I have two English Language classes this semester: Semantics & Pragmatics and Phonetics & Phonology. Phonetics & Phonology is going to be one of my favorite classes this semester, of that I am sure!
Let me give you a little taste of what my last class period was spent discussing. Vowels. Vowel shapes, english dialects and their different vowels and diphthongs, what's going on in your mouth and pharynx when you formulate different vowels, I could go on and on!
We spent a good 5 minutes playing Vowel Space on this site, discussing how it shows the relationship between the resonance in the pharynx and the mouth, and the strain this application has played on my professor's marriage. It definitely has take-home applications as well! The next time someone comes home to your apartment or house, turn off the lights and wait until they come in and begin to play the sounds. I guarantee they will think you are the creepiest or coolest person in the world!
I have also discovered a justification for having watched the BBC Pride and Prejudice about 25 times in my life time. As my teacher was trying to help us understand the difference between [æ] and [a] and he told us that [æ] sounds like the vowel in "trap". [a] sounds like the British pronunciation of "trap". My professor was concerned for a moment if that would be an adequate example for the vowel. Never worry, Professor Elzinga. Without even thinking, this beautiful man appeared on my shoulder.
I told him, "Colin, I need your help with a British pronunciation for the word 'trap'." Without a hesitation, he replied, "Trap." It was spot on. Colin comes in handy for remembering the pronunciation of other vowels like [ɜ]. "Colin, how do you say 'nurse'?" "Nurse."
It's going to be a beautiful semester, learning how to actually speak French, studying the second half of New Testament seriously for the first time in my life, learning more about the functions and implications of the English Language, playing in two beautiful music ensembles, and of course, training myself to become a skilled phoneticist. It seems tricky at first, but I must remember that anything is possible, especially when I've got my shoulder angel, Colin Firth, by my side.