Sheri Wells Jensen swellsj at
Tue Apr 13 14:45:53 UTC 2004

Hi, John and All,

Here's my .02 as a linguist who is blind and had a grand time in my first
phonetics class. I'm sure you'll get input from several other folks as well:

There is a Braille IPA that you can get a copy of (free) from the Royal
National Institute for the Blind.  I lose mine every three or four years or
destroy it from over use  so I know you can get a copy in about a week or so.

Here's a website that can get you started:

And contact info for RNIB:

Royal National Institute of the Blind
105 Judd Street
Tel: 020 7388 1266
Fax: 020 7388 2034

But, I didn't use this  for turning in classwork.  I'm glad I have it and
use it extensively for my own notes etc, but it's important if your student
ever plans to teach or interact with other professionals formally or
informally that she learn to transcribe standard IPA.  Not knowing the
standard will also put her at a great disadvantage in interacting with
other students in class.  Most blind folk know the shapes of print letters
and can write them with a pencil.  When I was in my first phonetics class,
we used pipe cleaners (and sometimes silly putty) to make the shapes of
some nonalphabetic characters.  (I also recall a most entertaining
afternoon I spent with friends eating pretzels into the shapes of schwas.)
Once I learned the shapes, I could write them.  There are higher tech
solutions as well, but sometimes the simple solution is best.   With a
little practice and feedback, it's not a problem.  I'm not sure how easy my
early transcriptions were to read, but I'm very glad I did them in the
usual way.

The only serious drawback to writing this way is that it's not possible to
go back and edit your transcriptions.  There are a wide variety of ways to
make raised or indented) characters with a pencil which can easily be felt
with fingertips.  The low-tech solution is to use  a piece of screen or
rubber pad under the paper.  Pressing lightly with a pencil produces lines
that can be felt.  You can't erase, but you can follow what you're doing
and certainly cross things out.  Your student is most likely able to use a
variety of computer equipment and could also get one of the SIL IPA fonts
and transcribe that way.   I wouldn't necessarily recommend this for an
intro class.  Although it's good to know how to do this, it isn't so
practical in a lab setting, and she would not necessarily have access to
the technology all the time.

My most important piece of advice for you is to make sure you keep your
standards for this student as high as you do for others.  I teach a
graduate applied phonology seminar regularly and I credit my speedy (if
sometimes rather sloppy) classroom chalk board transcription techniques to
my own phonetics professor who was absolutely honest with me about my
progress (or lack thereof!)



At 11:11 AM 4/13/04 +0200, you wrote:
>Dear Funknetters,
>I have a problem I have never encountered before in teaching. I am teaching
>introductory phonetics this semester, and one of my students is blind.
>She says there is no Braille system for the phonetics symbols, and it
>seems to me that this is likely to be true.
>She has no idea of what the symbols look like and I don't even know how
>to explain to her. The students normally do a lot of transcription. Do any
>of you have any idea of how to deal with this problem? I'm completely
>stumped. Thanks very very much for any help you can give.
>John Myhill

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dr. Sheri Wells-Jensen
Bowling Green State University
MA TESL  Program

Office: 423 East Hall
(419) 372-8935
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


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