06 April 2008

Hand me the microphone, and hear me clear my throat.

Today was the first of two days of a totally awesome workshop entitled "Sound Management: Working with Children with Speech Impairment" presented by Assoc. Prof Sharynne McLeod. It is this year's Speech Pathology Australia National Tour, and I'm attending it! Long-term problems with bed bugs can stop you feeling like a proper person with a profession and a brain. It's good to be reminded. I'm loving it and learning heaps of things that I'll be able to use in my practice.

Today we spent some time on phonetics which gave ME a buzz, because that's always been a part of being a speech pathologist that I've enjoyed and understood quite well.

One of the activites involved all the participants being given a piece of paper on which was a symbol for one of the non-English consonants. You know, slurpy, spluttery, clickey sounds that you get in other languages, but it hurts the mouth of a English speaker when they attempt to say it. We had to describe the sound, and then attempt to say it into a microphone, making it sound like we all had either a strange vocal tic or a bad case of phlegm that we needed to share with the group.

"Umm, it sort of looks like an exclamation mark but it's a postalveolar click, a bit like (clicks loudly into microphone.) This sound is found in Sesotho." The group makes an appreciative mooing noise.

"Well this is a, err, an 'n' with a little dippy thing. It's a retroflex nasal: NNYAHR," (participant practically swallows own tongue,) "... which is produced just in front of a palatal nasal: NNYAH, but with the tongue tip retroflexed. This sound is only found in Norwegian." We moo again.

"I've got this 'c' with a squiggle underneath," ("Cedilla," mutter all the French speakers) "... it's a voiceless palatal fricative ... it sounds like HHCHCHCH ... it's found in German, Norwegian and sometimes Greek." The participant hands the microphone over quickly, hoping nobody notices that they just spat great globs onto it.

"I can't say this," an anxious participant says. "Have a go," Sharynne encourages. "Well, mine is this weird symbol: it's a voiced velar fricative, and I can't really say it..." (anxious pause) "... it's a bit like ... GHGHRRGH ... sort of ... and ummmm, it's found in Vietnamese and Greek." (Relief!)

All good clean fun. Unless you get the microphone just after someone has tried to say a voiceless palatal fricative into it.