How to rethink speech

Image from Pixabay

Rethink speech aims to help you rethink our society’s harmful false beliefs about speech by fast-tracking you to advanced findings of phonetic science.

That’s quite a challenge — for all concerned!

How are we going to achieve it?

Well, not by telling you lots of new facts about speech: that’s the slow lane.

Piling new information on top of false beliefs makes it harder, not easier, to rethink the false beliefs.

Rather we intend to engage you in a process of unlearning by giving you experiences that let you notice your own beliefs about speech, and decide for yourself which ones are true and which are false.

The idea is that, once you have cleared the decks of false beliefs, you will be ready to start building new knowledge on a more reliable foundation.

However, in order for that process to work well, it is really important to uncover all your false beliefs

False beliefs are a bit like ants! If you find one in your kitchen, there are bound to be others, even if you don’t immediately see them. Getting rid of one or two doesn’t solve the whole problem.

If you feel you’ve rethought speech as soon as you’ve sorted out the first false belief, you are liable to miss deeper false beliefs, and your new foundation might end up not being quite as firm as you would like.

Let’s take an example

c+a+t = cat is true for LETTERS but is it true for SOUNDS? Have you ever tested it out?

If you are reading this page, it’s likely someone once told you that if you put the sound ‘c’ with the sound ‘a’ and the sound ‘t’, you make the word ‘cat’.

That’s a good thing to tell someone just learning to read – no doubt about that.

But there’s quite a lot of ways it’s not completely accurate. For example, the ‘c’ you need to make ‘cat’ is different from the ‘c’ you need to make ‘cent’. If you’ve studied some phonetics, you might have learned to write /kæt/ to avoid this kind of ambiguity.

The problem is, you can learn to refer to the sounds in more technical ways without challenging the underlying belief that ‘cat’ is made by putting together three sounds.

Now c+a+t=cat might seem so self-evidently true that it’s not really worth the effort of challenging it. But be honest — have you ever really tested it? Have you actually recorded the sounds, and put them together to see what they make?

Phonetic science has – and the results were not what was expected (as we show you inside Rethink Speech).

Don’t throw me out with the bathwater! (Image from Pixabay)

What if c+a+t=cat is a false belief?

Our society builds a lot of its ‘common knowledge’ about speech on the foundation that c+a+t= cat. But what if it’s not true?

Or what if it’s partly true in nuanced ways whose application needs to be carefully considered in light of the context it is being used in?

In that latter case, you don’t want to totally reject it or you’ll throw the baby out with the bathwater, which doesn’t help much at all.

So there’s a few reasons why Rethink Speech doesn’t teach by telling you facts and asking you to remember them

With apologies to whoever really originated this brilliant and useful quote

Rather we offer surprising and entertaining demonstrations – often based on familiar, everyday experiences – then sit down with you to think through their implications in careful, structured, open-ended modules.

The good news is, the conceptual puzzles get easier and more solvable as you start to notice they all have the same basic origin.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Better to let it all unfold as it should …