Solution

I believe  that the solution to the problem of the irregular conventional spelling of English lies in adopting a practical phonetic alphabet of the type that has shown its worth in German and Chinese. Indeed, phonetics is an excellent tool and deserves more success. For those learning English, to be useful, the phonetic alphabet needs to be simple, prescriptive and self-confident, rather than complicated, descriptive and diffident. The IPA phonetic symbol set is too analytical to be practical.

It is to be noted that, for both Japanese and Chinese, non-IPA Roman-character sound symbol sets are used that are very successful. The same is approach is needed for English.

In my opinion, the reason that the IPA symbol set is so little used is that, although it may be very good for representing all the sounds that a human being can make, it is not good for teaching English as a foreign language. It seems to me better to focus on what is common and not on what is different. There is an ideal English out there that we are all trying to approach, and that is what foreign students want to learn. Non-standard sounds can be disregarded. I have accordingly made a sub-set of the IPA symbols used for the sounds of mainstream English that is more straightforward and self-evident. I call this Simplified Standard Sound Symbols, or S4 for short. Actually, the difference between S4 and IPA text is only skin deep and, say, an MS Word macro could be used to automatically convert one to the other.

The target of S4 is Pan-English with the ability to accommodate both standard British and standard American pronunciation.

The English language is used by many foreign speakers. They need clear, accurate guidelines about speaking English correctly. Phonetic symbols are particularly well suited for this purpose. However, their potential is not being realized because the IPA set is not designed for English teaching.

 

The Chinese transcription system

The Japanese JSL transcription system

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