English Pronunciation and Silent Reading

How many vowels are used in the English language? It is not five but six. The sixth is the schwa which sounds like “uh.” In the Philippine languages as well as in Spanish, the five regular vowels are pronounced as full vowels. In English though, the regular vowels that are not accented when used are pronounced as schwa or “uh.” As a young boy I thought that “watsuhmaruh” was one word instead of four in “What is the matter?” In Filipino English vowels are given full pronunciation. There is nothing wrong with that but other English speakers, especially the Americans, elide the unaccented syllables. To better understand other English speakers and for them to understand us, the use of schwa in non- accented syllables might be preferable. Positioning of the tongue or the lips and the use of exploded breath can make our English more universal. In pronouncing “t” in the Philippine languages and in Filipino English, the tip of the tongue touches the upper teeth but in American English the tongue touches the palate above the teeth and an explosion of breath is added. So “tatay” in Filipino is soft but in American it is exploded from the tongue touching the palate and not the teeth. In making the distinction between “f” and “p” and between “b” and “v,” in both “p” and “b” the breath explosion comes from the release of impounded air from two lips touching each other. On the other hand in “f” and “v,” the lips do not touch each other. Instead the upper teeth touch the lower lip. Two other helps: Final “s” is pronounced like a snake hissing when it is used after a consonant. But after a vowel the final “s” is vocalized, like the buzzing of a bee. The other caution is to make the distinction between high “i” and flat or low “e.” The meaning changes in English between “bit” and “bet.” But in many Philippine languages, especially Visayan, the meaning does not change between high short “i” and low or flat “e.” They are, therefore, interchangeable. The Filipino sometimes does not make this distinction. The Australian English with its prolongation of the final “ay” Is different from the staccato Singaporean or the Indian English, or the British English or the American English. What is important is to be able to understand each other. The different idiosyncrasies may make it difficult but with a little exposure, we can understand one another. Silent reading is different from oral reading in that you can speed up in silent reading to 2,000 or more words per minute (wpm) which is not possible with oral reading or even imagined sounds of what is being read. Would you be interested in reading a book in two to three hours? I know Filipinos who do this. And the paradox is that they retain more than those who read slow like me. Silent reading usually has three speeds: First graders are those who read at less than 300 wpm. The factors that slow them down are: They either move their lips or some part of the head, or they regress, meaning they go back to a previous line when they feel they did not understand. The second graders are those who read up to 600 wpm. And it is only at this stage that the reading novels become easy and enjoyable. The final stage is those who read without imagining the sound but go from the printed word to thought. These people can read up to 6,000 wpm. It takes only about 10 minutes of speed-reading practice for a month to get to 600 wpm speed. It may be worth the trouble.

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