Why use the IPA?
Every language has its own unique aspects.
For example, English has 26 letters to convey the 44 syllable sounds of the English language. Confusion ensues. The vowel sounds alone are enough to leave you bewildered. There are only 5 vowels (6 if you count the occasional “y”) to convey over a dozen vowel sounds.
In the “old days” people spelled English words however they felt liked. The same word could be spelled as many ways as the writer had the imagination to create…in the same document or letter! Old could be spelled oeld, oald, auld, uld…well you get the idea. The old man walking an oeld dog met an oald woman walking an auld dog. They were all very uld.
Never Trust a Vowel
“Vowels were something else. He didn’t like them and they didn’t like him. There were only five of them, but they seemed to be everywhere. Why, you could go through twenty words without bumping into some of the shyer consonants, but it seemed as if you couldn’t tiptoe past a syllable without waking up a vowel. Consonants, you knew pretty much where you stood, but you could never trust a vowel.”
(Jerry Spinelli, Maniac Magee. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1990)
With the International Phonenic Alphabet IPA you can learn any language, with clearly defined symbols, no matter how the “real” language is spoken and written.
Imagine you can study any language in the world with a consistent, world recognized, system of phonetic symbols that tell you the exact proper way to pronounce the sounds in any language you choose. These sounds are clearly defined for any language. You know exactly how to say it, no second guessing or wondering if you’ve got it right this time.
Each IPA symbol has one sound and each language has its own set of symbols necessary for that language.