about the sounds of the letter a? Do you have any stories about the letter ‘a’ and its sounds? Please share in the comments section.
You can find more articles on Phonics related concepts here. Stay tuned for more to come.
Have you invested in the NumberNagar® Phonics Kit yet? It is the perfect gift for children in your family and friends’ circles. We have some exciting offers for Deepavali coming up. Order your kit soon.
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